Photo: Twitter/@vmustk

Ad asks why new graduates in Japan are forced to look the same when job hunting

By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

If you’ve been in Japan a while, you may have noticed there’s a uniform for everything, even if you’re not a sailor-suit-wearing student or a salaryman loosening his tie for the Cool Biz season. Whether you’re doing the housework, attending a wedding, or out on a mountain hike, there’s a special dress code that everyone abides by, so passersby can know what you’re doing at a glance, and a sense of uniformity with the group can be maintained.

One of the most obvious displays of uniformity can be seen when the country’s new graduates begin job hunting every year. This is when you’ll see groups of new recruits, or “freshers” as they’re called in Japan, out and about in their fresher uniforms, which consist of a standard white shirt, black suit, and black shoes.

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While men are given a bit of leeway with their hairstyle and choice of necktie, which should be plain and sensible, women are required to abide by some additional rules, which include a certain length for the suit skirt, a height for the heel, the requirement to wear stockings, and a specific hairstyle, specifically a low ponytail and a side-parted fringe.

▼ Some people say women at company entrance ceremonies look like clones.

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 14.21.08.png

Now, hair care brand Pantene is challenging people to reconsider this requirement for all new recruits to look the same while job hunting in Japan. On Sept 24, they sent out this tweet on their official Twitter account, igniting a debate about the uniformity requirement for new recruits.

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The above tweet reads: “What should a work hairstyle be like? Looking at the raw opinions of 1,000 job hunters, their collective voices reveal the oppression of job-hunting hair and call for freedom of hairstyles. It’s a difficult problem to push for more freedom in job hunting, but this is the current thought of Pantene.”

The next day, Pantene ran a full-page ad in Nikkei, the world’s largest financial newspaper with a daily circulation of more than three million. The ad shows a girl sporting the typical job-hunting hairstyle, along with the question, “If I attend the company recruitment ceremony with my own hairstyle, will my job offer be taken away?”

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It’s a valid question, and one that many young women have no doubt asked themselves, despite never daring to take the risk by letting their hair down to find out. After all, in a country where group harmony is considered more important than the individual, any new recruit who doesn’t conform could be viewed as a potential liability for the company.

At the bottom of the ad, it says “Hoping that looking for a job without a ponytail becomes a natural thing for this country.”

As well as appearing in the newspaper, the ad is also currently being displayed on board Japanese trains.

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▼ And also along a large wall at Shibuya Station.

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Looking closely at the ad, the design incorporates remarks from 1,000 women surveyed who gave their opinion about the hairstyle requirement, printed across the page in small print, with different gradations to create the image.

According to the survey conducted by Pantene, 81 percent of respondents said they had experienced having to fabricate their feelings in order to fit in with a company while job hunting. Some of the remarks featured on the advertisement include:

“I wanted to get the job so I wore a ponytail even though the style didn’t suit me.”

“I thought it was strange that everyone had the same style but I didn’t want to be the only one cut off from the group so I had to do it.”

“This mass-produced hairdo makes me feel like there’s no me.”

“I have a complex about my round face so I don’t like ponytails but I felt pressured to follow the recommended hairstyle.”

“I had to dye my naturally brown hair black.”

It’s true that, like some schools, certain companies also prefer their new recruits to have black hair. The thinking behind it is that brown hair looks like it has been dyed, regardless of whether it’s one’s natural hair color or not.

With the importance of women’s issues and gender equality in Japan in the limelight lately, Pantene’s new ad campaign is a timely topic that’s receiving approval from many Japanese people online, who have been vocal about the need to change uniformity in Japan’s job-hunting world.

With companies like Godiva running full-page ads in newspapers to draw attention to Japan’s unusual Valentine’s Day customs, brands are calling out traditions and pushing for people to redefine societal customs in a way that’s never been seen before. We can’t wait to see which company will be next to come out with an ad as inspiring as this one.

Source: Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Decisions, decisions. Artist presents choice between anime girls with different braids, ponytails

-- Foreigners in Japan sound off on the top four quirks of the Japanese job-hunting system

-- Godiva runs full-page ad asking Japanese women to stop buying so much Valentine’s chocolate

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Why are graduates forced to look the same?

Because they aren’t taught or encouraged to be different.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

I'm glad I came much later in life than earlier. I would have suffocated in this kind of job hunting society. I understand that conformity is mostly the norm in this country. However, as I understand, people have their own personalities and when those personalities are taken down (or nailed down), I feel that those people don't seen like themselves anymore and more like soldiers and robots, (and God forbid, "Yes" people). My oldest daughter (8 yrs. old) is starting to feel this way about not being able to be creative with her foreign language study and her art ability.

She once wanted to practice her English through a Moana movie song, where she can sing and learn the words at the same time. Her elementary school English teacher said that the song was above her level and should try something else (being doing what her classmates were doing with their textbook learning). She came home crying and apologizing to us for not listening to her teacher. We told her to keep learning the song and forget what her teacher told her. My wife (Japanese) and I were really angry. However, my parents told us not to worry about this as she will be in the States shortly. This was shortly before going to the States to study abroad. Now, she keeps saying "I'm free! I love it here (The States)!"

My current job is not the greatest. However, at least I can develop my own voice and serve my clients according to them. Yes, there is some conformity with formalities. However, at least I'm able to make this my job with pride and integrity.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

While i am sitting here thinking "this is amazing, props to Pantene" i am sure there are all the ojisans sitting there reading the ad going "of course you will have your offer removed... how dare you let your hair down!"

Unfortunately it will be a long time before this changes in Japan

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I'm glad Japan is not a communist country. It sure looks and acts like one in so many ways though.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Pantene needs to release some photos of their own new grad starters if they want to make real waves with this.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Attack of the Clones

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Ridiculous! Why would anyone ever hire someone who cannot think for themselves and is a follower of the mainstream.

I really like japan until it comes to anything work related. And that's why we're leaving Japan before we would have to use daycare!!!!!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I'm with Disco, the best followup is for Pantene to tell their own recruits that this look is not necessary for them.

Pantene could do even better by recruiting young people of talent of all ages, including, shock! horror! ones with experience of other workplaces. Most companies only want fresh out of college graduates who are the most subservient. The look Pantene are criticizing is only part of the problem.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Because in Japan, new graduates are like blank canvases. An artist expect the canvases to meet a certain standard, no creases, no differences in size, thickness, roughness, they must all be the same!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Why do they all have to look for work at the same time? Why are there rules on companies recruiting graduates?

It's bizarre.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"While men are given a bit of leeway with their hairstyle and choice of necktie, which should be plain and sensible"

How do you define "sensible"?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why do they all have to look for work at the same time? Why are there rules on companies recruiting graduates?

Why does everybody in Japan go to lunch at the same time (12n)? Or, take vacations at the same time (Golden Week)? Or, shop at the same time (Saturday)? TIJ™ is the answer they always give.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Corporate slavery

3 ( +4 / -1 )


That is a great an excellent point of view on your behalf! Ironically proving that you are not a blank canvass!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“I had to dye my naturally brown hair black.”

Good grief.

@garypen They shop on Sundays too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Modern Society wakes up on Alarm and sleeps in by putting the Alarm on. Everything in order and controlled by time. Boring and Lousy Repetitive.

Long time ago, people control the time through surrounding nature. Fresh and Refreshness Repetitive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So in line with this conformity when I finally get a wig to crown the brown clown fringe will it need to sprout synthetic black hairs?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That poster looks like the "Sadako" of the Japanese introverted corporate world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm glad Japan is not a communist country. It sure looks and acts like one in so many ways though.

I think it's possible to insist on conformity without being communist. A job candidate dolled up like a nightclub hostess might think that gives her an edge, especially at companies where the selection process is in the hands of middle-aged male management.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

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