In recent years, a growing number of Japanese schools have been implementing gender-neutral school uniforms. Although there have been a few exceptions such as Sanyo Junior H.S. in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, which allows boys to wear skirts, the gender-neutral movement in Japanese schools has, by and large, involved giving female students the option to wear slacks.

Kei Hirabayashi, President of the Japan Persons with disabilities Fashion Association which develops "bottom'all," a fashion brand designed to be enjoyed by everyone regardless of disability, age, or gender, hopes that this will change.

Attaching a photo of a male model wearing a school uniform with a skirt, his Tweet earlier this year quickly stirred up interest online.

"I've seen news in recent years that school uniforms are becoming gender-neutral, but I just don't feel comfortable with the trend of allowing girls to wear slacks but not allowing boys to wear skirts...
That's why I made a sailor uniform that even boys could wear easily."

Reproduced with permission from Kei Hirabayashi, President of the Japan Persons with Disabilities Fashion Association (@tottolink)

The cool uniform, which borrows aspects of a girl's sailor uniform but updates it to make it look cool for boys and "easy to wear," was created through the ミライの制服プロジェクト (mirai no seifuku purojekuto | future of school uniforms project), a collaboration between the Japan Persons with Disabilities Fashion Association and the Hyogo University of Teacher Education.

It elicited numerous comments, such as:

  • "It's so cool. He looks like a knight."
  • "Woah. He looks like a Quincy in Bleach!
  • "It gives a clean impression but it also looks strong, somehow."
  • "He's right! I've been feeling uneasy about the way schools have been handling this (...) only letting girls wear slacks."
  • "Both the color and length make it seem easy for a boy to wear."

Mr. Hirabayashi kindly spared us some time in his busy schedule to answer a few questions:

Q: This uniform is very cool. How is it "easy for boys to wear"? What did you do specifically in terms of its design?

Hirabayashi: I tried to create a unisex impression with the skirt's length, its color, the amount of pleating, and other things.

Q: Were your considerations on "genderless school uniforms" revealed in your Tweet an important element of the "Mirai no Seifuku Project"?

Hirabayashi: The "Mirai no Seifuku Project" is a joint project between our association and the Hyogo University of Teacher Education aimed at increasing the number of options available to students when it comes to their school uniforms. Gender isn't our only consideration but it is an important factor.

Q: Is this uniform intended only for school, or do you also envisage it as something which can be worn for fashion outside of an educational context?

Hirabayashi: This project is limited to school uniforms. Clothing other than school uniforms will be realized through the "bottom'all" project.

Q: Have you been receiving inquiries from people who would like to wear it? Are there plans to commercialize it?

Hirabayashi: Yes, we have received some inquiries, but there are no plans to commercialize it at this time.

Q: In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of male celebrities wearing skirts outside of Japan. For example, at the Berlin premiere of Bullet Train in July, Brad Pitt wore one. What do you think about this trend?

Hirabayashi: In Japan, we're beginning to see スカート男子 (sukāto danshi | lit. "skirt guys"), boys and men who wear skirts on a daily basis. When I see so-called celebrities like Brad Pitt wearing skirts, I think it helps to make it clear that this is an issue that was born out of prejudiced views. I hope things like that will lead people (with such views) to realize how boring their system of values was.

And indeed, why stop at school uniforms? As he revealed in a follow-up Tweet in which he demonstrates by example, even mini-skirts for men can look good:

"I was once asked, 'Isn't mini-skirts for men a bit harsh?' Depending on how you match it, men can look cool too in them too. Even Brad Pitt wore a mini-skirt. Putting antiquated views on gender aside, I think that borderless fashion will become the norm in the future."

If you'd like to stay up to date on Kei Hirabayashi's activities, follow him on Twitter here.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.