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    Your scarf, it was apricot

    You know how I figured last night that I just had a 24-hour bug? I was mistaken. I forgot that aspirin, despite its commonplace-ness, is very, very good at what it does, and my reduced fever and achiness were its doing. The good news is that, since yesterday, my stomach has remembered that it’s supposed to send things downward when it’s done with them. The bad news is that I’m still lightheaded. Fortunately, there’s news to match my mood. Take a gander at this, geese:

    An overwhelming 96.7 percent of single women are bugged when they see men wearing trousers that are either too short or too long for them, a joint survey by two Japanese companies has found.

    The women were asked to rate their response to such appearances in four levels, ranging from “It bothers me a lot,” to “It doesn’t worry me.”

    The appearance that bugged women most was “Trousers that don’t match (are too long or too short).” A total of 69.4 percent of women responded, “It bothers me a lot,” while 27.3 percent said it vexed them “a little” — a combined total of 96.7 percent.

    The survey also found that women took notice of what kind of socks men were wearing. When asked, “What item can cause you to become disillusioned and think that the person has no style?” a total of 18.4 percent of the women said, “Socks.”

    There are probably more than a few self-professed “stylish” businessmen in Japan who give a lot of thought to what kind of necktie they wear, but based on the results of the survey, maybe a look at their socks may also be in order.

    The article focuses on the “stylish” angle, but I think that’s probably not quite right–even if the women themselves were addressed that way in the questions. After all, we’ve all seen a billion and one of these hokey surveys about what drives women nuts about the way men dress, and when it comes to trousers, what’s the usual top-ranked complaint? They bag around the ass, that’s what. And Japanese women are no different from women elsewhere in that regard. (No, I haven’t researched this scientifically, but tell me you seriously doubt me? Thought not.) That it either wasn’t asked about or didn’t concern the women surveyed suggests that the real issue isn’t “stylishness” in the sense of attractiveness. (Well, I guess it could also suggest that wearing highwaters is an unusually common problem among Japanese men, but let me riff here.)

    There are many lines of work that have adopted casual dress in the States but not in Japan; unless you work in a record store or funky cafe, you probably wear a suit to work. Straight guys in Japan don’t care about clothes any more than straight guys in the States–yeah, yeah, generalization, outliers, nothing femme about troubling to dress well, lots of gay guys wear chambray shirts and dumpy khakis every day, blah, blah, blah, fine; the pattern is still a pattern. So if you see a man whose shoes are expensive and polished, whose suits are carefully selected to drape over his shoulders and break over his shoes correctly, and whose socks are discreetly dark, it probably means that he’s management-track at a good company and dresses that way because he’s figured out through trial and error that he has to. (There’s also the fact that upscale men’s magazines routinely carry pages and pages of completely scripted outfits for guys to copy in toto–they make John T. Molloy look like a total amateur.)

    Now, before anyone goes bananas on me, I should clarify a few things. Japanese society still expects women to leave work to have children soon after marrying, to the point that the number of women even from the most prestigious universities who score management-track positions is very, very low. That means that the vast majority of women can realistically expect to have to run their households on their husbands’ salary and status, returning to part-time work only when the children are grown. You may denounce this as retrograde or get Danielle Crittenden-type shivers of pleasure from it, but it’s a fact that governs women’s lives here, and they all know it.

    Further, fewer women find their husbands through meetings arranged by family or company than used to. Clothing-related status markers aren’t all that important to pay attention to when you know your suitor’s entire CV from your elders’ background check–once you’re running the home, you can probably tell him what to wear, anyway. But they may be all you really have if you’re meeting guys under self-introduction circumstances at a party.

    4 Responses to “Your scarf, it was apricot”

    1. John says:

      It’s the white socks with a blue suit that bugs them, man. Especially if the pants are highwaters.
      Japanese women who want to climb high go to foreign companies. Mine was full of ambitious women.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Right, but they’re a small element in the population, so I doubt they would have skewed the sample in this survey, if for a lark we regard it as significant.
      As for the white socks + blue trousers thing, I always assumed it was a company-mandated combination, not something all these guys were spontaneously coming up with. If I’m wrong, I’d prefer not to be enlightened.

    3. John says:

      Speaking as a straight guy whose favorite color is camouflage, I think it was voluntary in the previous generation, then got passed on as a bad habit.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      I think I’d prefer camouflage. Down to the socks, even.