Dress Codes

Standards for professional wear in Japan are similar to those in the United States. Standard celebration fare for men is a black suit with a white necktie and shirt. Women wear skirts and jackets or sometimes kimono or hakama (traditional Japanese wide-legged pants that tie above the waist with a broad sash).

Teachers will often start out wearing something professional for the morning meeting, but will then change into sweats or sportswear for the rest of the day. Their responsibilities range from physical education coach to music conductor, so optimal freedom of movement is a consideration. Principals and vice principals, too, will start out with suits, but may be in more casual clothing by lunchtime. You will know special guests are expected that day if everyone stays dressed up. Someone will, hopefully, let you know when you are expected to dress formally.

Ashita ni seisoo de kite kudasai.

Please come dressed formally tomorrow.

Kuroi suutsu ga areba, sore o kite kudasai.

If you have a black suit, please wear that.

Offices tend to be more formal on a day-to-day basis. Women usually wear heels and nylons with a skirt or suit. Men wear neckties and suits. After working somewhere for a while, you can see what other people in your office wear to work and follow their lead.

Did you notice the word kite has two different meanings in the previous examples?

In the first example, kite is the imperative (-te) version of kuru (“to come”). In the second example, kite is the imperative form of the verb kiru (“to wear”). Ki o tsukete ne!

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