Former All Blacks hardman Jerome Kaino launches underwear range as retirement looms

As a player, Jerome Kaino has a reputation as one of rugby's hardest hitters.

But as his career winds to a close, the former All Blacks hardman has shown a softer side, launching a range of men's underwear designed for all shapes and sizes.

The powerful blindside flanker is currently playing out his career for French Top 14 champions Toulouse, after helping New Zealand to Rugby World Cup triumphs in 2011 and 2015. At 37, he admits this is his last year hitting rucks. 

But Kaino is already looking beyond rugby, working with childhood friends to develop the Mint brand of underwear.

"It's been pretty tough with COVID, all three of rookies in Australia and I'm here in France," he tells The AM Show. "There have been a lot of late nights on the group chats and Zoom calls.

"We always wanted to do something together and in all our discussions, underwear always popped up in terms of finding something that was comfortable for us.

"When we settled on making underwear, the next question was who would it be for? It's product, but there's a movement too - we cater for all shapes and sizes, and that's something we truly believe in."

Models for the brand are deliberately non-athletic and one of those - David Toailoa - admits the most comfortable undies have often been the cheaper varieties.

The design also pays homage to the South Auckland roots of Kaino and his colleagues.

"We always wanted to make sure we acknowledge where we were from and where we grew up," says Kaino. "Papakura played a huge part in our lives, growing up - we marked that with codes that had telephone numbers starting with 296 and 298.

"Also we're Maori/Asian and Maori/Samoan, and we represent that with the bands in our signature range.

"We grew up around people with different ethnicities, shapes, sizes and lifestyles, and that drove us to make sure we catered for all men, when we came up with underwear.

"In this era of social media, when perfection and filters are the new craze, kids and people growing up get a different perception of reality and what's acceptable, and what drives confidence.

"We just wanted to be real and you don't have to have a six-pack or a tan and taking photos on the beach every day to have confidence. You can have confidence in yourself, no matter what you do."

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