Business Insider Edition

Women in Japan are being told not to wear glasses in the workplace — here are 5 sexist dress codes from around the world

Rebecca Aydin , Business Insider US
 Nov 13, 2019, 12:16 PM
Women in the workplace in Japan are being told not to wear glasses for aesthetic reasons.
Getty Images / Atsushi Yamada
  • Business Insider Japan published an article in October based on a survey of more than 1,400 workers, finding that female workers were being asked to refrain from wearing glasses at work for aesthetic reasons.
  • The hashtag #?????, which translates to "glasses are forbidden," is currently trending on Twitter in Japan, according to The Washington Post.
  • This revelation about glasses follows on the heels of the #KuToo movement started in Japan in early 2019 according to Quartz, which criticises the widespread practice of employers in Japan requiring that female workers wear high heels.
  • Sexist dress codes for women in the workplace are enforced around the globe, from the US to the UK to France.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


Women are subjected to sexist dress codes - requiring high heels and make up, or banning glasses - in workplaces around the globe.

In Japan, a requirement in workplaces that women not wear glasses for aesthetic reasons is catching flack on social media with the hashtag #?????, which translates to "glasses are forbidden," according to The Washington Post.

"Employers that create and enforce poorly drafted gender-based dress code policies assume the risk of running afoul of gender discrimination laws," employment attorney Mirande Valbrune wrote about US companies for Forbes in 2018.

"If a policy inappropriately targets or negatively impacts employees of a particular gender, it may be deemed illegal," Valbrune continued, pointing to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sex.

Here are five sexist dress codes for women in the workplace across the globe, from the US to Japan.


In Japan, some companies have forbidden their female employees from wearing glasses because they give off a "cold impression."

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Business Insider Japan published an article by Reiko Takeshita in October based on a survey of more than 1,400 workers, finding that female workers were being asked to refrain from wearing glasses at work because they are not aesthetically pleasing.

The BBC reported on Friday that retail chains said glasses give shop assistants a "cold impression," and therefore female workers should not wear them.

The hashtag #?????, which translates to "glasses are forbidden," is currently trending on Twitter in Japan, according to The Washington Post.

Japanese women are using the hashtag to call out the sexist workplace dress code. The Post highlighted one Tweet reading, "Isn't it so troublesome when you can see all the middle-aged men in the world?" accompanied by a picture of red glasses frames on a keyboard.


Also in Japan, high-heel requirements for women in the workplace sparked the #KuToo hashtag.

The practice of employers requiring their female workers to wear heels is widespread in Japan.

The #KuToo movement started in Japan in 2019 with a tweet from Yumi Ishikawa, a funeral parlour worker required to wear heels, which she argues is gender discrimination, Quartz reported in an article by Vivian Rachelle.

#KuToo is a "triple pun," Rachelle wrote, "playing on the Japanese words kutsu (shoes), kutsuu (pain), and the #MeToo movement."


In France, women have been stopped at the Cannes Film Festival for not wearing heels, although it's not an official rule.

While it's not a traditional office, the Cannes Film Festival is a workplace for actors, filmmakers, and journalists. Anecdotally, women have been banned from wearing flat shoes at the festival.

In 2015, women wearing flats were excluded from the film premiere of "Carol" at the festival. Then in 2018, actress Kristen Stewart ditched her heels at the red carpet premiere of "BlacKkKlansman" at Cannes. The actress had previously spoken out against the festival's de facto dress code saying, "Things have to change immediately."

The festival's organisers have pushed back against the criticism, however. According to The New York Times, the Cannes Film Festival media office maintained that the festival's dress code had "no specific mention about the height of women's heels."

The Guardian quoted a since-deleted Tweet from festival director Thierry Frémaux saying, "the rumour saying the festival insists on high heels for women on the red carpet is unfounded."


In the US, Virgin Atlantic airlines made female flight attendants wear makeup until March 2019.

Hollis Johnson

Virgin Atlantic has been operating as since 1984. Thirty-five years later, the airline ditched its requirement that female flight attendants wear makeup, including red lipstick, blush, and mascara, according to The New York Times.

The Times also reported that the airline started offering pants as a standard part of the flight attendant uniform, whereas female flight attendants previously had to specially request pants.


In the UK, a woman was sent home from her temp job as a receptionist at PwC because she was not wearing heels.

Nicola Thorp, a British actress, was sent home for not wearing heels to her temp job as a receptionist at PwC in 2016, according to The New York Times.

The requirement came from outsourcing firm Portico, which enforced a dress code including high heels measuring two to four inches. The dress code also required women workers to wear makeup, including lipstick, eye shadow, and mascara. Portico told The New York Times that it rewrote its code after Thorp complained.

Receive a daily email with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa:

  • Indicators
  • JSE Indexes
14.64
-0,09%
19.20
0,26%
16.19
0,38%
$1,462.00
-0,92%
55357.33
1,05%
DAILY BUSINESS INSIDER UPDATE

Get the best of our site delivered to your inbox every day.

Sign Up