Cool Biz not so cool for some people

Cool Biz not so cool for some people

This is an interesting article I found that shows the current state of business casual attire in Japan.

The government’s Cool Biz energy-saving campaign is firmly embedded in offices across the country.

People are leaving their jackets and ties at home in the summer heat, but some people are apparently taking Cool Biz too far, causing discomfort and embarrassment to coworkers.

A 34-year-old female dispatch worker at an office in Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district is constantly troubled by a male employee who sits next to her. The man does not wear anything under his shirt. When he returns to the office after being outside, his sweat causes his shirt to stick to his skin, making it see-through.

On occasions such as when the man is handing the woman documents, she is at a loss as to where to look.

“It’s an awful feeling,” she said. “Isn’t this some kind of sexual harassment?”

The woman confided in another male employee, who had a word with the man in question.

But the undershirtless man just snapped back: “Before shorts and briefs were invented in Europe, shirts doubled as underwear. Wearing layers of underwear is odd!” showing no indication he would change his ways.

“People who wear underwear dry quickly after perspiring,” a spokesman for Gunze Ltd., an Osaka-based underwear maker, said. “[Wearing underwear] can also help prevent evaporative cooling.”

Some women also have caused problems by showing too much flesh in the summer months.

Camisoles are in fashion for women this summer. With many of them having frills, being made of lace or having thin shoulder straps, some men feel they too closely resemble underwear.

People such as older managers are reportedly hostile toward female attire they deem unsuitable for the workplace. They dislike it when women show off bare legs without stockings or wear mules–slip-on shoes that can be misconstrued to be beach sandals.

“Camisoles and tanktops are not suitable [for work],” CareerRise Corp., a personnel dispatch firm based in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, advises women registered with the firm on its homepage: “Skirts long enough to cover the knees are appropriate.”

A spokesman for the company was strict on the matter, saying, “We [advise this] because we have to avoid creating a bad image at companies we send staff to.”

Chiyoko Anju, an employment and business etiquette instruction consultant, also is critical of overly revealing clothing.

“People’s first impressions are based on what a person wears,” Anju says. “Wearing clothes that expose skin or casual attire creates a image of a selfish person who’s brash or showy. A person misses out before they know it and should realize that clothing makes a difference to their salary.”

Chuo Ward-based Link and Motivation Inc., a management consultancy, has created playing cards for young employees. One of the cards states: “Low-slung trousers [hanketsu in Japanese] will be judged as illegal [also hanketsu].”

The cards are aimed at women who wear low-rise jeans that expose their underwear when they stoop over. Employees know the cards well and have reportedly helped create an environment in which some male employees jokingly call out, “Hanketsu!” to their female counterparts.

Perhaps it is necessary for people to step back a little from the latest fashions for the sake of smooth work relationships.

(Aug. 4, 2008)