Women sound off on Super Cool Biz fashions

July 8th, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

Where are the lines drawn with super cool biz fashions?

This summer, encouraged by the government’s Super Cool Biz campaign, Japanese men are daring to bare a bit more flesh. As neckties and heavy blazers are discarded, almost anything goes, and many braver businessmen are now sporting calf-length trousers, polo shirts and “aloha shirts.” For the first time female colleagues are seeing their male coworkers in a whole new light, but according to a poll by Nikkei Woman Online, there’s a fine line to be drawn between kakui (cool) and kakkowarui (unattractive).

The poll, published in Nikkei Trendy, reveals that too much flesh in the office can be a bad thing. Revealing tank tops were the most objectionable office-fashion item, with 90 percent of 409 respondents rating this “NG” (thumbs down). Shorts came in a close second, at around 80 percent NG. While most women did not object to plain short sleeve shirts, if the material is sheer, around 60 percent of respondents preferred men to wear a vest underneath to cover up exposed nipples and chest hair.

Though a bare minimum of respondents objected to men discarding jackets and neckties, there seemed to be a very definite tolerance level for casual looks. T-shirts and patterened shirts (including Hawaiian shirts”) were controversial items, both splitting the vote at 50 percent. Polo shirts, however, seem to be just about acceptable (just under 10 percent of women objected to them).

Body hair was also put in its place by the survey. Though 80 percent of respondents were totally cool with chest hair curling above an open button, only 60 percent were accepting of armpit hair snaking out from under a shirt sleeve (40 percent rated this as unsightly).

The combination of hot weather and revealing summer wardrobe made some 20 percent of respondents feel that they now saw their male colleagues in a different light. Anonymous comments included: “There are more guys whom I think are attractive now”; “It’s sexy and cool when men discard the necktie and have one shirt button undone”; and “A guy’s arm muscles look sexy in a polo shirt.”

Not all women were enamored of their colleagues leaving less to the imagination. Comments also included: “It looks slovenly!” “It emphasizes pot bellies!” “It exposes those bits of the body you don’t want to see,” “I worry that the more that’s exposed, the sweatier and smellier it’ll be on the train.”

As we move out of rainy season and the mercury rises,  we’re likely to see more and more men embrace casual Super Cool Biz trends, but it seems like men will be treading a fine line between sexy and unsightly in the eyes of their female colleagues.

What’s your take on this? Thumbs up for Hawaiian shirts and shorts in the office, or is that taking things too far?

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3 Responses

  1. Japanese seem to have fetishised manga and beauty salon ads’ ideas of normality so much that they are unable to deal with real bodies. I find the kind of phobic reaction they show to female armpit hair and sweat kind of creepy, to be honest, because it’s so extreme. Now it turns out they’re doing the same on the men. Not that I really want male colleagues sitting next to me in a vest only, just that armpit hair is not the reason. I don’t think you’re that much cooler in a singlet than a shirt. The fabric, the cut, the thickness of the cloth are all much more important in keeping cool. How hard is it to come up with loose fitting, breathable fabric that’s not see through, cut in flattering styles that won’t look comfortable? Seems to be another example of Japan’s inability to look around and see what is successfully dealt with around the world without adolescent kind of squeals of disgust, that finds the normal gross.

  2. Whoops, I meant “how hard is it to come up with loose fitting, breathable fabric that’s not see through, cut in flattering styles that won’t look crumpled?”

  3. I think the calf-length pants sounds like a really cool idea, but not shorts. Shorts are too casual, but calf-pants tread the line just right–and to those who you think might object, just keep behind your desk and no one will even notice!

    It is really about time though for the suit and tie deal to hit the road. Super Cool Biz is not only a great way to keep cool, but also to make room for some individuality. I say patterned shirts are a great idea. As long as there’s a collar and buttons what’s the hurt? I do think the nipple thing sounds gross though. I always wear an undershirt regardless, so I never have to worry about visible body features. And as far as the pot-bellies, I think this is just a case in “does he understand fashion and what works for his body type, or not?” A lot of guys don’t get this aspect of life, and what can you do but just not ask them out for coffee?

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