Substitute for Jeans?
July 25, 2012 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Clothing for Japan / substitute for jeans?

Currently I dress in jeans (boot cut and sometimes skinny), tank tops, button up shirts that look fairly nice to go over the tank tops, rarely a t-shirt (no pictures), sometimes jean shorts, and either sneakers or hiking shoes.

I keep reading that jeans aren't a smart thing to wear in Japan, as well as cotton, due to the humidity.....which makes me a bit sad 'cause I adore my jeans. I've experienced some of that humidity in Virginia so far though this year and I end up having to peel my jeans off, no matter the style.
I've also read that Japan women don't normally wear low-cut shirts, so I'm planning to pick up some polos. I've read that the winters can be pretty cold, so I need to pick up some silk underwear at some point as well.

Basically, I'm wanting to respect the culture of my host country as much as possible while still being me. Casual, 24 year old me, fan of hiking and lots of walking and not having to accessorize every outfit I wear (usually just hoops or faux-gauge earrings). I'm the kind of gal that has a short hair cut for convenience first and fashion second; I often just rub my hand through it or use some sink water to flatten or fluff some parts and then I head out.

I'm not really a fan of skirts, though if I find one or two I like while in Japan I'll definitely try to integrate 'em. And maybe I'm just misinformed, but I feel like "chinos" are either too dressy or cut too high for sneakers. I need to be able to throw on a button-up and look good, or throw on a hoodie and go hiking with the same pair of pants.

So...um....what would a 24 year old casual chick use to replace jeans? Are there any other clothing items I should consider for a low maintenance, comfortable, temperature savvy wardrobe?

I'll be living near Yokosuka.
I'm also likely going to be visiting other Asiatic countries in the area, along with traveling throughout Japan.
posted by DisreputableDog to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Forgot to mention: I'll be living in Japan for over 2 years. Therefore, there is no specific temperature I'm worried about. I just need pants for very hot, humid weather and very cold, wet weather. If this is the same pair of pants, even better.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:15 PM on July 25, 2012


You're moving to Japan?

Bring a pair of jeans or two. Maybe it'll be too humid and you'll want something else, if so, assuming you're not crazy tall or really big, you can probably buy something more weather appropriate there. But maybe jeans will be fine. Who knows?

Maybe bring a pair of slacks just in case?

If anything, I think you'll find that you feel under dressed, not that you physically won't be able to wear jeans because of the climate. The US is crazy casual compared to most Asian cultures.
posted by Sara C. at 10:16 PM on July 25, 2012


That's what I'm trying to ask. I'm looking for some pants that -aren't- as crazy casual while still being comfortable for day to day wear. The climate part of the question is meant more as an aside, which I didn't write very well.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:19 PM on July 25, 2012


But you say chinos are too dressy? And you want something that you can wear on hikes?

Go to a store that sells clothes. Try on some pants that aren't jeans. Pack that and probably some jeans as well. You'll be fine. Japan is not the moon.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


See this previous thread.

For reference, I'm a twenty-four year old office worker in Tokyo.

I get by in standard long black pants just fine, it's shirts that make me hot. If I found a pair I liked I'd switch to linen pants. I wear Lee's on the weekend and they're warmer but OK.

Anything you would wear in a major American city would for the most part not stand out in Tokyo except possibly to make you look like a tourist, and people will usually have better things to do than judge you on your dress. There's also always someone stranger; sometimes there are six-foot-tall androgynous guitar players in pink leopard print jumpsuits on the subway. Unless you're trying to impress someone for a job interview, I wouldn't worry about it too much.
posted by 23 at 10:33 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Japanese people are among the most avid consumers/connoisseurs of jeans and casual wear in the world. If it somehow became inadvisable to wear jeans here, whole city blocks of Harajuku would have to reinvent themselves. In other words, not a problem.

Yeah, summer can be hot and sticky, but not excessively so.

That said, you could do worse than do just bring a couple things you love and then buy everything else you need for casual style at Uniqlo or Muji. That way you'll fit right in!
posted by CafeRacer at 10:43 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I lived in Japan at 22, I mostly wore jeans and t-shirts. It's really not an unusual way to dress among young people, I don't think you will stick out in any offensive way if you dress there the way you do now. I did wear more skirts than usual to deal with the humidity (and because I worked among hippies and it was the done thing--speaking of which, where you're working will make a big difference when it comes to what's appropriate to wear).

I agree with those above, though: don't worry about this now unless you are concerned about finding your size in Japan. If I weren't a size 16, I would have happily bought myself an all-new Japanese wardrobe. It's fun to shop in an unfamiliar fashion context, and there's a pretty big variety of clothing styles available in Japan even in small towns like I lived in, so I'm sure you'd find something appealing. Even though my size is not common there, I still managed to pick up a few things that I wear to this day.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:15 PM on July 25, 2012


I'm confused, you keep on reading that Japanese people don't wear jeans? It's funny because when a Japanese friend came to visit Paris, she heard that Parisiens don't wear Jeans so she didn't bring one, only to find out most of them do. Jeans being a taboo in certain cities seems to be a myth all around. Jeans are perfectly fine in Tokyo Japan, and cotton material is good for humid weather because it absorbs sweat and dries easily. It's nice of you to want to assimilate once in Japan, but they dress the way they do based on what's in fashion, and what suits their body structure, and what their other friends wear, and not so much because of their traditional culture or anything so I'm not sure how conscious you need to be about respecting Japanese people through clothing. If you dress accordingly to your body and personality the way you do already, I think that's perfectly fine and will probably be seen as cool to be able to pull it off. For the record, I think Japanese women dress quite the opposite of you, very feminine with a lot of frills and colors and dresses and detailed accessories and ton of make up. Don't think you have to adopt that!
posted by snufkin5 at 11:16 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


My advice comes mostly from living in Korea, which I know is very different from Japan but is reasonably similar in climate and culture. Jeans were definitely fine for the majority of the year and I'm pretty sure I wore them through the rainy season too (figured I'd be miserably uncomfortable no matter what). A ton of women wore jeggings during the summer; I've never tried jeggings, but I imagine they feel comparable to leggings, which were fine in the humidity. I'd imagine Japan has a much huger selection of jeggings than the U.S.

Also: try loose vaguely cargo-ish capris in dark colors like olive, black, or brown. Kind of like this or this or this. Sounds like that might work well with your style/footwear.

You can also buy normal-length versions of the aforementioned capris. Basic chinos on a woman sort of scream "I work at a big-box retailer" but in a dark color and tailored fit they'll look fine.

How low-cut are your tank tops? I think you'll be fine if you don't show cleavage.

Muji and Uniqlo are definitely your friends. Roughly equivalent to Gap/Ikea and Old Navy, respectively.
posted by acidic at 11:18 PM on July 25, 2012


Wear your normal clothes until you get there, then go shopping. That way you'll really fit in! Plus, you'll have "the clothes I bought in Japan" as a personal fashion statement / souvenir. You can wait until you've seen some styles you like on the street, or just go to the store and start trying on basic stuff (be aware that you may be a significantly larger size in Japan than you would be in the US).
posted by Lady Li at 11:51 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in Yokosuka and I am wearing jeans right now. Granted, it was hot and miserable today, but I survived. I don't do shorts or skirts, and survived last summer and all of this one wearing chinos and jeans. I walk everywhere (which adds up) but I don't go hiking. If I stick out in a crowd, I don't think it's because of my pants.
posted by Arethusa at 3:41 AM on July 26, 2012


Jeans are fine for most of the year. The real problem with wearing them in the summer is that they will not dry after you wash them. If you are a US size 14 or below, you can pick up some tank tops with a higher neckline once you get here if you're worried about people saying "you look cold."
posted by betweenthebars at 4:36 AM on July 26, 2012


We just came back from Japan and I have to agree with LadyLi and some others. Take a minimal amount with you and buy some things there. I found people in Japan didn't really pay much attention to what others were wearing but they were certainly avid consumers. There are stores EVERYWHERE in Tokyo and in some places the prices are ok(ish). It was extremely hot and humid and most of the women had lovely light tops that they wore which all looked lovely. I'm not sure what kind of budget you are on but I did see a number of items in Harajuku that were more affordable. Take a walk down Takeshita Dori Street and you'll get a good sense of what people are wearing. Also 109 at Shibuya had some reasonably priced items. It is fair comment that most clothes are in size 12 or lower - size 10 was probably the largest I saw when we were there.
posted by YukonQuirm at 6:57 AM on July 26, 2012


I believe that in Tokyo that due to the power issues the A/C isn't on or isn't very cold in many of the office buildings. You may swelter in jeans indoors.

Suss out the situation, but I live and work in a hot, muggy climate and I like cotton pants for summers. Linen is elegant, but I don't like being that wrinkled. If you're an adorable little thing, light sundresses with sandals might be a way to go.

I'm thinking more of comfort than fashion, but light cottons, the disposable stuff you can get at Target, Old Navy and the like might be something to consider.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:42 AM on July 26, 2012


I will say that while Outlier's women's daily riding pant are not the cheapest, I have gotten a lot of use out of them. Good for biking obviously, but they look pretty darn good in a casual setting. I've also worn them with nicer tops and shoes as well and it doesn't look out of place.

The fabric is water resistant, fairly breathable, and fade-proof. It's made with a softshell-type fabric and there is a crotch gusset so you can hike in these.

Weather-wise, I think they hold up well in the humidity. You'd still want to wear silk underwear in the winter, but overall these are the most versatile pants.
posted by mlo at 8:16 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived in Japan for three years, and spent most of my time in nothing fancy cotton pants/chinos (essentially Dockers). I went to work in them, traveled throughout Asia and Europe in them, and did the occasional hike in them. In summer I wore them with sandals, in winter with heavier shoes/boots (and silk long underwear - those are your friend).

I didn't wear skirts then, but knowing what I know now, I should have (cooler in summer, more work appropriate). FWIW, I swear by Macabi skirts for summer and travel - conservative, but comfortable with deep pockets and options for clipping them into shorts.

BUT still, bring your jeans. You may not wear them in the summer, but there are three other seasons that you will.

Know that you will stick out, regardless of what you wear. The Japanese sense of style can be mindboggling to the American/Western eye, so I wouldn't get too caught up in trying to fit in. Yes, stay somewhat conservative (no cleavage, don't show a lot of overall skin), but be comfortable.
posted by sazanka at 8:46 AM on July 26, 2012


On rereading OP's post, chinos are not necessarily 'too dressy' - they may seem a step up from jeans, but they are not suit trousers. They are still a casual pant. The cut can make a difference as well - you can get boot cut and skinny chinos and they would certainly not look too dressy.

As for concern about chinos being 'cut too high for sneakers' - they shouldn't be. Worst case, try the next size up or the "tall"/longer inseam version. Or learn to love the "funky socks with shorter pants" look.
posted by sazanka at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2012


One factor you may not have considered is your workplace. If you're going to be teaching, most classrooms are not climate-controlled, and even the staff room will not be as air-conditioned/heated as it would be in an office building.

I agree with the above comments about bringing your usual clothes and filling out your wardrobe when you get there. (I normally wouldn't give that advice, but it looks like you won't have any trouble wearing Japanese sizes.)

I've also read that Japan women don't normally wear low-cut shirts, so I'm planning to pick up some polos.

Only do so if you already like wearing polos or think they fit into your personal style. If you're getting them b/c that's "business casual" to you, I advise against it. Business casual for men in Japan is no necktie and a button-front shirt, possibly with short sleeves. For women, there's no standard in place (just like in the US!). Wear what you think looks nice and are comfortable in. If you buy clothes you don't like or are so-so about just to fit a business standard of dress, you probably won't wear them.

Regarding low-cut shirts, plenty of Japanese women wear them, you just probably don't want to show cleavage in a work setting (same goes for most US office jobs). I must warn you, though, that basing clothing and/or other decisions on what most Japanese women do is a recipe for misery. (You'll understand once you get there, but feel free to memail me if you'd like me to elaborate.) In summary: you are you, be you.
posted by homodachi at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2012


You might reconsider wearing tank tops. Adult Japanese women don't wear them.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:22 AM on July 27, 2012


Another former Japan resident chiming in, somewhat belatedly. Jeans are fine, capris or chinos are fine but will you be working or studying? Your office may have a dress code. For example in mine, jeans were forbidden but we would often wear them in free time and not seem at all out of place. This was Osaka.

Bring light weight shirts though as you will get warm - and contrary to other experiences above, I found offices to be too cold so I often left a long sleeve one to warm up
posted by TravellingCari at 10:13 AM on July 30, 2012


A lot of people have already mentioned that denim is quite popular in Japan. Here's the NY Times on high-end denim in Tokyo.

Out-Levi-ing Levi Strauss
Initiates know that beyond the wall of fluttering pant legs lies a trove of bluejeans produced by niche Japanese labels in the kind of ultradesirable limited editions that recall Richard Serra lithographs or Red Shoulder chardonnay. There is even a kind of daffy ineffable poetry in the labels’ names: Skull or Skinny or Oni or Dubble Works or Samurai or Sugar Cane.
I wear denim maybe 10 months out of the year in Tokyo, with the exception of July and August when it's really hot. I'll switch to a lighter fabric pant on the hottest days.
posted by gen at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2012


TravellingCari, don't know when you were here, but since the earthquake air conditioning has been turned way down in most offices due to electricity saving. Some stores and conbinis still have it cranked up, but you probably won't be cold in an office anymore.
posted by 23 at 5:21 PM on July 31, 2012


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