The Ultimate Guide for your Professional Wardrobe in Japan
Friday, June 22, 2018
Rock it from Monday to Friday - overtime included
Japan has a lot of unwritten rules for business attire and we are here to help you navigate through it.
Job-hunting suits and interview traps
Are you really sure you are playing safe with this plain black suit? Actually, you maybe are doing a terrible faux-pas. Japanese recruiters will care about your skills and your personality, but also if you will fit the corporate image.
If you are still new to the industry, and the job is an entry level, it is common for recruiters to look for a candidate as neutral as possible to brand their corporate culture onto the new hire. As we told you before about the Shukatsu season, black is the color of soon-to-be-graduated students when they go job-hunting.
Our advice? Follow their lead and go black with a white shirt or top, monochrome tie (avoid black), and leather-like closed shoes. No pinstripes, no fancy tie with pineapple pattern, no backpack. While a too formal attire won't hurt your reputation, you cannot take the risk of being excluded for fancy socks.
However, if you are already a seasoned professional, don't mix the message with a black suit! Except if your sector is utterly conservative, such as finance or government, it should be safe to show your true colors. The important is to look professional, neat and groomed. A navy, brown or charcoal suit will fit perfectly.
For creative jobs, you may be actually be asked not to wear a suit for the interview.
Blend into your office's dress code
You followed our job hunting advice and got the job! Once again, congratulations! So now, what will you wear? If your company has a written dress code, you can be a little bit overwhelmed by all the rules. One of the company I know used to forbid accessories, nail polish, dyed hair or untied hair, and no-make-up for woman. If you like to put foundation and lip-gloss every morning, or love rocking a perfect manicure from time to time, that is something you definitely want to check before signing your contract!
Pick up two or three people you admire in your new company and try to get inspiration from their look. Pay attention to pick people doing similar tasks to yours, since a salesperson may not want to look like a fancy publicist. In doubt, always take the safe side and go for a business casual outfit. With a dark blazer or jacket, a buttons-up shirt or blouse, nice pants and business shoes in neutral tones, you can't go wrong!
Cool Biz and Super Cool Biz
Japan's summer is known as terribly hot and wet. Under the impulsion of former Ministry of the Environment Koike in 2005, the Cool Biz Campaign has been started as a way to reduce electric consumption during summer, from June to September. After Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, it evolved to "Super Cool Biz" and now runs from May to October.
Along with measures such as setting the air conditioner to 28°C (82°F) to switching off unused computers, the measures promotes also a more relaxed dress-code in companies.
So, what are the guidelines for Cool Biz? Get rid of your neck-ties and your jackets, and embrace lighter fabric, short-sleeve shirts and Okinawa-style shirt "Kariyushi"! Polos and t-shirts are still too casual for entering in this category but your company can be more flexible than government's directions, so check the company guidelines!
Our fashion advice for the season? A light-colored large Kariyushi shirt with ankle-length navy chino pants and white sneakers!
Tips from a veteran Office Lady (for everyone)
So now you have settle in the job, survived both the interview and the summer... but we have still some tips for you! Conbinis have always the bare necessities when you need it the most but try to keep at least the survival package in your desk drawers:
- A shirt or a blouse, because coffee spilling always comes at the worst moment
- A jacket or a blazer can come in handy sometimes
- If you're a skirt user, dark or transparent stockings with you, in case it cracks on your way to a business meeting!
- Slippers or flats: you can walk in slippers at the office, and rock your stilettos in business meetings later!
Did our advice helped you? Do you want more details, or maybe you just have a question? Contact us!
About the Author
IZANAU's Great Manitou. In Japan since 2011, settled since 2013, have been working in various fields here and there and got a lot of anecdotes to share!