Don’t be fooled by appearances!
Why do Japanese businessmen look so “un-fashionable”？
Fashion and appearances are of vital importance in Japan. So why do Japanese businessmen all look similar?
To start with the conclusion, if I may, unfashion is a kind of fashion. Let me explain it with the Japanese angle. Like anywhere else, fashion in Japan is a statement of belonging to a community. By adopting the dress code of the community you belong to, you are also showing the world that you are part of that community and that you adhere to its codes.
In Japan, where appearances and belonging are 2 very important elements of your social life, this leads people to pay a lot of attention to their look. So why are the Japanese businessmen so unfashionable? It comes in contradiction with my little theory, doesn’t it. Well, the contradiction is only on the surface. If the community code asks of its members to look un-eventful, then, here you go: a dark blue color suit, a white shirt, if you are daring, a pink one will become the major pillar of your fashion, a kind of uniform.
It is always surprising for us Occidental, to notice that even “important” people in the Japanese organisations that we visit, are looking like the blue workers or employees they are employing. They wear the company uniform or jumper like anyone else and will switch to their jacket before they meet you…
So, appearance matters, but do not be fooled by it. You cannot decide who is important for you, just by the look. The decision maker might not be the one you thought of. Besides, while looking quite “un-exceptional”, if you take the time to scratch the surface, you will discover very bright people, with good and/or unique ideas, ambitions, and deep and sophisticated thoughts!
So, do not dismiss them too fast because they are looking too predictable. On the contrary, you really want to discover those people who are willing to become your “advocate” within their organization, and who have both the incentive and the mind to fight successfully for you! They look unfashionable because they do know the codes and they thrives in using them to succeed!