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    Dressing down without loosening up

    Nichi Nichi has a good roundup of the depressing results of the Japanese government’s new “no taste” “no tie” policy. Among the pictures is one of Prime Minister Koizumi in an Okinawan shirt, looking as if he were practicing his Bea Arthur drag act.

    Naturally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs isn’t pressing the policy too much; an acquaintance of mine who was brought up in Switzerland was recently taken to task by his supervisor there for wearing a striped shirt and wine-colored tie rather than the funeral-director look (white shirt, tie in color range from grey to navy with non-assertive pattern) that’s an unofficial requirement.

    Otherwise, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing going on to make un-suit-edness “cool.” Yuriko Koike, the Minister of the Environment, has called upon designers to come up with “cool biz” looks. There will be a fashion show of them at the Aichi World Expo.

    As Joe says, given the torturing heat and humidity of summer here, and the fact that a lot of people travel around in packed trains rather than cars, it makes sense not to require them to dress to the point of near-suffocation. Still, it’s unfortunate, if not unexpected, that everyone seems to be gravitating toward the dress-shirt-without-a-tie look. (I mean, everyone besides the high-ranking officials who are dressing distinctively just to draw attention to the policy.) It makes them all look as if they’d neglected to finish putting their clothes on in the morning. Or taken off their jackets and ties in preparation for a few rounds of beer and karaoke. Outfits that didn’t look as if something were missing–linen or scrupulously pressed chambray with trousers would be the obvious choices–would look more on-duty.

    4 Responses to “Dressing down without loosening up”

    1. John says:

      How about leisure suits?

      They might look oddly appropriate in Japan.

      But get rid of the white socks.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I think we’d all be relieved to have our eyes affronted by nothing more than white socks with black shoes and proper trousers at this point. And now that you mention it, Koizumi has exactly the right hair to carry off a leisure suit. It’s a pity his handlers didn’t think of it.

    3. Eric Scheie says:

      I think it looks unprofessional as hell. I might be a slob in my private life, but if I met with clients that way I’d feel disrespectful. I guess that’s old fashioned, but I’d point out that the large law firms around here abandoned dressing down because it made the clients uneasy.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      I think that for meetings with outside clients/petitioners/diplomats, it’s ridiculous. I don’t see what the problem is with letting the people who are just working in the back office on a given day come in without a suit and tie, as long as they recognize that they’re running the risk that there will be an impromptu meeting with a client, at which point they’ll be in hot water. The get-ups the cabinet was using to push the point strike me as a little lacking in respect for its members’ own positions.

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