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Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats? 2017/4/8 01:59
I've been working for this fairly large Japanese company for the past few years. It's quite traditional in some ways, but also somewhat progressive in other ways. Anyway, long story short, the other day when I was having lunch at the company shokudo with my Japanese senpais and joshis, I was talking to one of my male joshis, a man in his 40s (whom I've talked to about fashion in the past) that I've recently been looking at hats that I can wear together with my business suit on my way to work since it's starting to get warmer.

Another joshi overheard our conversation and asked me where I was planning to wear that hat. When I replied that it would be during my commute to work in the mornings, as well as in on my own private time, I was told that I should "think very carefully" about this, because nobody at the company wears hats, so I would stand out too much if I did, and people on the train would look at me thinking I'm strange for wearing a hat. Same story for sunglasses (that was brought up by the joshi, not me). It's not a good idea to wear sunglasses because no one else at the company does, and it would once again, be seen as strange by other people. The joshi ended by saying that I could do whatever I wanted on own time, but not when I'm commuting to work.

My question here is, how exactly is it anybody's business how I dress ON MY WAY to or from work? Of course I would take off my hat when I enter the company, but I definitely consider the commute to work as part of my private time, so I should be able to dress however I like. And the argument that just because nobody else does it, I shouldn't do it either just seems silly to me. Not to mention what "others" on the train would think about me. I really couldn't care less what some strangers think of my appearance. And finally, I've always covered my face when it gets warm, especially in Japan, in order to protect my sensitive skin from the sun, so if I had the choice to choose between protecting my health, or following some illogical rule, I would choose the former without question. That's just me though, so I'm keen in hearing others' voices on this.
by shmee8 (guest)  

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 08:04
I really couldn't care less what some strangers think of my appearance.

The company, however, cares very much about what people think of the appearance of its employees.
by Firas rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 14:03
Firas, are you suggesting I jeopardise my own health in favor of conformity, even though I have been told by dermatologists (in Japan) that it's best to cover myself when I'm out?
by shmee8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 14:47
A work commute is somewhat of a grey area, because actually the company can in some cases control that time. For example, if you were injured on your way to work, you may be eligible for insurance from the company to cover the cost, and often there is workers insurance that covers accidents or other trouble on the commute. If you receive any sort of travel compensation, for example train fare or gas money, then the company can indeed have certain requirements and rules for that time.

I have never worked for a private Japanese company, but when I worked full time for a city Board of Education, we had to follow certain rules during our commute, and we had insurance. When I was hit by a car on my bike (luckily very minor accident), my BOE had insurance that covered the cost of the bike repair, because it happened on my way to work. I have heard of a number of BOEs forbidding employees (usually only its foreign employees) from driving during to/from work and this is perfectly legal.

So long text aside, it actually is not necessarily your "free time" depending on your company. But there is a chance it may not actually be your company's policy but rather just the opinion of that one guy. If you ever watch any Japanese TV show ever, the thief/bad guy/whatever is ALWAYS wearing a hat and sunglasses and the good guys never do! It's seen as suspicious. So you really need to get more information on your companies policy and if they really do have any sort of rules about the work commute.

If there are such rules (either written down or unspoken rules of behavior), one direction to go is to get a doctor's note/permission about your skin and the need to protect it, and use that as leverage with the to show you have a legitimate reason for wearing a hat. It might seem like a lot of trouble, but legitimizing your behavior can prevent resentment in the company that you aren't doing what everyone else is doing. This saves face for both the company and you and prevents hard feelings.

Unfortunately, its hard at this point for you to just wear the hat and sunglasses, and then profess ignorance if called out on it, which is another option. Can you carry a sun umbrella instead?
by scarreddragon rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 16:20
Scaredragon, thanks for the reply.

As for as I know, there is nothing at all in the workers' agreements or company rules that stipulate how one is supposed to be dressed during the commute to work. It was just the stance of that particular joshi as being one of the unwritten rules of the company.

About the insurance, my current company does in fact provide insurance from and to work. I had in fact had to use it in the past when I had an accident on my commute in which the company covered all the expenses. I am also compensated for my train commute into the office. Judging by what you said, the commute could then indeed be seen as company time as well, but I am not aware of any such internal rules specifically saying so.

Your suggestion on getting a doctor's note is excellent. Duly noted. I actually already wore a hat in the department I previously worked in last year when it started getting hotter. In the beginning, some people would ask me what was up with the hat, to which I always replied that it was to cover myself from the sun, and nobody ever made a fuss about it after that (on certain days when it was raining and I commuted without my hat, they'd even sometimes ask me why I wasn't wearing my hat that day).

But in the new department I've been working in which is in the company HQ, I got the comment I mentioned above. But as you suggested, I will try to get an official note from a dermatologist and present it to the people at work if necessary. On the flip side, it still won't solve the whole "people on the train will think you're strange" thing, as this also seems to be something that joshi in particular was concerned about.
by shmee8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 17:32
My first reaction is that your company hasn't told you not to wear hats; it was a colleague who mentioned it. I have found before that some people are overly prudent and I would suggest to take it up with your HR department, especially if you can get a doctor's note. Then you know the official stance of the company.
by Jim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 20:48
I think it must either be an unspoken rule, or that particular person's opinion but he wants to pressure you into conforming so as not to "rock the boat" so to speak. I think asking the HR department is also a good idea, and just to see what others in the same department think. It's too bad that something seemingly minor should potentially necessitate a doctor's note, but that's something that if you can get it pretty easily, would solve the problem no matter what.

As a side note, I find it interesting that here sunglasses and a hat are seen as something so weird or scary, whereas in the US they're perfectly normal to wear no matter the season. And the opposite is true for face masks; in the US, to wear a mask you must be REALLY sick, or you're trying to hide your face (maybe for a nefarious purpose?); yet in Japan it's normal to wear a mask, and indeed during certain seasons, it's weird not to!
by scarreddragon rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 21:37
The facemask analogy is very apt!

This all reminds me of the Are You Being Served episode where there is an ongoing dispute about which level of employees/managers are allowed to wear which kinds of hats. But Japan does tend to be more easily understood if you think along those kinds of "old fashioned" lines.

The reality is that hats and sunglasses are largely seen as fashion acessories, so most people seeing you wearing them are going to think that you're determined to express your personality even when going to work. I would suggest either sunscreen or an umbrella as more neutral options.
by Harimogura (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/8 22:25
it just means that your fashion (with hat) looks strange from them, although you think it is good.

"they'd even sometimes ask me why I wasn't wearing my hat that day"
it just means you were laughed by them, although you did not realize it.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 00:11
Jim,

I previously posted a reply, but somehow it didn't seem to make it to the forum, so apologies if I'm posting the same thing twice...

Anyway, I would honestly avoid taking this all the way to HR for something so trivial. I don't want half the floor I work on to know about this.

But yeah, I'm definitely all for a doctor's note as that would certainly put an end to those discussions.

And yeah, scarreddragon and harimogura are spot on about the suggestion that Japanese see it more as a fashion accessory than anything else. That was also kind of the way my superior at work tried to lecture me on them. It might also have been my own fault for bringing it up like that at first, but I never thought this would become such an issue, so I downplayed that it was mainly for protection. In any case, it baffles me that Japanese can't see that these items as having an actual purpose. Even someone who doesn't have sensitive skin like myself would surely benefit from limiting their exposure to the sun.

As for sunscreen, I already wear that during the hot summer months, but the skin care professionals said that doing both that AND wearing head gear would be the best solution. And umbrellas, it's somewhat impractical if I need to hold my briefcase in one hand and an umbrella in the other. On top of that I suspect I'd get similar comments like "why are you carrying an umbrella when no one else is?"

Ken,
Thanks for pointing that out to me, although if you'd read the other replies here you would know that I don't really care what other coworkers may or may not have thought. The point being is that this serves an actual purpose as opposed to being a mere fashion statement.
by shmee8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 15:04
Yes, it baffles you because it is ridiculous and in my opinion you should not follow any of those "unspoken" Japanese rules. Stand up for yourself and for common sense. Throughout the past few years I've come to realize that it's the foreigners putting up with lots of stupidity here that prevents some of these inflexible corporate mindsets from opening up. It's pointless to criticize and yet to agree to all these contradictions of common sense. Japan's idea of globalization (kokusaika, kokusai kouryuu) is based on interaction with foreign ideas and practices. Yet a stunning majority of foreigners here blissfully agree to things they'd never do in their own countries. It's just not right.
by AlexanderStankov (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 22:21
There is no such "unspoken Japanese rules" that someone can't wear a hat on their way to the office unless the hat disgusts people in general and make the company lose their clients' trust in case the person is seen entering the building.
by .. (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 22:26
Alexander,

I don't think us foreigners "blissfully" agree to do things differently in Japan.
I certainly would like to enjoy the freedom to do things my "own" way, but if you're working with conservative Japanese people or a company that is traditionally Japanese, you're likely only going to alienate yourself from the rest by being the third wheel. So it's just that the force of Japanese culture around us (that is, the environment in which we work) is very strong, and pressures us to conform. That being said, there are certain things which I will not do, and putting my own health at risk for the sake of an unwritten rule is one of them. With that said, I think if the pressure to conform gets so intense in the current environment one is one, the best is probably to remove yourself from such place and either go down the entrepreneurial route, or go for a gaishikei.
by shmee8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 22:39
My question here is, how exactly is it anybody's business how I dress ON MY WAY to or from work?

The answer is that it is not. You can take off your company badge if any, wear whatever you want, and then as you come closer to your office, take off your hat and put your badge back on.

By the way, I thought employers were supposed to be aware of what they wear even on their days off, so that's a weird boss the OP has, but this is too off-topic.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/9 23:36
if you look at your neighbors, you will know easily that there is no such a "strange" rule in Japan.
many Japanese women wear long-sleeve shirt and gloves and use umbrella under strong sunlight in summer.
a hat is not sufficient to protect your skin, if your skin is really sensitive for sunlight.
there is no relation between "wearing a hat" and "a risk of health".
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/10 16:24
As ken says, plenty of people use umbrella's for protection on sunny days. It is more often women (presumably to avoid tanning), so people seeing you may assume that you're doing it to protect your skin from tans rather than from burns/skin cancer, but at least they'll be correct in thinking it is for protecting your skin.
by Harimogura (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/10 17:57
plenty of people use umbrella's for protection on sunny days. It is more often women (presumably to avoid tanning)

Well, as far as I know as a woman, most Japanese women avoid tanning to avoid blemishes, ultimately to avoid cancer. At least every woman I've talked to say that they would gladly tan if they were guaranteed that they would never get blemishes nor cancer. But in summer, the more important thing is to avoid heatstroke (nesshabyou) and hats, caps and towels are among the common things that people use for that purpose. Sorry to be off-topic again.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/10 18:15
I am working for a Japanese company which is traditional Japanese company.

Sometimes companies care about how their employee is presenting him/her after work. This has to do that a company sees you as a family member and they don`t want to be ashamed.

Another issue could be miss understanding. Maybe the company thinks you wear head/sunglasses on the way to work.

Although I never heard about this kind of situation, I know there are many kind of Japanese companies, one is more open for changes, and the other can be really conservative.
by justmyday rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/10 21:06
The answer is that it is not. You can take off your company badge if any, wear whatever you want, and then as you come closer to your office, take off your hat and put your badge back on.

Luckily, I am not required to wear my badge. I do see a lot of people during the morning commute who do wear their badges, and never really understand why they don't just take them off. Nobody really needs to know where you work unless you want them to know.

By the way, I thought employers were supposed to be aware of what they wear even on their days off, so that's a weird boss the OP has, but this is too off-topic.

I'm curious to know what you mean by that, Uco?

a hat is not sufficient to protect your skin, if your skin is really sensitive for sunlight.
If the brim of the hat is wide enough, it will sufficiently cover one's face.
And also, just in case you were wondering, I'm not a woman. So I don't really plan on using an umbrella or parasol. For that matter, I've never seen any men do this.

Although I never heard about this kind of situation, I know there are many kind of Japanese companies, one is more open for changes, and the other can be really conservative.

That's true. Though I don't know if I'd agree with you that they want you to look good at all times because they consider you as a family member. I think it's just because they want to keep the status quo and make sure nobody does anything that could potentially harm the image of the company. But the thing is, there's no way they can constantly monitor you, nor should they be allowed to.

On a side note, we have one employee who wears a hijab at work which they seem to have no issues with, so I would very much expect them to have no issues with something like this too.
by shmee8 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Company tells me I shouldn't wear hats...? 2017/4/10 21:48
I'm curious to know what you mean by that, Uco?

I mean just that. What part of my comment puzzled you?

About the badge, I see no reason to bother to take it off if you already have one on and have no problem with it, or required to wear it during work, or even proud of it.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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