Fan-Cooled Workwear, Or the Latest in Japanese Fashion?

JAPANKURU
3 min readAug 29, 2023
Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Chikuma no Smafa

Summers are hot and humid in Japan, and they’re not cooling down anytime soon, so this summer’s Heatwave Countermeasure Exhibition in Tokyo was the perfect place to admire the fashions of the future. Gathering from around Japan and the world, people from a variety of industries came together at the event to trade ideas and present innovations, all about staying cool in the increasing summer heat. But one of the biggest hits was a rather small-scale solution: a line of “fan-equipped” clothing.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Chikuma no Smafa

Interestingly, the fan-equipped clothing technology isn’t actually anything very new in Japan. On the hottest days of summer, when everyone is trying to wear as little fabric as possible, Japanese construction sites can be a bit of a surprise — many of the workers are not only wearing long sleeves, but what looks like windbreakers or jackets! The truth is that this practical workwear actually has little electric fans blowing air through small ports on the back or sides, giving the wearer their own private cool breeze throughout the day. Since the airflow helps sweat to evaporate, there’s evidence that it’s actually more effective at keeping skin cool than wearing nothing at all, which is why they’re ubiquitous in any workplace that involves physical labor under the hot sun.

But these jackets are clearly workwear, which is fairly limiting for those who want to add small fans to their everyday wardrobe — not everyone can pull off that look. So while the technology has a history in Japan, the newest innovations at the Heatwave Countermeasure Exhibition were all about style. Three manufacturers specializing in uniforms, textiles, and power tools (Chikuma & Co., Teijin Ltd., and Makita Corp. respectively) have teamed up to try to make fan-equipped clothing fashionable, and help it reach a much broader audience. Their new brand, called Chikuma no Smafa, focuses exclusively on fashion items fitted with fans, and they’re starting to develop everything from simple vests to flowing dresses. Some of the product samples they’re clearly hoping people will add to their everyday wardrobe, like classic black blazers and bomber jackets, which look fairly normal from the front, at least. From the back, there are some rather obvious Matrix-esque ports that probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Other items are obviously more about practicality than subtlety, like a chunky cross-body bag that sits over the chest, and has a full vest-like back with fan ports. A serious fashion statement.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Chikuma no Smafa

With temperatures rising as high as 38°C/100°F just beyond the convention center doors, oohs and ahs could be heard emanating from the Chikuma no Smafa booth at the Tokyo Heatwave Countermeasure Exhibition, as visitors tried on the product samples and commented on how cool and breezy they felt. Of course, any Japanese construction worker could have told us that years ago — and the real battle for brands trying to expand the customer base will be one of style. With summers getting hotter and hotter, more and more people are searching for solutions, but workwear is still off the table for most. Fortunately for those of us stuck sweating buckets, brands are not only experimenting with colorful patterns and prints these days, but also teaming up to feature popular IPs like Street Fighter on their products. It’s hard to tell if fan-equipped clothing will really be the must-have fashion of the future, but if you’re ready to be part of the vanguard, Chikuma no Smafa sells products online. Now, if only their most interesting items didn’t seem to be constantly sold out!

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