Men with qualms about attempting the no-necktie look at work this summer should take a leaf out of former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata’s book.

Famous for his short-sleeved suits, dubbed the “sho-ene” (energy-saving) look, Hata stresses the merits of wearing the garment without a necktie during the typically humid summers.

“The heat I feel when wearing the suit is completely different” from that in a normal suit, Hata, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, said in a recent interview. “My motivation to work is also different.”

Hata, 69, began wearing short-sleeved suits in 1979, when Masayoshi Ohira was prime minister. Masumi Ezaki, then minister of economy, trade and industry, came up with the idea of wearing short-sleeved suits as a measure to cut down on air conditioner use after the oil crisis, Hata explained.

Ohira, some of the Cabinet ministers and the chairman and vice chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Diet affairs committee used to wear the suits, said Hata, who was vice chairman of the committee at that time.

Although the lawmakers — including Ezaki — later abandoned the practice, Hata wears them every summer out of consideration for the need to save energy. He said he has about 15 suits.

Hata’s son Yuichiro, a DPJ member of the House of Councilors, and 15 other DPJ members have also begun wearing them in recent years, he said. Yet, they seem to be a minority in the Diet.

Many adult men in Japan, including politicians, choose to endure neckties and jackets during the summer due largely to their tendency to stick to old customs, Hata said.

He suggested Japanese men are afraid of change — not just in their clothing, but in other matters as well — and said this was a factor slowing political reform.

Noting the greater diversity of women’s fashion habits, Hata said, “Men don’t have the courage.” (E.A.)

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