Japanese Fashion Standards: How Are Japanese People So Well-Dressed? | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
well-dressed fashion items

Japanese Fashion Standards: How Are Japanese People So Well-Dressed?

By Kunti Ibrahim May 31, 2024

One thing you may wonder when walking the streets of Japan is, “How are Japanese people always so well-dressed and put-together?” While this may be a generalisation, it is obvious that most Japanese people put extra care into their appearance and clothes in almost all situations. Let’s take a look why, and how you can become inspired by Japanese fashion.

Reasons Behind Japanese Well-Dressed Fashion

well-dressed women lining up

Image credit: Canva

If you’re curious about the reasons behind this trend, here are some possible explanations for why Japanese individuals are well-dressed and dedicated to enhancing their appearance:

Conformist Society

conformity cartoon

Image credit: Canva

Unlike most Western countries that emphasize individualism and personal identity, Japan is a society where harmony, mutual respect, and group consensus are valued. This means that Japanese people tend to follow the majority because acting like everyone else leads to obedience and social harmony. While this ideal is changing with the new generations, this concept is still ingrained in general values, creating the fashion and beauty standards of the Japanese — “If everyone around me is well-dressed, I should be too”. 

Japanese people are fashionable in their own ways while still cultivating the common theme of dressing in subtle sophistication and neat looks. Japanese culture values ​​a simple and quiet atmosphere. These values teach that rather than clearly asserting oneself, it’s better to read the atmosphere, assimilate and cooperate with one’s surroundings.” These values ultimately lead to the Japanese’s fashionable, soft, neat look.

Respecting Others

Japanese culture is renowned for its emphasis on showing respect, often going the extra mile to express it. This includes the custom of being the last to bow after concluding an exchange or meeting, especially if it is with superiors. It’s shown in the magic phrase of “o-saki ni shitsurei shimasu” translated as “excuse me for leaving before you”, used when exiting a meeting or the office before others, all these things to show respect to others.

This thoughtfulness extends to attire and grooming to show respect to others and refraining from making others uncomfortable. Personal grooming reflects respect toward others, as it shows that we care about their comfort and strive to contribute by dressing well and looking our best. Japanese people, who value being polite and respectful to others, apply this mentality to everyone: their higher-ups, colleagues, and friends, explaining their good, polished looks everywhere they go. 

Accessible Thrift Shops

clothes in thrift stores

Image credit: Canva

Shimokitazawa is the heart of fashion. It’s a neighborhood in Tokyo famous for its number of thrift stores and fashionable second-hand clothing shops, but it doesn’t stop there – these thrift stores can be found throughout the country.

In Japan, there’s no shame attached to buying second-hand clothes. In fact, it’s a hobby embraced with pride, especially among young Japanese people. This enthusiasm is largely fueled by the high quality of items available in the thriving second-hand market, where used clothes are often found in decent condition, as cheap as around ¥280 yen and as expensive as ¥10,000 yen and above for the branded pieces. This thrifting culture embraced by the Japanese enhances their trendy style and fashionable outfits and fosters their genuine enjoyment of personal grooming and fashion.

If you’re eager to join in on the fun, here are some favorite thrift stores that can be found throughout Japan: 2nd Street, TreFac Style, Mode-Off

High Standard of Living

In 2021 Japan was ranked the second country in the world with the most favorable living conditions after Canada. Surprisingly, this fact contributes to the stylish and well-put together appearance of the Japanese.

A higher standard of living affects various aspects of an individual’s life, including income and employment. Higher income and better employment opportunities provide financial stability and security, allowing the room to spend on things other than basic needs. It allows the mental space to think and invest in other underlying areas, including fashion, hobbies, and personal appearance. This grants most Japanese the privilege of sparing their income to groom themselves and the mental stability to be invested in it.

In addition, the more high-income a community is, the higher the social pressure to dress well and maintain a certain standard of appearance, explaining the expectation that most Japanese have to groom tidily and cleanly.

Giri and Ninjo

woman holding a paper with a smile on it

Image credit: Canva

The Japanese philosophy of giri and ninjo is considered to be one of the most important aspects of its culture and is considered crucial to maintaining harmony in its society. Giri itself means obligation, and ninjo means emotion; “we have to fulfil our obligations regardless of our emotions, and if that means putting our emotions aside, then so be it”. This philosophy can indeed be found in many ways in Japanese customs, explaining its professional customer service, the citizens’ polite attitude, and the Japanese’ apparent personal grooming.

In Japanese culture, it’s expected to display a good attitude actively, and being well-dressed is one of the key methods to do so, as our appearance is often the first thing we present to others. Therefore, no matter the emotion that can hinder it from happening – if we’re feeling lazy in the morning, if we’re not in the mood to dress up, we have to fulfil our duty in personal grooming regardless, in looking presentable and maintaining a neat, clean and well-maintained appearance. 

How Being Well-Dressed Embodies Kindness

well dressed woman putting on earring with a smile

Image credit: Canva

Taking the time to enhance appearance is well-known to contribute to well-being by fostering a deeper connection with self and cultivating self-love. The Japanese people, in particular, through their dedication to presenting themselves with enthusiasm and style, have shown how our polished appearance reflects respect for others and can inspire those around us, thus, it is a way to practice kindness.

Who knew that looking good could be such a game-changer for our well-being and the world around us?

In Japan, the saying holds true: “When you look good, you feel good, and everyone around you feels good.”. The wisdom of this sentiment is undeniable, giving another awesome takeaway from this incredible culture.

Related articles:

Why is Japan So Clean?

Featured image credits: Canva