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A breechcloth, or breechclout, is a form of loincloth consisting in a strip of material – usually a narrow rectangle – passed between the thighs and held up in front and behind by a belt or string. Often, the flaps hang down in front and back.
In most Native American tribes, men used to wear some form of breechcloth, often with leggings. The style differed from tribe to tribe. In many tribes, the flaps hung down in front and back; in others, the breechcloth looped outside of the belt and was tucked into the inside, for a more fitted look. Sometimes the breechcloth was much shorter and a decorated apron panel was attached in front and behind.
A Native American woman or teenage girl might also wear a fitted breechcloth underneath her skirt, but not as outerwear. However, in many tribes young girls did wear breechcloths like the boys until they became old enough for skirts and dresses. Among the Mohave people of the Southwest, a breechcloth given to a young female symbolically recognizes her status as hwame.
During World War II, Allied prisoners of war in Japanese camps often had nothing but a textile breechcloth to wear, affording them only a modicum of modesty and free transpiration, but virtually no protection against the tropical sun, parasites, etc.
Japanese men traditionally wore a breechcloth known as a fundoshi. The fundoshi is a 35 cm (14 inch) wide piece of fabric (cotton or silk) passed between the thighs and secured to cover the genitals. There are a hundred ways of tying the fundoshi, and in the modern age, men are coming to enjoy using patterned cloth for their fundoshis.