Why a Japanese supermarket letting employees dye their hair is more revolutionary than it may seem

Japan is known for its strict rules regarding the appearance of employees, with many business establishments opting to limit how workers can look in the workplace and even things like dyed hair being a no-go in many cases. However, a certain Japanese supermarket’s recent attempt to promote greater diversity in employee appearance has captured the attention of online users for going against tradition and giving their employees more freedom in their choice of dress. 

Diversity in employee appearance begins. We have significantly relaxed the standards for hair, nails, and more. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. 

The supermarket’s poster, a picture of which has been making the rounds on social media, states that employees are now allowed to select their desired hairstyle, haircut, or hair color, and are also permitted to wear accessories, paint their nails, and have piercings. This poster was used to announce the store’s change in rules regarding employee appearance that was implemented on September 1. 

It’s said that the new rules were created to accommodate the younger generation of workers and the growing foreign workforce. According to an article by Maido News, a representative from the store stated, “As the styles of the younger generation, such as hair color and hairstyle, become more diverse, we felt the need to respect diversity and individuality. Furthermore, we have a variety of foreign employees working within the company. From the perspective of promoting diversity and utilizing talent, we decided that it was necessary to thoroughly revise our appearance standards.”

In Japan, many jobs will require employees to refrain from changing their appearance in any way that looks unnatural, flashy, or deviates from the standard. While many people in Japan do choose to dye their hair, when it comes to the workplace, uncommon hair colors, or colors associated with negative connotations, such as blonde hair, are often prohibited by many companies. While blonde hair may be a natural hair color for some, in Japan, it is often associated with delinquency due to past fashion trends. Likewise, certain haircuts like undercuts are frequently prohibited at certain jobs. These regulations are not limited to the workplace, as schools in Japan also rarely allow students the freedom to select different hair colors and haircuts. 

Post translation: In the past, there was an image that dyeing hair = delinquent = uneducated, and I think there are still many elderly people who think that way.

Upon the change in the store’s appearance standards, employees soon began to show up to work in whatever appearance they desired, seemingly enjoying the new freedom. The article mentions that the store’s employees appeared brighter, smiled more, provided better customer service, and reported an increase in motivation. In addition, the store saw a significant rise in job applicants. It seems that the freedom to dress as they liked was an attractive incentive for many who applied. 

According to the article, after about a month, some customers began to complain about the change in the employees’ appearance, with some claiming that the new look was inappropriate for a supermarket. Since many businesses in Japan allow employees very little freedom to express themselves visually, it’s easy to see how the sudden change in the employees’ appearances left some customers a bit taken aback. However, the article continues by mentioning that with a little time, it seems that the attitudes of customers have changed, appearing to have already grown accustomed to the more relaxed look. 

Post translation: Talking about what era are we in… Even at the University of Tokyo, there are students with blonde hair. You can’t measure someone’s intelligence based on their hair or nails.

News of the store’s decision to allow their workers to dress as they pleased was largely met with praise by online users, with many commenting that they saw nothing wrong with employees dressing in their own desired styles. One user commented, “What’s the problem with having a blonde-haired employee? Respecting individuality is a good thing!” Some also mentioned that changes like these were fitting for the time. One user shared, “The tide of the times! Companies that do this will survive. Given the shortage of talent. However, as long as the goal is the same and it’s a win-win situation, I think it’s good.” 

While many businesses in Japan are still rather strict when it comes to the appearance of their employees, it seems that more companies are evolving with the times, giving people more freedom to look and dress as they please. 


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