Three Japanese schools plan to introduce new genderless swimsuits with unisex two-piece designs during the current academic year (April 2022 to March 2023), with 10 schools currently considering implementing them in the subsequent year.
The swimsuits are made by Footmark, Co Ltd, a leading provider of swimming caps and school swimwear for school children in Japan.
The long-sleeved top reduces exposure to ultraviolet rays when swimming outside. The bottoms are half-pants that minimize the contours of the body. According to the company's press release, this unisex design is intended to allow students to participate in their swimming lessons without them (or others) paying attention to gender.
Amidst a growing understanding of and interest in LGBTQ* issues in Japan, some schools have been adopting new initiatives such as allowing students to freely choose their school uniforms.
However, although there have been changes in the shapes of swimsuits for men and women in the past fifty years, Footmark explains, "gender-specific designs have persisted, and many of these swimsuits highlight the differences between genders." Other companies have also sold swimsuits that hide the contours of the body, but there have been no unisex two-piece swimsuits specifically designed for schools.
As you can see below, Footmark's school swimsuits, following the general trend in Japan, went from one-piece swimsuits for girls and swimming briefs for boys in the 70s to swimming legsuits for girls and medium-length shorts for boys in the 2000s. Then in 2004, they introduced a two-piece swimsuit for girls and long swimming trunks for boys. In 2010, they introduced their "Shine Guard" tops to protect students from ultraviolet rays.
Footmark paid particular attention to the material and fine-tuned the pattern to create a looser silhouette in "areas that show physical differences between men and women (chest, waist, hips, etc.)" The design was created "so that differences in body contours are less noticeable."
(1) Guarded zipper pulls.
(2) Pockets for pads (sold separately) with black lining, making them hard to notice
(3) Holes in pants to prevent air pockets forming underwater
(4) Inner pants for comfort
(5) Comfortable waistband
(6) Main front part is fully lined in black
(7) Woven fabric in pants doesn't cling to the body
The swimsuits range in price from 6,380 yen to 6,820 yen (SRP, including tax), and come in 10 sizes from 120 cm to 4L.
You can view Footmark's entire school wear catalog on their website here.
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