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Toby Slade video recording


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Cool Biz and Sumptuary Regulations in Japan
 
Toby Slade
 
With the sudden energy crisis in Japan, precipitated by the 11th March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, the reliance on artificial air-conditioned environments was abruptly made untenable and in response the Japanese government tried something that it not done since the war; sumptuary regulation (albeit in the form of a national guilt campaign). The male suit, which had long enjoyed a sovereignty over business fashion in Japan, which far greater than in its countries of origin, was all at once in jeopardy and issues of practicality in fashion brought to the fore. The suit was the supreme example of an essentially western fashion adopted so completely by a non-western nation and made its own, born from Japan's absolute insistence that it was equal with the potentially colonising western powers of the mid-eighteenth century. Now, with varying degrees of success the Japanese state sought to break lifelong male dress habits. This initiative was soon followed by a wave of fashion innovations designed to capitalize on the sudden insecurity the Japanese salary-man faced when he dressed for work. In the three summers following the crisis an entirely new fashion boom has occurred featuring revivals of traditional Japanese dress, wonderful hybrids and ingenious new forms. This paper will examine what is at stake in this state lead fashion crisis. It will cover the history of sumptuary regulation in Japan, from class-appropriate fabrics and colours of the Edo period, to austerity measures during the war, up to the campaigns of'Cool-Biz' and 'SuperCool Biz'. It will also examine the relationship of fashion to practicality, noting that fashion was never a phenomenon based in utility and logic of state regulation seems to fundamentally misunderstand this
 
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