There are 2 other images of this object. This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions), and as such we offer a high-resolution image of it. See our image rights statement.


Object Timeline



  • We acquired this object.





  • You found it!

Sweat Protector (koyori Ase-hajiki) (Japan)

This is a Sweat Protector (koyori ase-hajiki). It is dated 1850–60 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is paper and its technique is 4-strand plaiting with 2-strand twists. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Woven textiles made from paper originated in 16th century Japan, where these paper cloths (shifu in Japanese) were most likely developed by the impoverished rural population for lack of other materials. With few raw materials available, farmers originally cut the pages of ancient account books in order to turn them into shifu weaves. The ink writing on the paper also remained visible on the finished fabric, leaving an interesting speckled pattern. Soon, this cloth attained a more prominent place in society as samurai refined the technique by means of sophisticated and elaborate folding, cutting, and spinning processes, in which the finest threads could be manufactured and woven into noble cloths. These paper weaves were often used for ceremonial clothes and, in order to express their spirituality, samurai wrote prayers on the paper before turning it into yarns and cloth.
This particular example of shifu is an ase-hajiki, or sweat-protector. It is a type of paper undergarment worn during the summer to keep the wearer cooler in the heat. Because the paper layer was closest to the skin it provided space for air to circulate between the skin and outer garment. More common than items made of paper cloth are similar undergarments made from bamboo, which are ultimately more durable than paper.
Shifu is an example of an eco-friendly textile because of the ways in which it recycles materials to create an end product of greater value.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Paper Clothes.

It is credited Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.

  • Brisé Fan (China)
  • carved ivory sticks, silk ribbon, glass stone .
  • Gift of Anonymous Donor.
  • 1952-161-225-a
  • Sidewall, Newsworthy
  • coiled newspaper woven with nylon filaments, paper backing.
  • Gift of Lori Weitzner.
  • 2010-15-1
  • Parka (USA)
  • beluga whale gut, sinew, grass twine.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 22/7435.
  • 17.2012.8

Our curators have highlighted 15 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

Its dimensions are

H x W: 62.2 x 52 cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Sweat Protector (koyori Ase-hajiki) (Japan); paper; H x W: 62.2 x 52 cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2009-36-2

We have 1 video that features Sweat Protector (koyori Ase-hajiki) (Japan).

Sue Lawty on Paper Vest

Artist Sue Lawty examines the shifu (paper cloth) sweat protector and discusses its unique qualities. Lawty explored the Cooper Hewitt collection as part of her Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Sweat Protector (koyori Ase-hajiki) (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=6 June 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>