chapter  8
17 Pages

Company uniforms and gender dynamics in the Japanese workplace

WithTomoko Hamada

This chapter analyzes the meanings of the company uniform at a Japanese company, and reveals an act of resistance initiated by working mothers who refused to wear the official uniform. It offers empirical evidence that gender is an improvised performance in contrast to or in pursuit of socially sanctioned normative ideals. At Sekai, men wear dark-colored business suits as their ‘uniforms’ and female office workers, young and old, wear company uniforms that resemble those of American Girl Scouts. The company provided these newly promoted female managers and directors with the company’s jackets. Inside the office buildings, they wore these jackets over dresses. Victor Turner defines social drama as ‘an eruption from the level surface of ongoing social life, with its interactions, transactions, reciprocities, its customs making for regular, orderly sequences of behavior’. The chapter shows how the company’s attempt to promote more women to top positions jolted the conventional habitus of the firm’s engendered division of work.