‘Cool Biz’ sounds silly, but it’s actually government-sanctioned

Posted on 03.10.2014


It’s funny that I’ll post this mere days after Cool Biz  has officially ended. Fall means full formal is back in effect!

Utter the phrase ‘cool biz’ to anyone in Japan, and they automatically think of thinner suit jackets, or being allowed to NOT wear a tie to work.

tumblr_lmk80jjGCj1qi5ncjWhen I first heard about the practice, I thought it was just some weird Japanese thing, like tentacle porn, that didn’t mean much. As it turns out, it is actually a government-sanctioned act which was put in place to reduce electricity usage, and got really popular after 3-11 (Fukushima), when they began ‘Super Cool Biz’. I’m not even joking about these names, you can read about it for yourself HERE.

Basically, Cool Biz goes from May 1 until October 30. During this time, employees at most companies can forgo wearing ties and suit jackets, as long as they maintain a professional appearance. At my own office, it means that you don’t have to wear your jacket UNLESS you’re having a specific type of meeting. It effectively means I don’t have to purchase an ACTUAL suit until the end of September, if I don’t want to, and can slip slowly into business casual, as long as my boss doesn’t complain. Because I’m definitely rocking a skirt from Uniqlo that is NOT a part of an actual suit at the moment (to be fair, it just about matches my black blazer from H+M perfectly, in case I need to wear it).

Around Tokyo, Cool Biz means you can no longer tell who, exactly, is a salaryman or salarylady based solely on what they’re wearing, unless they have an important meeting that day and need to go full-formal. It means everyone buys sweat-wicking tees and tanks to wear UNDER their clothes, and there are lots and lots of thin summer ‘sweaters’ being sold in a multitude of bright colors.

The idea of Cool Biz is to cut back on electricity usage. Office AC units are to be set to 28 C (about 83 F). I sit next to the thermostat, and it’s usually set at around 25. As I sit UNDER the AC (no complaints, not a single one), anything lower than 23 seems like murder, AND keeps me awake.

Because of the idea that we SHOULD keep those thermostats high, companies agreed to allow their workers to dress more casually. Otherwise, they might die of heat exhaustion in their cubicles.

e382b9e383bce38391e383bce382afe383bce383abe38393e382baNow that summer is officially over and the weather is bearable, I can say that Cool Biz is a nice idea, however, I’m not sure many places adhere to the 28 degrees part. All summer, my thermostat sat at around 24 degrees. Not my doing, but that of all of my coworkers. I still generally keep an eye on the temperature, but others would come back and mess with it sometimes, too.

My final verdict: I really enjoyed not having to wear a suit every day during the summer months, however, I’m really glad to be BACK in a suit now that summer is over and fall is upon us! Thanks for giving your workers a few months to loosen their ties and ‘let loose’, Japan.