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A Guide to Professional Attire in Japan

Updated: Feb 29


In the bustling streets of Tokyo, a well-groomed appearance goes beyond aesthetics. It is a belief that one's outer presentation reflects their inner character and work ethic. With meticulous grooming, individuals convey professionalism, attention to detail, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.


The Japanese business culture places great importance on presenting oneself in a professional and respectful manner. It is important to note that professional attire is typically requested in client-facing roles, the service industry, and companies with a more conservative culture. Start-ups or back-office positions may have a more relaxed dress code policy compared to client-facing roles.


This article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding and following the dress code norms for both men and women in Japanese workplaces. However, there may be variations in dress code requirements across different industries and specific roles. So, take this as a guide for first impressions and later familiarize yourself with the specific expectations of your company and industry.


Female Business Attire

Female business attire in Japan follows a formal and conservative style. Attention to grooming, personal presentation, and modesty is crucial. Below are essential guidelines to keep in mind.


Hair Style

Avoid hairstyles that cover your face when bowing. Opt for a neat and professional look, such as a half-bun. Keep your fringe/bangs above eye level and avoid overly bright hair colors.


Face

Wear subtle and natural-looking makeup. Avoid bright shades, overdone eye makeup, and flashy lipstick. Maintain a natural thickness for your eyebrows that matches your hair color.


Good example of women's business attire in Japan


Hands

Keep your nails short and avoid bright-colored nail polish or nail art. Nude or neutral shades are perfect for a professional appearance.


Shirts

Avoid shirts with a wide collar or a wide neckline that may reveal too much. Choose pressed shirts that are free from stains or wrinkles. White or light-colored options are preferred.


Skirts

Select knee-length skirts that provide modest coverage. Check for frayed cuffs and folds before wearing.


Stockings

Choose natural-colored stockings that closely match your skin tone. Avoid stockings that are too white, too dark, or have glitter. High socks are generally not appropriate for the workplace.


Shoes

Opt for closed-toe shoes with a moderate heel. Thick heels of approximately 5 cm in height are recommended. Ensure that your shoes are polished and in good condition. Avoid mules and sandals that may create noise while walking.


Accessories

Keep accessories minimal and simple. Pick small and tasteful necklaces, rings, and earrings. Avoid wearing oversized or flashy jewelry that may distract from your professional appearance.


Male Business Attire

Female business attire in Japan follows a formal and conservative style. Attention to grooming and personal presentation is crucial to make a positive impression. Here are some key guidelines to consider:


Hair

Maintaining clean and well-groomed hair is essential. Use a comb to style your hair, and ensure it is free from dandruff. Short hairstyles are preferred to ensure a neat and professional appearance. Long hair for men is unacceptable in many companies, with an exception in creative or fashion-related industries.


Face

Avoid sporting stubble beards or unshaven chins as they are considered unacceptable in the Japanese business culture. Trim your nose hair regularly to maintain a well-groomed appearance.


Good example of men's business attire in Japan


Hands

Keep your hands clean and your nails short. Well-maintained hands reflect professionalism and attention to detail.


Shirts

Opt for plain white shirts or subtle-patterned shirts that are not overly gaudy. It is crucial to wear a pressed dress shirt that is free from wrinkles and stains. Check the sleeves thoroughly before wearing them to ensure they are spotless.


Suits

Select a well-fitted business suit in calm colors like black, navy blue, or gray. It should be tailored to your body shape and free from stains or wrinkles. Avoid carrying bulky items in your pockets to maintain a polished appearance.


Ties

Some companies require their employees to wear ties and some don’t. If you have to wear one, choose conservative ties in solid colors or discreet patterns. Avoid loud or flashy designs. Make sure your tie is straight and properly secured. During summer, ties are not required.


Pants

Ensure that your slacks are the appropriate length when worn with shoes. They should be freshly pressed and free from any stains or wrinkles.


Shoes

Opt for polished, clean, and well-maintained dress shoes. Classic styles like oxfords or derbys in black or dark brown are suitable choices.


Are Tattoos Allowed in Japanese Workplaces?

In the traditional Japanese business culture, visible tattoos are generally considered taboo and may be viewed as unprofessional or associated with criminal activity. There is a strong societal expectation to maintain a conservative and clean appearance in professional settings, which often means covering up tattoos.


Wear long sleeves to hide your tattoos


However, attitudes towards tattoos are gradually changing, and some companies may be more accepting of them, especially in creative or non-traditional industries. Our advice is to play safe by covering your tattoos until you know your company or coworkers are fine with displaying visible tattoos in work settings.


Is Hijab Allowed in Japanese Workplaces?

The acceptance and understanding of religious attire, including the hijab, in professional business settings can vary depending on the company and industry. While Japan generally promotes a conservative and uniform appearance in the workplace, there has been some progress in accommodating religious diversity. Some companies may be more open to allowing employees to wear the hijab as part of their professional attire, particularly in international or multicultural environments.


Wearing hijab in workplace


It is essential for those who wish to wear the hijab in a professional setting in Japan to communicate with their employers and understand the specific policies and cultural norms of the company. In some cases, accommodations can be made to ensure that religious practices are respected while maintaining a professional appearance.


Many Muslim women are allowed to wear a hijab while working in Japan, so rest assured you won’t be forced to stick with the business attire mentioned above. Our advice is to have an open and respectful dialogue with employers to find a win-win solution.

 

Adhering to the traditional business dress code in Japan is crucial for professional success. Maintaining a conservative appearance, paying attention to grooming and personal hygiene, and selecting appropriate attire are vital aspects of Japanese business culture. By understanding and following these guidelines, both men and women can project a professional image and show respect to their colleagues and superiors.


Remember that dress codes vary depending on the industry and workplace, so it is always beneficial to observe and adapt to the expectations of your specific work environment. For example, the creative and fashion industries are usually more lenient.

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