This summer, encouraged by the government’s Super Cool Biz campaign, Japanese men are daring to bare a bit more flesh. As neckties and heavy blazers are discarded, almost anything goes, and many braver businessmen are now sporting calf-length trousers, polo shirts and “aloha shirts.” For the first time female colleagues are seeing their male coworkers in a whole new light, but according to a poll by Nikkei Woman Online, there’s a fine line to be drawn between kakui (cool) and kakkowarui (unattractive).

The poll, published in Nikkei Trendy, reveals that too much flesh in the office can be a bad thing. Revealing tank tops were the most objectionable office-fashion item, with 90 percent of 409 respondents rating this “NG” (thumbs down). Shorts came in a close second, at around 80 percent NG. While most women did not object to plain short sleeve shirts, if the material is sheer, around 60 percent of respondents preferred men to wear a vest underneath to cover up exposed nipples and chest hair.

Though a bare minimum of respondents objected to men discarding jackets and neckties, there seemed to be a very definite tolerance level for casual looks. T-shirts and patterened shirts (including Hawaiian shirts”) were controversial items, both splitting the vote at 50 percent. Polo shirts, however, seem to be just about acceptable (just under 10 percent of women objected to them).

Body hair was also put in its place by the survey. Though 80 percent of respondents were totally cool with chest hair curling above an open button, only 60 percent were accepting of armpit hair snaking out from under a shirt sleeve (40 percent rated this as unsightly).

The combination of hot weather and revealing summer wardrobe made some 20 percent of respondents feel that they now saw their male colleagues in a different light. Anonymous comments included: “There are more guys whom I think are attractive now”; “It’s sexy and cool when men discard the necktie and have one shirt button undone”; and “A guy’s arm muscles look sexy in a polo shirt.”

Not all women were enamored of their colleagues leaving less to the imagination. Comments also included: “It looks slovenly!” “It emphasizes pot bellies!” “It exposes those bits of the body you don’t want to see,” “I worry that the more that’s exposed, the sweatier and smellier it’ll be on the train.”

As we move out of rainy season and the mercury rises,  we’re likely to see more and more men embrace casual Super Cool Biz trends, but it seems like men will be treading a fine line between sexy and unsightly in the eyes of their female colleagues.

What’s your take on this? Thumbs up for Hawaiian shirts and shorts in the office, or is that taking things too far?

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