It may be the nature of the beast, but we talk a lot about the body of women on this site. This is mainly because unwanted objectivation – from posters to underwear – is a problem in Japan. So it's nice to turn the table and talk about Men's body for a while. In particular, today I want to talk about a problem that has annoyed Japanese women in recent years: transparent summer nipples for men.
Bring the heat, take off the jersey
The controversy started around 2015. It was around the same time that summer temperatures in Japan started to climb from "unbearable" to "downright tortuous" due to climate change.
The increasing heat has brought about some changes in the way people live their daily lives. On a positive note, more and more men are using umbrellas (;higasa), which has generally been used only by women.
On a less positive note for some, the men also started to adopt another tactic: to take off their undershirt.
The corporate culture in Japan can be strict. No matter how hot it is, no one in the corporate world shows up to work in shorts and a t-shirt. So men are doing everything they can to stay cool. It mainly means walking around without a t-shirt under their dress shirt.
Of course, when men without undershirts inevitably sweat in the summer heat, some … things start to show through. And this is where the problems begin.
Transparent nipples: a form of sexual harassment?
Men's summer nipples became a hot topic of conversation in 2015 thanks to a survey of Goo. The site asked women what fashion errors they found inexcusable in men. The winner: (suke chikubi), or "transparent nipples" peeking through men's shirts.
Women interviewed later on the ZIP morning show! said the men's transparent nipples were "unpleasant". Some have even compared sight to sexual harassment. (A lawyer writing on bengo4.com made it clear that the transparent nipples do not comply with Japan's legal ban on sexual harassment.)
How big is the problem of transparent nipples? ZIP's informal survey of men has revealed that about 1 in 10 people dress so that their nipples show through. This is bad news for heterosexuals in Japan: 84% of women said they would be excluded if their boyfriend had transparent nipples.
A problem that stands out
Flash-forward to 2019 and transparent nipples are still considered the worst faux pas of men's fashion in Japan. A multiple choice survey by Rakuten ONET found transparent nipples to be the biggest male fashion error by far, at 58%. Other "NG" (not good) mode debacles include:
Colorful shirts with sweat spots (25.5%)
Shirts that show off men's muscles (21.7%)
Wear a t-shirt without overshirt (19.4%)
Strong cologne (16.6%)
Beach sandals with socks (15.4%)
Protruding stomachs (14.6%)
Tank tops (14.3%)
Transparent undershirts in general (10.6%)
Do not cut excess hair (10.2%)
So what should men do in Japan? Besides just wearing a undershirt that doesn't see through, there are always nipple seals! The product is intended to cover these annoying mammals and to hide them from public view.
As an American, visible nipples are not something I would necessarily consider a fashion issue. So this is something to keep in mind for non-Japanese men who live and visit Japan. If you waltz in the punitive summer heat in a white t-shirt and notice that you gain disgusted looks on the street … well, now you know why.
And you? Are transparent nipples considered a misstep where you live? Let us know in the comments!
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