Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Japanese Work Clothes for School


Winter has come, and that means winter fashion!  Yay!!

So this post is about what people wear to work when work is a Japanese public school and when it's cold.  ALT and JTE #OOTD, if you will.

ALT= Assistant Language Teacher (so usually the foreign teacher who helps teach English)
JTE= Japanese Teacher of English (usually Japanese native teachers who teach English)
OOTD= Outfit Of The Day

This post is mainly to help those who are thinking about coming to Japan to work as an ALT, like through the JET program, Interac, direct hire by a Board of Education, etc.  But I guess it's interesting just to see what people wear, too, right?

As always...
DISCLAIMER: ESID (Every Situation Is Different!)  
I actually dislike this acronym because I feel like it states the obvious.  Of course, ESID applies to working in Japan or working anywhere really.  Everyone knows you should wear a suit and tie or whatever other professional clothing that customarily matches a workplace position, but, especially for those who are new graduates or new to the working world or new to Japan's working world, we need examples!!  We want a general idea!  Some work places provide a very clear-cut dress code or even uniform to make it easier for us newbies while others don't seem to specify a thing.  

So yeah, ESID, or whatever.  Just know that the following examples are what I choose to wear and what other individuals choose to wear at my junior high school.  I feel that I would categorize my school as somewhere in between those super formal schools where everyone wears suits and the more casual schools where everyone basically shows up in sportswear since it's the most comfortable (and makes sense to wear when you're a sports club supervisor before and after classes, so why change clothes, right?)



If you're interested in what an ALT might wear to work, please watch the video below.  It's me!


If you're interested in seeing what everyday teachers, including JTEs, wear to work, please scroll through the following pictures.  Each picture is labeled to give you a little more information about the teacher, but faces, names, and other identifying information are not given to protect the privacy of each individual, of course.  They all are or were my coworkers, and they all so kindly allowed me to take their pictures anonymously to help me out in making this blog post.

Here they are!

Female, English
Female, Math
Male, Vice Principal

Female, English and Student Aid
Male, Math (without cardigan)
Female, P.E.
Male, Math (with cardigan)

Male, Social Studies (front)
Male, Social Studies
Male, Social Studies (back)
Male, Social Studies
Female, Science
Female, Nutritionist
Male, Japanese

More words about what to wear to work

I really hope this was all helpful and useful information when thinking about what to wear as a teacher in Japan.  I think some things to remember is that a) it is good to think about how you are joining a workplace and maybe should try conforming to whatever the agreed-upon image of professionalism is, but b) it is also good to remember that you don't need to sacrifice who you are, your individuality, or your own clothing style and customs, especially if you're being hired, like by JET, to be a representative of your country and culture and to facilitate international relationships (you know, all within reason, and you should definitely not work somewhere where you completely disagree with how you are required to dress and aren't willing to compromise).

As someone who has been a teacher in both the USA and Japan, I understand what it means to "look like a teacher" or  to "look professional" because you want to separate yourself from the students and show via clothing and appearance that you are an adult authority figure (you know, as custom dictates), but at the same time, don't be uncomfortable.  I wore bows in my hair in both countries, and I know I usually am more eccentric when it comes to my fashion.  However, once you establish your role in the workplace and show that you can adapt to the formalities, I, personally, don't see what's wrong with expressing yourself through clothing and appearance if you have proven that you can do your job and do it well.

I write all this because I've seen people post online about whether or not they're allowed to wear their hair natural or in dreads or dyed or wear nail polish or wear certain types of pants or skirts, etc.  It made me wonder how far people were willing to go to fit in.  In the case of Japan, I know it might sound harsh, but, as foreigners who don't "look" Japanese, we will never not stand out so be proud of who you are and what you look like.  However, be yourself while showing some respect for your job and workplace.  It's a little bit of a balance, but I'm sure you'll be fine in the end.  Like any new place where you're trying to fit in and be respectful, it's okay to start out a bit more formal or politely if you don't want to offend anyone, and then as soon as you get a feel for the place and the rules, you can start to dress more comfortably and what you feel is appropriate for you and you doing your job.

Good luck, everybody!

P.S. - If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!


  1. Thanks for sharing it! Our loyal learners will be amazed to see this as people interested in working in Japan would love to learn this!

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