So this job of mine requires me to be in full business attire all day everyday, full business attire being dress shirt, tie, sports coat and all the dressings. Coming from the laid-back casual business culture of California, this has been probably the biggest adjustment for me in my move to Japan. Not only have I had to abandon my beloved shorts and sandals (which are impractical during Mito’s cold winters anyways) but I’ve had to come in to work dressed like a big boy everyday.
At first this was a bit of a problem because, let’s face it, I’m anything but a fashionable guy (my idea of being stylish is throwing on the most random colors possible and calling it a day or dressing like Eddie Vedder circa 1995). I could figure out the whole button-down shirt and slacks part because I’d worn those things before but when it came to ties, I was way out of my league.
When the day of my first job interview came, I actually had my mom tie my tie for me. When the day was through, I simply loosened the tie and slipped it over my head and then reapplied it whenever necessary. Practical and a sign that I’m obviously a genius? Yes. A major stepping stone on my journery to full-fledged adulthood? Not in the least bit.
The obvious drawback of my brilliant strategy was that all hell would break loose if my tie, in some horrible accident, happened to come untied. Unfortunately for me, that happened before I even started packing for my move when, after a job interview, I absentmindedly fiddled with the thing around my neck and doomed myself to a life of tie tying and not being a total slob.
It hasn’t been easy. It took me a good three hours to tie a tie by myself for the very first time and that came after hours upon hours of watching how-to videos on YouTube (note: Most how-to videos on the internet suck). And even with that knowledge in hand, it still took me hours upon hours of practice to make my simple rudimentary knot not look like a pile of dog poo. Even now, I still can only put my tie together in the most rudimentary of ways without it looking like a three year old tried to do it.
In other words, don’t expect me to be tying a foofy Chesterton Quadruple-Windsor knot anytime soon. That stuff is way out of my league.
One thing that I have been able to do though is chose ridiculous colors for my ties. Inspired by a binge viewing of Colin Baker-era Doctor Who, I was compelled to start wearing the most brilliantly obnoxious colors I could find. Since my company is so stringent when it comes to its dress code, my ties are pretty much all I can get away with (and a lot of my students seem to like it, so there.) Thus far, my bizarre tie collection only consists of a brilliantly puke-lime green tie with orange, blue, and white stripes (my go-to) and a milder tie with a pattern of what appears to be a picture of belts on it. As time goes on, I certainly want to add to this collection because I am currently declaring war on your eyes. And, honeslty, I kinda feel naked without a tie on now. (No comment as to whether or not I wear one to bed.)
Watch out (insert famously fashionable celebrity here), I’m coming for you.
The concept of suits still confuses me. “Here’s a jacket. Just don’t wear it when you’re outside too much or you might ruin it.” What is it about a sports coat or suit jacket that makes so much nicer than any other form of clothing? Is it the fact that it’s intentionally missing buttons? Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t throw it in the washing machine lest you want to waste three hundred dollars.
And yet, we have to wear them every single day. I guess it makes us look professional. I’m not sure.
What I am sure of though is that whoever these suits were actually designed for does not have the same shaped arms as me. “The armholes go a half foot under where the shoulders are, right?”
Of course all of my suit problems may just be a result of the cheapness of the wares in question. When all of your suit jackets have been purchased through clearance or sale, you’re bound to encounter some quality issues.
And since you can’t wash them, your suit jackets wind up smelling like wet dog turds by the second month in and you start having to sit in the corner of the office so as to not inconvenience your co-workers with your rotting stench.
Thankfully, the Japanese are big on clothing spray so your jacket can smell like a field of daffodils with a few swishes of the spray bottle. (As to whether or not spraying your suit makes it smell better, I plead the fifth.)
Overall, I’m enjoying the whole businesswear thing more than I thought I would. It makes me feel accomplished and dapper and those are modest victories in my book. Plus my new-found love for awful ties allows me to still be weird without being overly obnoxious (ha!).
In other words, now I’m an adult… but not really.
PS, go ahead and stalk me on the social medias and stuff if you’d like. Hell, go ahead and dislike every single one of my videos on YouTube for all I care.
PPS, any thoughts, questions, or declarative statements? Feel free to send them to me via the comments section here OR on twitter (@STEPHEN_TETSU). I will respond to them. Believe me. I have absolutely nothing better to do. At all. At. All.