Dress Codes in JapanIn Japan, workers aren't likely to push the downward limits of a dress code. Employees tend to dress as formally as their boss will let them. In some cases, management has to tell an employee that their dressing too well (no boss wants staff to out-dress him or her).
Japanese companies find that when they allow employees to wear short sleeve shirts in the summer — few people take them up on the offer.
It's a very different environment from the United States — where many employees will dress as casually as they're allowed.
Cool BizTokyo summers are hot and humid. In August the average daily high temperature is 31.1°C (88°F). When temperatures peak Tokyo's power gird is pushed to its limits. In 2004, the city experienced several unplanned blackouts (partial).
The government had to do something. They could ask trains, offices and residences to turn down their air conditioning — but they'd risk injuring all those workers who insist on wearing a suit.
The national government came up with a plan. Together with industry partners they established a voluntary summer dress code that encouraged workers to leave their jacket and tie at home. Companies pledged to increase office temperatures and decrease power usage.
They used the slogan Cool Biz (クールビズ) to sell the idea. It was a hard sell. In Japan, companies know that dressing well helps to boost sales (especially when it comes to sales staff).
Tokyo's First Cool SummerThe 2005 Cool Biz campaign stressed that dressing casually is the patriotic and environmentally responsible thing to do.
Department stores all over the country jumped on the campaign. They dreamed of selling new summer wardrobes to every business man in the country.
Politicians made appearances in Okinawan Kariyushi shirts (similar to a Hawaiian shirt) and polo shirts. They didn't look particularly comfortable without a suit.
The campaign was highly successful. Everyone was talking about Cool Biz. A 2006 survey found that 97.5% of Tokyo business people were aware of the idea.
In the summer of 2006 alone, enough power was saved to power 2.5 million households for one month.
Tokyo blackouts became a thing of the past — almost.
Super Cool BizBefore the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster Japan generated 30% of its power from nuclear reactors.
After the disaster there was great public pressure to bring nuclear reactors offline. In the Spring of 2012 all of Japan's nuclear power was brought offline. In other words, the country's power output dropped by around 30%.
In response, the government launched Super Cool Biz. They set aggressive electricity reduction targets for industry and households. Tokyo office temperatures were set as high as 30°C (86°F).
Most summer corporate dress codes went a step further. Some companies even encouraged employees to wear sandals.
International Cool BizCool Biz has been adopted by the United Nations. It has also been adopted by countries around the world at the national and regional level. For example, Korea has implemented a very successful program of electricity reduction.