Playing with print and colour: A brief history of Irekobishi

Here at Velarof, we combine vibrant colours with unique patterns to create eclectic underwear that nods to Japan’s rich culture and ancient history.

It should come as no surprise then that Irekobishi has played a major role in our design inspiration process. The ancient ‘diamonds within diamonds’ pattern is one of the oldest patterns in Japanese history with its unique rhombus shape seen on Jomon pottery dating as far back as the Jomon period (14,000 to 300BCE). 

Many designs have stemmed from Jomon pottery but it’s Irekobishi that we’re most transfixed by. Translating to ‘nested rhombus’, the detailed design was named after the floating aquatic plant, Trapa japonica, which is also known as ‘underwater peanuts’. Not only does it resemble the shape of a rhombus, but it’s super-rich in nutrients too.

Travelling as far back as the Edo period, Irekobishi made its mark on the Noh costume called Karaori. Thanks to its wearable fabric that suits any season, Karaori is still thriving today, often making its way onto Kimonos and Obi belts. The widespread use and lasting popularity of Irekobishi are believed to be due to the ease of drawing straight lines, which made it especially useful for weaving.

Since the rhombus shape can change shape and expression depending on the angles, there are many different variations each with its own unique name. Irekobishi is when the rhombuses are overlapped like Matryoshka dolls (Russian dolls) but there are thousands more.

The prized pattern is believed to bring good health, prosperity and protection to the wearer. Its wholesome, but playful design not only carries weight and meaning but is also remarkably striking to look at. It’s for this reason that it makes up part of our collection’s identity. 

Irekobishi features as the main print on our Irekobishi Asobi and Plum - Irekobishi Asobi designs. Complemented by a universal fit, neatly branded waistband and super-soft and silky fabric, these two pieces of men’s underwear are both timeless and trend-led. And their ties to Japan’s old history via abundant rhombus shapes forming the irekobishi print make them all the more purposeful and distinctive. 

So why not introduce these two styles into your underwear collection? Not only will they make you feel good and uplift your mood, but they may also even enrich your day and bring you good luck and mindful fortune. And who wouldn’t want that?

We hope you enjoy your taste of Irekobishi.