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Thread: Clothing advice for new JETs

  1. #1

    Default Clothing advice for new JETs

    I thought we should have a thread to discuss this, as well as an easier find archive of advice for people looking in the future.

    I'm teaching at an academic senior high school, so that's the experience I'm speaking from. Of course every situation is different and your best bet is to ask your predecessor and to follow the lead of other teachers. But a lot of you may want to (or be forced to, depending on your body type) buy most of your clothes and footwear before coming, so hopefully this general advice will help you. If other ALTs want to weigh in on any different situations they have that'd be great.

    From the other thread, my advice for female JETs:

    Female Japanese teachers, unless you're in the highest level of academic high school in a large city, have a lot of freedom. New Japanese teachers may well wear a black suit in the beginning, (usually with a skirt, wearing a trouser suit is a bit uncool in Japan) just to make a good impression but the two female teachers in my school that just started already ditched theirs. However you will need a suit for many ceremonies and conferences during the year so make sure you bring at least one. Day to day, shirts, blouses, cardigans, sweaters, anything not super casual, are all fine, slacks and conservative skirts for the lower half, though honestly you'd be fine with anything not jeans. Colour/pattern is not hugely important, though if in doubt stick to white, black, navy, grey or generally muted colours. The most important thing is not to wear anything that shows your neckline/collarbone (and absolutely no cleavage) no matter what you might think isn't that much, or much of your upper arms. Make sure you keep that covered up or people will think you're dressing a bit provocatively. Weird double standard, but Japanese girls in general will happily wear the tiniest of skirts/shorts without dreaming of wearing a remotely low cut top.

    It is a lot harder for women to figure out I can appreciate, but basically imagine you're dressing to go meet your religious boyfriend's conservative parents for the first time and go for that. The basic idea is to present a certain image to the students that shows you're making an effort to follow the school rules/standards, so as long as you don't look like a slob or like you're dolled up for a night on the town you'll be fine. Oh yes, make sure your makeup is conservative/natural as possible too.

    Finally, remember that ALTs get a lot of leeway and there won't be any consequences for being more casual than the teachers, especially at ES/JHS level where you're usually not a regular member of staff.

    Oh, for footwear;

    Basically no rules, though again, don't wear anything "provocative". Plenty of teachers wear the horrible "sandals" or tennis shoes/sneakers, though the sportswear look is a little uncool for women. If you wear shoes, as I do, then make sure you only wear them at work. Black shoes with a small heel or just pumps would probably be the best balance of style and comfort.

  2. #2
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Shorts and a tshirt for me, need to let the boys air out
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    For male ALTs:

    Japanese male teachers dress very formally at the high school level, and similarly at most junior high schools from what I've heard. In winter that means suits and neckties every day, usually black or dark grey, sometimes navy. The "rules" of how to dress business over here are a bit odd sometimes, so when summer comes around and "cool biz" starts (the time of the year when office workers are allowed to ditch their suits to save energy on air conditioning) you get some weird stuff. Most commonly they wear a short sleeved button-up shirt, often keeping the necktie, which of course looks terrible. In general the male teacher "uniform" is fairly consistent and very plain and conservative. To be honest, few male teachers own any clothes that aren't white shirts and dark suits, and rarely have a chance to wear anything else. So the dress code is as much habit as it is expectation. As always in Japan, fitting in and being unnoteworthy is their main goal when dressing.

    For male ALTs, your safest bet at the high school level is to just own 3+ suits in the aforementioned colors along with enough white shirts for the week and a couple of neckties. Any necktie is fine really, though I suppose you might want to steer away from really lurid colours or crazy designs, though honestly even those will probably get more admiration than disapproval. Shirts can have some variation in colour and pattern if you desire, though obviously the more you veer from the norm the more risky it'll be. Quite a few of my teachers wear white shirts with simple stripes or check patterns, so that's fine.

    HOWEVER while wearing a suit every day is simple enough, a lot of people might find that to be rather stifling and uncomfortable and perhaps expensive for some. And most high schools are not really that strict. Like I said, it's more out of habit and convenience that your teachers wear suits every day, rather than explicit rules. And of course as the ALT you have a bit of a license to be different. So, I'll give a bit of advice as to how far you can push it, with the warning that you might not want to assume you can just do this from the beginning and bear in mind your school might be a lot more strict than mine or other posters.

    I would say you want to wear slacks and a button-up shirt every day. In some schools male ALTs can get away with chinos and a polo shirt but I would advise that's about as far as you can go in terms of informality and that these ALTs are probably not aware of how much their school disapproves of this. Slacks should be in muted colours of course, greys, navies, maybe beige or brown. For shirts, go with block colours or very plain patterns. Check or stripe is fine, so long as the colours aren't too bright. Though actually one of my teachers is wearing a pink shirt today so I guess colours aren't too strict either. Whether or not to wear a necktie is a bit tricky. Most Japanese teachers will wear one but I think you can just about get away without it. I hate ties and I regularly don't wear them. If you choose not to wear one I would say to go with a shirt with a button-down collar; it just looks a bit smarter.

    In summer I would still make sure to stick with the button-up shirt, short sleeved with no tie, and slacks. This is perfectly acceptable for "cool biz" season. It can be a bit tricky to figure out when cool biz comes around, but look for when other teachers start wearing short sleeves and copy them if in doubt. In winter your school will probably be pretty cold and may not be heated, so even if you don't wear a suit you'll need a cardigan/sweater and blazer. I wore turtleneck sweaters this winter but I got a lot of comments about it, so if you're worried I would stick with the shirt/cardigan combo. Uniqlo heat-tech undershirts are also great for beating the cold and should fit all but the hugest of people.

    For footwear you can wear tennis shoes/sneakers or slippers/sandals if you like. Remember if you want to wear any kind of shoe to buy a pair that you only wear in school. Finally, please don't be the guy wearing white socks. Cheers.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    How would leggings go over? To be clear, when I say leggings I am talking about something like this: wunder under crop | lululemon athletica that have passed a bend-over check (not see through in any position), and worn with a long shirt/dress/long sweater/tunic so that my bum is totally covered - something like this:


    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-V6f7Qxar2Q...h+leggings.jpg

    or

    | Pinterest

    or

    http://d1n0t8embjb5t8.cloudfront.net...cSu1qgbaad.jpg

    In Canada, leggings are usually ok in a business casual environment if worn in this way.

    Also, I am super obsessed with wearing boots (mid calf height), usually with outfits similar to above. Are boots appropriate?

    Thanks

  5. #5

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by Libellule View Post
    How would leggings go over? To be clear, when I say leggings I am talking about something like this: wunder under crop | lululemon athletica that have passed a bend-over check (not see through in any position), and worn with a long shirt/dress/long sweater/tunic so that my bum is totally covered - something like this:


    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-V6f7Qxar2Q...h+leggings.jpg

    or

    | Pinterest

    or

    http://d1n0t8embjb5t8.cloudfront.net...cSu1qgbaad.jpg

    In Canada, leggings are usually ok in a business casual environment if worn in this way.
    Perhaps, but I'd say the example dresses/tops you linked would be seen as rather too short. Ideally they would go to just above or below the knee. It's less about showing skin and more about showing the form of your legs above the knee. Japanese students are constantly told off for cinching their skirts up, so you don't really want to be showing much more leg than they are allowed to. And wearing leggings will not be seen as covering your legs, from what I can tell.

    None of those looks seem particularly business casual to me either, though maybe the first one is ok.

    Also, I am super obsessed with wearing boots (mid calf height), usually with outfits similar to above. Are boots appropriate?
    I would say no, for two big reasons; boots are really outdoor footwear and people will constantly think you're wearing your outdoor shoes inside. And I'm not entirely certain but I think they would be seen as pretty provocative.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by Libellule View Post
    Also, I am super obsessed with wearing boots (mid calf height), usually with outfits similar to above. Are boots appropriate?

    Thanks
    Remember that these might be coming off and on a few times a day. Go to the gym for a student gathering? No boots or non-sneakers on the wood, only on the periphery. Running to the conbini for lunch? Boots off, walking shoes on.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    When did white socks become a bad thing? Is that a Japanese faux pas? I can remember a guy getting made fun of at my boxing gym for wearing black socks. In general, I am baffled by either being considered noteworthy.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    They're gonna burn you inside a giant wicker anpanman.

  8. #8
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by spman2099 View Post
    When did white socks become a bad thing?
    jiggit is going to have an aneurism
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    jiggit is going to have an aneurism
    I was looking into it. Apparently this is primarily a fashionista thing. I can remember Jiggit linking a site that sells the clothing he wears; judging from that I wouldn't think Jiggit is all that concerned with how he dresses.
    Last edited by spman2099; May 14th, 2014 at 11:15.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    They're gonna burn you inside a giant wicker anpanman.

  10. #10
    Senior Moment Antonath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by spman2099 View Post
    When did white socks become a bad thing? Is that a Japanese faux pas? I can remember a guy getting made fun of at my boxing gym for wearing black socks. In general, I am baffled by either being considered noteworthy.
    In general, black socks for office work, white socks for physical work or exercise.
    ...because Japan.

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  12. #12
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    not really. its been an accepted rule for decades. whites socks are for sports only. match your socks to the colour of your trousers but if thats too much hassle you cant go far wrong with black.
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Nah it's cool man, if you want to look like every other abysmally dressed white dweeb in Japan that's more hawt asiunz for me.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    I can't imagine how abysmal a person has to be to care about the colour of your socks... I wear black socks with my dress pants, but I would not think twice if I saw someone wearing white socks with a pair of black pants. I think you would have to be an utter pedant to care about something so inconsequential. Which, when thinking about it, helps me understand this entire conversation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    Nah it's cool man, if you want to look like every other abysmally dressed white dweeb in Japan that's more hawt asiunz for me.
    I have never seen you, Jiggit, but I am guessing that this is a very ironic statement. At least that is what my gut is telling me.
    Last edited by spman2099; May 14th, 2014 at 11:34.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    They're gonna burn you inside a giant wicker anpanman.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by spman2099 View Post
    I can't imagine how abysmal a person has to be to care about the colour of your socks... I wear black socks with my dress pants, but I would not think twice if I saw someone wearing white socks with a pair of black pants. I think you would have to be an utter pedant to care about something so inconsequential. Which, when thinking about it, helps me understand this entire conversation.
    So brave. But if you really think most people don't judge you on your appearance you're being very naive.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    So brave. But if you really think most people don't judge you on your appearance you're being very naive.
    I think they judge me positively. They are all like "look at that hot young thing. I want to sink my teeth into some of THAT". Well, that is what I tell myself.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    They're gonna burn you inside a giant wicker anpanman.

  17. #17
    Senior Moment Antonath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Given how many millions (billions?) of dollars the fashion industry is worth before we even get into retail clothing, I'd say making sure you're wearing the right things is fairly important to people.
    ...because Japan.

  18. #18
    Senior Member osakavamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    I read from a lady ALT that pencil skirts -- regardless of being the appropriate length -- are even considered risque because they show off the curves many Japanese ladies don't have. Despite this, I've purchased three tasteful pencil skirts because they are the sorts of skirts that fit me best precisely DUE to my big hips. If you go for this, though, I advise the ladies here to buy suit jackets and cardigans and be prepared to try and soften all those curves so you don't walk into classrooms to choruses of SEKKUSHI or whatever.

    Jiggit is 100% right on the double-standard of boobs vs. legs in Japan. I attribute it to the universal rule of flaunting what you got -- Japanese women got legs, but got no titties. Vice versa for the west.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by osakavamp View Post
    I read from a lady ALT that pencil skirts -- regardless of being the appropriate length -- are even considered risque because they show off the curves many Japanese ladies don't have. Despite this, I've purchased three tasteful pencil skirts because they are the sorts of skirts that fit me best precisely DUE to my big hips. If you go for this, though, I advise the ladies here to buy suit jackets and cardigans and be prepared to try and soften all those curves so you don't walk into classrooms to choruses of SEKKUSHI or whatever.

    Jiggit is 100% right on the double-standard of boobs vs. legs in Japan. I attribute it to the universal rule of flaunting what you got -- Japanese women got legs, but got no titties. Vice versa for the west.
    Interesting. Is it risque for Japanese teachers too? I feel like I've seen some of them in pencil skirts sometimes.

  20. #20
    Senior Member osakavamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clothing advice for new JETs

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    Interesting. Is it risque for Japanese teachers too? I feel like I've seen some of them in pencil skirts sometimes.
    My intuition says no just because of the constant double-standards ALTs face in terms of this kind of thing, but who knows? I didn't see a ton of Japanese women in pencil skirts at the eikaiwa I used to work at, but then again the college professors I worked with sometimes wore denim jean shorts over tights so ??? the fuck fashion choices.

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