In the wake of both natural and environmental disasters, Japan is struggling with its lack of energy resources. Attempts to conserve are both large and small, down to making an energy savings fashion statement. Last month, the Japanese Government launched Super Cool Biz 2011 – the summer fashion campaign to keep people cool while keeping air conditioners at a minimum during Japan’s most sultry months.
The Super Cool Biz fashion campaign, respectfully suggests the Japanese “Salary man”, known for conservative grey or black attire, put down the ties and step away from the suits – just for the summer – in the name of energy savings. In other words: The Japanese Government is asking its workforce to lighten up!
The fashion campaign started several years ago as an effort to fight global warming. But this year, with air conditioner temperatures regulated to 82 degrees fareinheit, the campaign’s necessity is obvious. Super Cool Biz encourages a departure from the heavy suits, and opts for office wear like polos, t-shirts, hawaiian shirts, and sandals.
Interestingly, classic Japanese fashions are being promoted to beat the heat as well. It is encouraged to carry around the traditional uchiwa hard fans, for men to wear contemporary suteteko (basically slim fitting capris), and women to don the traditional summer yukata. Generally, jeans are considered too informal, and would make most people feel “uncomfortable”.
While it makes sense, the fashion altering campaign faces an uphill battle. Work life definitely outweighs personal time. Wearing casual clothing to work previously would have meant inevitable firing. Many workers feel they would not be taken seriously sporting a t-shirt in the office, as well as risk standing out apart from their peers. The preference is to suffer a bit more and maintain the status quo. Luckily, the Super Cool Biz campaign not only offers fashion tips, but other energy saving and carbon reducing suggestions as well, including working only in the morning and (my personal favorite recommendation) taking longer summer vacations. The need for flexibility and adaptation could help Japan usher in a more balanced approach to home and work. Only time will tell – as the summer heat and energy crisis continues – if Japan is truly ready to start shedding suits for sandals.