Each school has a different dress code for its students and teachers. It is always best to begin your contract by dressing formally according to the general standards covered on this page. After you arrive, you should look around the office to see what is acceptable and what is not. Feel free to ask many questions about work attire at your specific school to your predecessor, supervisor, JTEs, or other co-workers.
All JETs must have at least one black suit and a pair of dress shoes in their wardrobe for orientation, school ceremonies, and special events at work. You may also consider keeping a spare set of formal clothes (or at least a spare blazer) in your locker at work for any wardrobe malfunctions that take place during the day or in the event that you are not told beforehand of a formal event at school.
You will need a pair of indoor shoes for work. These shoes must never have been worn outside and will be stored in a shoe locker at school. Ask your predecessor or supervisor what kind of shoes would be appropriate for work. A pair of dress shoes is always safest, but some schools may allow you to use sneakers as indoor shoes. Choose conservative colors and designs for your indoor shoes. Try to wear shoes that are easy to slip in and out of, and are comfortable on your feet for 9 hours a day. Although you may see some other teachers wear flip-flops, thong sandals, or Crocs around the teacher’s lounge, this is not appropriate for JETs to wear unless it is approved by your supervisor.
If necessary, wear a tie that matches your outfit appropriately. Do not wear a solid black tie for work, as black ties are usually reserved for funerals. While it is rare, bowties (or “Chou (butterfly) neckties” as they are called in Japan) are acceptable to wear; just ask your supervisor first, and understand that this will attract a lot of attention from co-workers and students.
Shirts and BlousesEdit
A long sleeve dress shirt with a tie or a conservative blouse should be worn on normal work days. Women tend to dress more conservatively in Japan, so keep this in mind when choosing necklines, sleeves, and hemlines. Dress shirts should be tucked in and buttoned up. You likely will not be required to wear a blazer at all times although you may have coworkers who do.
Use good judgment on the designs on and fabrics of your dress shirts. Sheer or lace material that can be seen through should always be worn with a conservative undershirt, if at all. "Hawaiian print" and other bright patterns may be considered inappropriate depending on the season and the strictness of the school.
Unless "Cool Biz" attire is in effect, your workplace may not allow you to roll up your sleeves or unbutton your collar during the workday. You should also not wear polo shirts for work unless your school permits it.
Pants and SkirtsEdit
Normal work days should include neutral colored slacks or skirts. Jeans/denim are never considered appropriate work clothes unless approved by your supervisor. Keep the length of your pants/skirts below the knee. Skirts are often worn with tights in Japan.
During the summer, your school may implement a “Cool Biz” dress code from the beginning of May until the end of October. The “Cool Biz” campaign is an initiative to conserve energy by reducing air conditioner strength in the workplace. As a result, employees are not required to wear suit jackets or ties during their normal work days. You are allowed to unbutton the top button of your shirt where the collar is located, and roll your shirt sleeves up to your elbows. You may also be permitted to wear short sleeve button down shirts, polo shirts, Hawaiian shirts, chino pants, and sneakers during this period. However, each school has different "Cool Biz" rules. So, before going to work in this attire, you should ask your supervisor about when “Cool Biz” starts and end, along with what is specifically permitted and what is not during this time.
Makeup and FragrancesEdit
Ask about wearing makeup, nail polish, and cologne/perfumes to work as some schools may prohibit their teachers and students from wearing them. Even if there are no explicit rules against them, be aware that you may be asked by coworkers to remove especially colorful/distinct makeup or a noticeable fragrance. Try to the best of your ability to respect Japanese cultural standards but feel free to consult with your school supervisor if you wish to reach a compromise.
Tattoos and PiercingsEdit
Tattoos have a negative image in Japan. This is still very much true in Tokyo even with an increase in international residents and tourists. Even many nearby beaches require tattoos to be covered. Thus, you must wear clothing that covers your tattoos completely while at work and work functions.
In most Japanese schools, it is forbidden for students to pierce their ears or any other body part. In turn, teachers also tend to refrain from wearing jewelry of any kind, especially jewelry that requires piercing but also including decorative rings, necklaces, etc. You may be asked to abide by these rules as well. Ask your supervisor or coworkers about jewelry. Wedding rings and religious jewelry are exceptions to this rule and can almost always be worn.
Tracksuits are very popular among teaching staff at school. You may consider buying and keeping one in your locker. It may be appropriate for you to wear it during any outdoor activities or non-English club activities such as sporting events, P.E. classes, culture festivals, shoveling snow within school grounds, or moving equipment for any special events. However, this is not appropriate for you to wear in class, unless permitted by your supervisor.