Japanese men girdle up for battle of the bulge

TOKYO Fri Aug 31, 2007 6:28am BST

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese men worried about bulging bellies now have another option to cutting back on beer -- slip into a boxer brief girdle or T-shirt with tummy-control panels.

Overweight adults are still far rarer in Japan than in the United States, but the trend is definitely up for men, especially the middle-aged. Many suffer from metabolic syndrome, a condition characterised by excess fat around the abdomen.

A fashion trend toward slimmer cuts in suits and form-fitting trousers is also making men -- even the relatively slender -- more worried whether their hips, bellies and thighs pass muster.

"We made our men's brand aimed at those in their 30s and 40s, but it has been selling well among younger guys too," said Asako Iwahashi, a spokeswoman for underwear maker Triumph International Japan, which introduced its line of girdles for men last year.

"Young men are wearing tighter trousers now and like women, they want a cleaner line."

Wacoal Holding's "Completely Nude" tummy-tightening briefs are also proving popular, as are Fukuske Corp's "Shapers for Men" line of shorts and T-shirts, company officials said.

How much men are willing to suffer for fashion, though, is still in some doubt.

"Lots of older men come to look at the support underwear," said a spokeswoman for a Tokyo branch of Tobu Department Store.

"But sales aren't growing drastically yet."

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