Cool Biz and clothing for the modern Japanese gent

I received an email from the HR department this morning to announce the beginning of Cool Biz. This means that male employees can forego neckties for the next three months, while office air conditioners are turned up to 28°C to reduce running costs (and ultimately help the environment).

Cool Biz is a fantastic idea: it means fewer sweaty old men on the streets and a considerable reduction in the amount of CO2 that power stations pump out. It also has the knock-on effect of producing more than a few comedy moments as bamboozled salarymen adjust to the brave new world of dressing in a smart-casual manner. Their plight is worsened by the prime minister, who is legally obliged to dress like an extra from Magnum, P.I. all summer long:

Of course, not all salarymen dress like aliens trying to blend into a middle-class American family circa 1985. A quick peruse of magazine racks in local bookshops reveals a bewildering variety of style-related magazines for the modern gent.


Middle-aged chaps who are looking to add a bit of edge to their look should turn to Leon. The key phrase here is choiwaru oyaji, which (sort of) translates as “bad-but-cool old guy”. Put simply, Leon is for forty- and fifty-something lady-killing dandies who want to look like they’ve just stepped out of a Milanese cafe. Check out those white jeans! Gaze in dumbstruck awe at those medallions!

Men's Ex

Slightly younger fellows should take a gander at Men’s Ex, which has considerably fewer photos of George Clooney wannabies with twenty-something women. It’s fairly conservative in its recommendations, leaning more towards classic business attire and the preppy look than its Italian-inspired rival.

Men's Ex Maintenance Guide

There is also a phenomenal number of one-off magazines – called mooks (magazine+book=mook) – which cover all kinds of style-related issues. Men’s Ex recently produced a guide to looking after and tailoring clothes which is proving very popular in this current economic climate of belt-tightening. Its article on how to properly clean leather shoes came in very handy after I got caught in a nasty downpour:

Cleaning shoes

The Shirt and Tie

Another big-selling mook is this one on shirts. It contains all you need to know about the humble dress shirt and tie, including a dizzying array of ways to tie neckties…

How to tie your tie

… and a handy guide for coordinating shirts with ties and suits:

Coordinating, for t' men, like

If you’re expecting well-written, thought provoking articles on a par with GQ or Esquire in these magazines then you’re in for a shock. The line between advertising and editorial is virtually nonexistent. In fact they are, pretty much, 200-page advertorials. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, per se: they do have some very interesting content, and some sections – especially those on maintenance – go into absolutely staggering detail.

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  1. Rob

    Dumb question, but what is considered “appropriate” attire in Tokyo? I am heading there in a few days and while I can get away with shorts and flip flops where I live, I hear that things are a bit more conservative there. Could I use the Gaijin card and get away with the shorts, or will I be denied entrance to pubs if I show up sporting boardshorts and some flip flops?

    Great blog too. I’ve been spending a lot of company time today reading through it, getting a feel of what to expect.

    • Hi Rob,

      As long as no one can see your meat-and-two-veg, anything goes. Flip-flops and shorts are fine – only the swankiest of bars will deny you entry for wearing them. I usually wear shorts and polo shirts all summer long (when I’m not at work, that is), and have never had any trouble.

      Hope you enjoy Tokyo while you’re here.


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