Cool Biz … Un-Cool?


TOKYO (majirox news) _ Cool Biz comes to mind today, with the temperature topping 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), humidity over 90% and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government mandate on reducing power use by 15% often meaning no air conditioners. But why is Cool Biz so, well, uncool? Especially for guys?

Male office workers wearing cool-biz apparel are anything but cool. For the most part, the shirts only come in white, light blue, pink and yellow, sometimes with a light stripe for contrast, and look like they’re only one size; extra-large. The short sleeves come down to the elbows and fit incredibly loosely, so the slightest breeze causes the shirts to flare out like sails.

Kango Watanabe, 30-year old Tokyo salaryman, says the uncool tag is unfair.

“Many people think that cool-biz is not cool, but actually if you wear it right; with the right fit and the right shirt it will look cool. Most people have the wrong perception of cool-biz only being one-color half-sleeve shirts, most likely because Japanese salarymen have adopted it that way.”

But 31-year-old Ryutaro Hashimoto, Tokyo office worker, says the criticism hits the mark.

“The models have not changed since they first introduced them; only a few colors to choose from. I would like to wear cool-biz apparel in the summer, but hardly anyone else wears them.”

Working women do, with plenty of fashionable and cool summer apparel available for them. They get all the choices, but when it comes to menswear you dress cooler but don’t look cool.

Retailers, department stores and foreign stores alike are hoping to change this, promoting cool biz casual wear, stocking up with over 30% more polo shirts and other casual apparel, expecting sales – in some cases – to increase by nearly 50% over last year.

They’ll be helped by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government worried about possible power shortages and mandating all Tokyo businesses to reduce power use by 15%, which in many cases means no air-conditioning. Furthermore, the government is allowing some government employees to wear casual business clothes and promoting this decision with advertising and commercials.

So, what companies are implementing cool biz casual wear and who is wearing it? Will companies promote cool casual biz this summer or will it be business as usual in Tokyo? So far, summer train commuters and most men in offices are still in dark two-piece suits with long-sleeved shirts and ties.

Perhaps being powerless – literally – to combat the summer heat may finally put some cool into Cool Biz.

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