How Important are Looks in Japan? Beauty Standards and Guide to Dress Up

Jul 22, 2019

When you walk on a street in Tokyo, or even in most places around Japan, did you realise that most Japanese people are very well dressed? No matter if It is a full set of smart suits for work, a cute dress for a date, or just a casual hangout with friends, they are dressed-up properly from head to bottom. Even if they are just going for a quick shop at a nearby store, Japanese people are unlikely to wear their pajamas, flip-flops and have a head of messy hair outside of their homes. You would barely find a girl on a street with a bare face, makeup-less. Why is appearance so important in Japan?



Being Well-dressed in Japan

In Japan, it is known to be disrespectful to not dress up properly. They are taught from a young age that they should not bother, or give other people inconvenience with their own problem. Having an appearance of being untidy and unclean is seen as being rude, as your looks is a visual representation of yourself thus shows how much care you take for yourself and the occasion you dress for. Especially at workplaces, it is necessary to have a professional outfit because it shows your respect for the job. Although looks do not define a person, it definitely takes one of the biggest influences, as it would decide what impressions others would have on you. Japanese people tend to be cautious of how others perceive them, which causes them to pay extra attention to how they present themselves. It is a culture, a norm to be well-dressed to fit into society.

Although you may find stylistic and unique outfits in places such as Harajuku, most other people tend to dress in a similar way. For example, most men with an office job would wear black suits with a white shirt and a briefcase in their hand. Uniformity is a key part for Japanese, as it shows a general sense of concordance and coordination within the society. Overall, the outfit of a Japanese person tends to emphasize on having a theme or main point. It could be the occasion, season or place, and this would be presented through the details, texture, and the sense of balance between each part of the outfit. No matter what kind of themes you are going for, the outfit should give a clean and tidy look for politeness.



What are the Beauty Standards in Japan?

Beauty standards exist everywhere around the world, and especially in Asian countries, their beauty standards really differ from the Western’s. Although there are general trends in the Asian’s beauty standards, they still have a lot of differences between each country which you could see through how people dress-up themselves. What is seen as beautiful in Japan?

The general beauty standards in Japan has changed a lot over the history. Due to genetics and environmental differences, Japanese and Westerners have really different appearances and body built. To an extent, Japanese beauty standards have been influenced by how Westerners look. For example, defined facial features and paler skin tone is seen as beautiful, which are features which many Westerners possess. Though as trend changes, Japanese people have developed a general list of beauty standards that is pretty different from the Western beauty standards nowadays. So that list includes:

1) Skin – Pale skin tone, clear skin

A beauty standard shared by most Asian countries like Koreans and Chinese. It was believed that having paler skin is a representation of wealth back in the days, as only people with a lower socioeconomic status would have to work outdoor, like a farmer where you would be working under the sunlight all the time. In contrast, it is seen to be wealthy if you have tanned skin in Western culture as it shows you can afford to travel. Japanese girls are keen on the maintenance for their skin, for example, they would use whitening mask or cream, put on sunscreen, or even use UV protection umbrella to cover up themselves from the sun.

Having clear skin is also seen as being beautiful in Japan. Although makeup may cover up spots and pores, the key factor to having clear skin is skincare. In most cases, a natural style is preferred, which means possessing a skin that requires minimum makeup is important. As a result, the masks and creams many Japanese girls go through daily and their lifestyle is the biggest part of how Japanese girls have clear skin. This means they consume less oily food, drink water to moisturize their skin, take hot baths to open up blocked pores and etc. A person with clear skin is seen to have good care over themselves as they would have to maintain good habits.



2) Face shape – Small, oval, slim

If a Japanese person tells you “you have such a small face!”, it is probably a compliment. Having a kogao (small face) that is oval-shaped with a sharp chin, especially on girls is seen to be delicate and kawaii (cute). There are many beauty products in Japan which claim to make your face smaller, like a mask, a roller or a retainer-like mouth trainer which trains up the muscle on your face. These would be labeled with the word 小顔 (Kogao). Though, the only method that really works is through surgery. For people who are less keen for a small face, many Japanese girls have the antenna hairstyle, which is having two strands of hair by the side of their faces to cover up part of it. You would also find many Japanese girls would strike a pose of “toothache” when taking pictures, having their hand on the side of their faces to cover up.



3) Eyes – Double eyelid

Generally, many Japanese have a pair of mono eyelids, which means they do not have a crease on the top of their eyes. Eyes with double eyelids are usually seen to be bigger, more energetic and defined. Most Westerners with a more pronounced facial feature would have a pair of double eyelids.  Double eyelid surgery is the most requested cosmetic surgery in Asia, and the third most commonly proceeded worldwide. You would find a lot of products for double eyelid in a cosmetic store, such as double eyelid tape, glue, string and etc.



4) Tiny frame – petite or skinny body

Shared between most Asian countries, it is seen to be beautiful to have a smaller body frame. Body build wise, Asians tend to have a smaller build compared to Westerners, which means they would be shorter in height and likely to be skinnier. Many Japanese girls would go on diets, exercise, and purchase beauty products which claim to “shrink” certain body parts. Though, many Japanese males find girls with big breast, small waist and a curvy hip attractive, which realistically saying can only be found in anime or models. In Japan, many girls prefer guys with skinnier or toned body build, rather than being muscular.



At the end of the day, everyone has different beauty standards and preferences. Whosever or wherever’s beauty standards do not define anyone, and the beauty of a person can only be defined by themselves, both in and out. People who work hard on their appearances to achieve beauty are admirable, but at the same time, it is important to appreciate and love yourself for how you are. Ultimately, being healthy in and out is the best kind of beauty one may possess.


How do Japanese People Dress Up Themselves?

People in Japan, especially in Tokyo are very well-dressed in all occasions. For work, many Japanese tend to dress in a similar way to present their professionalism. Off work, it is common to see all kinds of outfit and fashion styles depending on when and where you are in the country. Regardless of all the differences between styles, there is one main similarity: all well-dressed. So, what are the key points to dress up as well as the Japanese do? Let’s start from head to bottom.



1) Hair

Many Japanese girls and women would wake up an hour or even earlier for their morning routine before work or school. Hairstyling is a very important part of that. In general, Japanese hairstyles have three main factors: Naturalistic, the flow of line, and volumized. For females, it would also show a sense of feminine. Regardless of the hair length, many tend to style their hair in a way that it is somehow in between straight and wavy – a flowing line. Using a curler is the necessity for that, along with hair products like setting spray or gel for better styling. Straightener is also handy as many Japanese tend to have bangs or smaller strands of hair which could be styled better with a straightener. Other than the daily styling, it is very common for a Japanese girl to get their hair styled by a professional or for regular treatment. With guys, there are fewer procedures required, but most of them would style their hair with setting gel every day for a tidier and cleaner look. The common hairstyle would depend on what is trending at that time.



2) Clothing

Japanese girls who are into fashion would follow trends through magazines or social media. Though there are many exceptions of people in Japan who dress in a more unique style, like the Harajuku style or Lolita, most other females would follow the general clothing style and “rules”. There are two main styles: layering or balancing. Layering is basically having multiple layers of clothing on you, like a coat, sweater, shirt, scarf… definitely the most commonly used styling skill by most Japanese people to dress up themselves. It flatters their body shape and is great to keep you warm in the wintertime. Balancing is where you would proportionally have heavier clothing on the top or bottom of the body, and lighter on the opposite side. For example, in wintertime, many girls would wear layers of coat and sweaters on top with a short skirt at the bottom to balance out the “weight” of the outfit. Other than that, most people would go for their own way of styling – could be urban, sweet, casual, kawaii… something they are confident in!

Generally, there are certain pieces of clothing that a Japanese female would not wear. They often wear clothes which are relatively more conservative compared to the Western outfits, as they would not show off a lot of skin on their body in public. Dresses are usually at least knee-length, no tank tops or tops which show cleavage, and no flip-flops. Mini-skirts or shorts are not commonly worn but, if worn, they would wear a pair of long socks or tights underneath. Japanese girls would wear socks no matter what shoes or outfit they are wearing, even with sandals, where they would wear a pair of transparent socks. However, it is seen attractive to have an outfit which a Japanese girl could “show off” her neck, wrist, and ankle.



3) Makeup

In every Japanese girl’s morning routine, makeup is probably the part that no one could ever miss out. It is seen to be rude and disrespectful to go out bare-faced without makeup. A face that looks healthy, energetic and clean is vital to give good impressions of themselves. Although natural beauty is admired and respected in Japan, it is still believed that with makeup you would look more professional and presentable.

There are a few general trends in Japanese-style makeup. Japanese females prefer having big eyes, which is emphasized mainly through the double eyelid, eyeliner and long eyelashes. A clean, natural but defined eyebrow are preferred in Japan. While contouring, Japanese girls focus on the highlight to achieve a sense of gloss. They love using blushes on their cheeks to emphasize on their baby-like face features, so it is more kawaii (cute).



What do you think about the way Japanese think about appearances? Would you try their dressing styles?

No matter what kind of style or fashion you are into, it is important to find one that suits you and you are happy with. Remember to check and be aware of the occasion you are going to, so you could dress up properly and not be disrespectful!



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