|RANT "N" RAVE|
The Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome
There are many strange things about
Japanese fashion. There's the practice of wearing jeans with big turn-ups exposing smartly
pulled-up socks. There's the strange phenomenon of friends turning up to meet each other,
all weirdly wearing exactly the same outfit. And of course there's the "towel on the
head" brigade. All of these things conspire to make the foreigner feel a little bit
different, although usually we don't really care. However, there is nothing more
guaranteed to make the unsuspecting gaijin feel like a lesser-developed, lower form of
animal life than what I call the "Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome" (or CLSS for
Summer is nearly here and therefore so is CLSS. It's the most depressing aspect of the
unbearable heat and humidity that hits Tokyo from June to September. This is how it works.
It's August. You have to walk for eight minutes from your apartment to your local station.
Despite your best efforts - wearing the minimum clothing possible without being indecent,
covering yourself with your favorite antiperspirant from home, drinking a pint of water
while walking as much as possible in the shade - you enter the train close to collapse.
Your legs are shaking, your head is purple and throbbing, your water is gone, and when you
lift your arm to hold onto the rail, a huge sweat-patch is revealed. Liquid is actually
dripping from your body. Your makeup has disappeared and you fear an imminent heart
You look around the train compartment for some support - a smile of understanding or at
least someone else in the same predicament. But no, all you see are Japanese people
looking absolutely pristine. They had to walk to the station too, but they're not sweating
or shaking or tomato-colored. They are in a state of total and utter serenity. Every hair
is in place, their make-up is perfect, and all of them - to your dehydration-induced
distorted vision - are wearing what appear to be crisp linen suits. They're probably not
wearing any such thing. The important thing is that you believe that they are. The
important thing is the aura of cool, ironed freshness that they have.
The heat has not affected them. They're probably not even wearing antiperspirant. Some of
them are even wearing tights. You are embarrassed to sit next to them for fear of leaving
a wet patch. You are an inferior being, ill-adapted to the climate, praying for autumn to
arrive as soon as possible. It's so hard to take.
Try not to worry. You are only suffering from CLSS. We all get it at some point. There's
nothing you can do about this. CLSS is a fact of life. And because you are a foreigner,
you can't even wear a towel on your head without feeling stupid. However, you can take
comfort in the fact that other sufferers understand. You can sweat knowing that somewhere,
on another train line, another foreigner is going through exactly the same trauma. Just
don't stand too close to me on the train, that's all.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Clark for this Rant.