Zentai (short for "zenshintaitsu," Japanese for "full body suit") is a largely obscure Japanese subculture whose adherents go out wearing full-body patterned spandex suits that cover their faces. In a relatively unsensational article in the Japan Times, Harumi Ozawa talks to a few zentais about their hobby, and learns that for some proponents, being completely covered is a liberating experience. The zentais in the article describe the suit as an anonymizer that frees them from the judging gaze of society, which is a fascinating study in contradictions, since the suits undoubtably attract lots of judgmental looks, but these seem to adhere to the suit without penetrating to the wearer within.
Some zentais wear their suits in superhero fashion, and do good deeds in public, while others wear the suits for sexual kicks. They are often mocked in Japanese pop culture. One academic cited in the article believes that the wearers use the suits to hide their appearance in order to force others to deal with their "true" underlying identity.
By night, she dresses in a skin-tight, all-in-one Spandex body suit that covers everything — including her eyes — and sits in bars, alone but liberated, she believes, from the judgment of others.
“With my face covered, I cannot eat or drink like other customers,” said the woman, who is in her 20s and says her name is Hokkyoku Nigo (North Pole No. 2).
“I have led my life always worrying about what other people think of me. They say I look cute, gentle, childish or naive,” she said, her lips ruffling the tight, red shiny material.
“I always felt suffocated by that. But wearing this, I am just a person in a full body suit.”
‘Zentai’ fans search for identity in fetish suits [Harumi Ozawa/Japan Times]
(Image: Zentai.jpg, MonkeyMyshkin, CC-BY)