Lightweight summer kimonos are not for women only. Men should definitely give them a try. Why bother? Listen to the women. They swear by “men in yukatas”--claiming the look is stylish and sexy. Don’t worry about your middle-age spread.
Yukatas are very forgiving. And they work for skinny guys, too. Here are some tips from an expert to help you get them right.
“We see a lot of couples in their 30s and 40s who come shopping for men’s yukatas," said Hisashi Nasu, who is in charge of kimonos at the Takashimaya department store in Osaka. "Sometimes we help company executives who are looking for yukatas to entertain guests from abroad.”
Takashimaya actually expanded the kimono floor when it reopened last spring after renovations. The men’s section is well stocked, too. We asked Nasu, a veteran who has worked in the kimono department for 22 years straight since he joined the company, to show us the ropes to become “that guy who looks good in his yukata.”
We provided our very own models. Koji Ode is deputy editor in charge of news gathering and reporting for The Asahi Shimbun evening edition. The 46-year-old is somewhat conscious of the extra pounds he is carrying around his waist. Keitaro Kato is a 32-year-old page designer who creates maps and illustrations for our newspaper pages. He confesses that, “I’m too skinny to look good in a kimono.”
The first step was selecting the right yukata.
Our expert chose black for Oide, which would make him look slimmer. He tried it on, mumbling, “I only wear yukatas when I stay at Japanese style inns.” But surprise, surprise! The black yukata actually made him look quite … well, sexy. And that was even before the extras. Nasu added a svelte obi sash--black lines on a cream background, and dark geta sandals with crisp white straps. Nasu said, “When you choose a dark-colored yukata, remember to add a splash of white, as an accent.”
A lemony beige yukata was chosen for Kato, paired with a brown obi and geta sandals with brown straps.
“Slim gentlemen should opt for lighter shades that add volume to the frame," Nasu explained. "But be careful with white. Sometimes it makes you look childish. Try it on to see if it is right.”
Another tip is to choose contrasting colors with your date. If the woman is wearing a blue yukata, opt for white. Try echoing the colors of the obi sashes for an elegant look. According to Nasu, the fun part of dressing Japanese style is the way you can “play around with the combinations.”
Now that you’ve got the right yukata, the next step--putting it on. The men’s yukata is sewn to actual length, and unlike women’s kimonos requires no intricate adjustments with tucks and sashes. It’s a relatively simple procedure. Our models managed to pull it together in less than 10 minutes.
The key is to tie the cord at the right place. It is tempting to cinch the cord around the waist, but that is uncomfortable and furthermore, it doesn’t keep the yukata in place. The correct method is to tie the cord around the hipbone. Then snugly tie the obi sash over the cord. As Nasu put it, “(Men’s) kimonos are all hip-huggers--they hang at the hips.”
For the slim bodied, a towel slipped in the back adds bulk. A lightweight cotton facecloth or a handkerchief can be used for the front side. To keep cool, relax the neckline enough to let body heat escape, making sure that your underwear does not show.
Thus, transformation completed, the two models were ready for the photo shoot. For Oide, the theme was, “A casual night out with the wife to get some sushi.” Oide joked, “Well, that’s a first!” But he was clearly getting a kick out of the scenario. Another important accessory item, not to be forgotten, is the sensu (Japanese folding) fan. Nasu added: “Excuse the pun, but the pattern on the sensu, when you open it, speaks for your sense of fashion.” Choose the right fan.
For young Kato, the situation was: “Waiting for his date--and here she is!” Nasu paired a hat with the yukata, for a snazzy effect. Kato was happy, muttering, “Hey, yukatas are awesome.”
The reason why yukata helps men step up their masculine image, is because there is a playfulness peeking out of the neat, sleek style. When a man in a yukata goes for a stroll, he transforms the whole landscape, adding a different flavor. Remember, a little gut really helps when it comes to wearing a yukata. So what’s stopping you from trying one this summer?
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