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Mixing business suits with sports footwear gradually catching on

16 Comments

About three decades ago, newspapers reported the closing of the final shoeshine concession at Narita International Airport. Demand had been drying up, the reporter wrote, because more Japanese -- following a worldwide trend -- were wearing casual footwear when they went abroad.

Now Nikkan Gendai (May 8) follows another emerging trend, the combining of sneakers -- used to mean casual sports or athletic shoes -- with conventional business attire.

"I noticed that young staff at our company wear sneakers when they go out to make customer calls," a 44-year-old acquaintance told the reporter. "They justify it by saying 'They're more comfortable when walking.' I guess I'm a bit old fashioned, but..." He left the sentence uncompleted but it was easy to see he doesn't approve.

Last February during a festival for supporters of the Vissel Kobe J.League soccer team, two Spanish players, Andres Iniesta and David Villa, appeared wearing business suits with sports shoes on their feet, which set off a debate over whether this was a lapse in social manners.

To people in North America and Europe, of course, combining such footwear with business suits has already become an established practice.

"The wearing of sneakers with business suits first appeared among businessmen in New York during the 1990s," says fashion critic Yoshifumi Tsujimoto. "It became fashionable along with other 'crossover' styles, like wearing blue jeans with a blazer or sports coat, or suits made of denim fabric, all of which proposed a challenge to the status quo.

"Up to about 10 years ago, the wearing of leather footwear was still regarded as obligatory in many European countries, particularly the UK and Italy," Tsujimoto continued. "But now it's become common to see business suits combined with athletic shoes."

The use of rubber in shoes dates back about 150 years, having first appeared around the mid-19th century. Prior to that, leather was the most commonly used material. (Unless you want to count wooden clogs.)

"Initially people of the time looked upon the dropping of pocket watches in favor of timepieces worn on the wrist, or use of a belt around the waist instead of suspenders, as violations of the dress code," Tsujimoto added. And even now some look upon with disfavor when they see young salarymen wearing bulky Casio G-Shock watches on their wrists, or back packs combined with business suits.

To better accommodate the wearing of coats with a back pack, a style called ankon (short for the English "unconstruction"), which removes shoulder padding, has become more popular of late.

Tsujimoto says most Japanese still draw the line at deviations from the conventional when it comes to weddings and other kinds of formal events, but believes that a trend toward more casual dress accurately reflects "the style of the times."

"Up to the first 30 years of the 20th century, Western clothing styles were largely a continuation from what had been put in place in the 19th century," he remarked. "Things gradually began to become more casual after World War 2. When it comes to both clothing and social manners, I'd say we're in a period of transition now, and I suppose over the next 10 to 20 years we'll see major changes."

At some point in the new Reiwa era, the writer supposes, people will look back on the days when wearing of business suits with leather shoes was seen as obligatory, and ridicule it as a quaint old custom.

© Japan Today

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16 Comments
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Hate all of those styles and would never been seen dressed like that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cool linen suit. Sports shirt with collar. Open shoes. Thin or no socks. Sweat absorbing underwear.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The fact is, a two-hour cocktail party can leave one's feet more aching and tender than a two-kilometer walk. I suppose that the evolution of the human foot is ongoing, and people who must stand on their feet a lot demand more comfort. I found a good-looking orthopedic shoe brand in the U.S., SAS, and wore them for many years, but have since moved on to other, even more comfortable shoes. Some people might look down on me after looking down below my ankles, but I keep them shined and clean on important occasions. And I would draw the line at basketball shoes that display the logo or brand name.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Now Nikkan Gendai (May 8) follows another emerging trend, the combining of sneakers -- used to mean casual sports or athletic shoes -- with conventional business attire.

Could it be that there is apparent increased fear of cases where one might be forced to flee for his life ? thereby occasioning the need to be more " comfortable " ? damn the etiquettes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As long as the all-black sneakers look close enough to the all-black business shoes

Some of those sneakers are even ultra-wide and/or high-arch for people who need ergonomic

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Forty years ago, in Honolulu, I saw businessmen in suits with black sandals and black socks. Seemed like a practical foot-wear style, considering the climate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cogito Ergo Sum

Could it be that there is apparent increased fear of cases where one might be forced to flee for his life ? 

I think you might be on to something. and anyone in HR who tries to tell me I need to wear heels can go walk 10K in a pair, as so many ended up doing after the earthquake in 2011.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like we've already forgotten the 80s "Working Girl" look (for you younger one's out there, google it). It worked then, why not now?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Suits and flipflops are the way to go. Running shoes are so passe...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Looks like we've already forgotten the 80s "Working Girl" look (for you younger one's out there, google it). It worked then, why not now?

With shoulder pads?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Personally, I find that warazouri are much more comfortable than either conventional leather shoes or sneakers. While I do not wear them with a suit I'm sure that as they are a traditional Japanese form of footwear they would be most acceptable either in the Office or outdoors.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Always have to keep in mind, at some point, even if the damage is light there might be a long long walk ahead if there is an earthquake.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

On the rare occasion that I wear tie, POLISHED leather shoes are the uniform.

And when I travel to countries, like Japan, I always wear collared shirts and then casual shoes.

BTW, attorneys here in Honolulu are about the only people that wear suits. Unfortunately, a lot of them look like never took their suits to the dry cleaners

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about suits and crocs.....lots of colors to choose from!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"first appeared among businessmen in New York during the 1990s...,"

I recall the trend on the West Coast and Florida in the 80s. When it comes to casual, NY tends to be behind the times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This makes most sense for people who never wear suits. I've worn a suit with sneakers but it was at entrance and graduation ceremonies for my kids. It's shoes off once you're inside, so there seemed little point in wearing the uncomfortable formal shoes I have. The sneakers I wore were leather, NB 574s.

If you work in a suit, you should really try to buy a suit that you like and is comfortable. The same goes with shoes. The only people who should suffer in formal/business wear are those who only have to wear it occasionally and are making do with what they have.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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