What are Kimono Jackets? 19 Things You Need to Know
Kimono jackets come in several forms, from luxurious haori, which have been worn in Japan for centuries, to stylish hanten that keep the bones warm in chillier winter months. Jackets also add a touch of glamour or a splash of color to traditional Japanese attire and are the best way to make your outfit look more authentic.
If you want to learn more about these fascinating garments, and also find out how to choose one that is right for you, then take a look at our comprehensive guide to Japanese kimono jackets.
1. What are Kimono Jackets?
Kimono jackets are accessories or additional garments that were originally designed to give your kimono an extra touch of flair. However, these days the same jackets can be worn with any outfit to infuse your local with traditional Japanese style.
They come in several styles for both men and women and have rich individual histories that have ensured they’ve become essential to the traditional Japanese wardrobe. Whether worn for insulation in the winter as a fashionable addition in the summer, there is a jacket out there to suit your needs.
There are three main kinds of kimono jacket: hanten, haori and happi.
Whilst these days happi are also worn by women during ceremonial events, haori and hanten remain more popular among Japanese women.
A haori is a loose-fitting traditional jacket – it is derived from the word haoru, meaning to put on – and is not dissimilar to Western cardigan. The haori is used to protect against the cold, for ceremonial purposes or simply as a stylish fashion accessory.
Women’s haori, especially when crafted from silk, feature much more resplendent color patterns than those of their male counterparts. Women’s cotton haori are becoming increasingly popular, and pair well with modern clothing. For hanten, women’s and men’s are quite interchangeable, though women are more likely to find bolder colors to fit their size.
Regarding kimono jackets for men, the main choice is between hanten, haori and happi.
A hanten is a short winter coat, typically worn when the cold descends upon Japan. With cotton padding and a tailored collar, it’s suitable for every-day wear though also works well on formal occasions. This men’s kimono jacket is the perfect replacement for a cardigan or light overcoat, irrespective of what you’re wearing underneath.
A happi is a lightweight jacket with baggy sleeves most commonly seen during festivals. Happi are usually plain colored – occasionally emblazoned with kanji or traditional motifs – and pair well with kimono and other Japanese garments.
4. What's the History Behind Kimono Jackets?
Haori by Tatsumi Shimura, 1980s
Each style of jacket has its own unique backstory:
Hanten first became popular during the late-Edo period (1603–1868). Unlike many other garments, the wearing of hanten was not restricted by social class, so they were used by people in all segments of Japan’s hierarchical society and for a variety of occasions. Thanks to its lightweight design, a hanten provided both warmth and breathability, making it a very utilitarian article of clothing.
Men's Haori Kimono Jacket, 20th Century, the Met Museum
Haori, however, are believed to have originated during the bellicose Sengoku era (1467-1615), when Japan’s rival states where in a near-constant period of war. Perhaps aptly then, haori were worn by warriors over their battle armor to shield them from the cold and perhaps indicate their allegiance before becoming popularized among the upper classes. Geisha began wearing haori as fashion accoutrements in the days of Edo. They were then adopted by samurai families, who would wear haori stitched with their family crests, particularly on religious occasions.
© Creative Commons, Happi
Happi originated during the Edo period and were worn primarily by men of the both the wealthy and working classes, from samurai to house servants, laborers to firefighters. These days many religious groups and societies will where happy during special celebrations to indicate which shrine they belong to – which is why they have become a little more unisex over time.
5. What are Authentic Kimono Jackets?
Sewing Kurume Cotton
Authentic kimono jackets are handmade in Japan, the best of which are made from silk or Kurume Kasuri, a distinctive Japanese cotton fabric that has long been an integral part of the nation’s handicraft legacy. Today this unique woven textile is redefining the future of Japanese fashion, though it has a 200-year history in the eponymous Kurume City where the local river basin terrain is ideal for cultivating cotton.
Sewing Kurume Cotton
The intricate weaving techniques, bold hues, and geometric patterns of Kurume cotton speak to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, often summed up as “the beauty of imperfection”. In the era of mass production, a considerable proportion of Kurume cotton products are still crafted by hand.
When comparing Kurume Kasuri or 100-percent silk to faux-silk or synthetic cotton alternatives, the difference is instantly identifiable.
6. What’s the Difference Between Haori and Hanten?
The cut of a haori is similar to a hanten – both are hip-length and worn over the kimono – but there are differences. The most apparent of these is that a hanten is thickly padded and therefore favored in winter, whereas a haori is a thinner, lighter jacket better suited to the summer months.
Haori are also viewed as quite formal – the degree of formality, however, is dependent on the fabric of choice and how it was constructed. Traditionally, the authorities frowned upon overt displays of wealth, so the inner linings, which are not on show, may bear more extravagant patterning.
Haori tend to be made from silk, are designed in coordination with a pairing kimono, and may have a decorative style on the inner lining. Happi, however, likely have a large kanji on the center of the back, geometric bordering along the hem and kanji characters on the collar to denoted which organization the happi was created for.
8. How are Kimono Jackets Made?
Kurume Kasuri Cotton
A haori is a similar shape to a kimono, with a long torso section and rectangular sleeves attached with a straight seam. It’s also fixed with a narrower collar than the kimono, with no overlapping front panels, allowing it to simply slide over the garment underneath. Traditionally, a single piece of fabric was used to create each haori.
Manufacturing a hanten jacket involves 30 different steps from start to finish, from designing patterns to weaving, binding, and dyeing the cloth. The highest quality hanten are constructed from Kurume Kasuri, a type of woven cotton fabric usually dyed with indigo, which originated in Kurume City, Fukuoka. Handmade hanten jackets are head and shoulders above their mass-produced counterparts.
Happi were historically handmade, though these days many are mass produced to be identical and to indicate which group the wearer belongs to.
9. What are Kimono Jackets Made Of?
Though it’s an oversimplification, summer and vintage kimono jackets tend to be made from silk, whereas winter or modern kimono jackets are produced from cotton.
The light silk fabric of vintage haori jackets comes from one of the four types of silk used across the world: mulberry silk, eri silk, tussar silk and muga silk. Mulberry is the most commonly used in Japan and creates the softest fabric. Buddhist monks, however, often prefer clothes made from eri silk as the eri caterpillars from which the silk is harvested are unharmed during the extraction process.
As outlined above, the most authentic winter jackets are produced from Kurume Kasuri. The collar, however, may be made of black sateen.
10. Are There any Special Designs for Kimono Jackets?
Happi are the most likely of the kimono jackets to feature extravagant symbolism, such as kanji text on the lapels and larger designs on the back – typically denoting a specific organization. Hanten may display family crests, though more informal versions likely just have a simple design woven into the texture. Haori may have a subtle crest or symbol on the lapels, while women’s versions in the modern era can display a broad range of colors.
11. How to Wear Kimono Jackets?
Unlike kimono and obi belts, kimono jackets are very easy to wear. Depending on the style, you can simply slip it over your clothes and let it hang loose, or if there’s a tie – as on a haori or hanten – it’s usually a simple belt or loop that needs fastening in a bow.
12. What are the Differences Between Vintage and Modern Kimono Jackets?
The difference between vintage and modern kimono jackets is most apparent in haori.
Vintage haori are made from silk and are most evocative of the original Sengoku-era style. Though best paired with traditional Japanese clothing, they are wearable pieces of art and a unique addition to most wardrobes.
Modern haori jackets are all about comfort. The best modern haori jackets available are made from Kurume Kasuri, and come in a variety of lengths and patterns to ensure they work well with 21st century clothing.
13. When Can You Wear Kimono Jackets?
Kimono jackets obviously look great with traditional Japanese garments – after all, this is what they were created to be worn with.
That said, a haori is a great light jacket, that can be worn as cardigan or fashion accessory in summer. A hanten is an equally great winter jacket, that pairs well with Western-style clothing. Happi are generally most appropriate for festivals, but ultimately this is in the eye of the beholder.
14. What Season Can You Wear Kimono Jackets?
As we’ve outlined, winter is the season for hanten, summer the season for haori. But you can mix these around, depending on the weather and what feels most appropriate in your current environment.
Happi are less dictated by season than occasion. If you’re in Japan during a traditional festival, such as Obon (summer festival of the dead), Tokyo’s Kanda Masturi (celebrated on odd-numbered years and praying for prosperity of the people), or the bizarre Kanamara Matsuri (festival of the “steel phallus”), then wearing a happi is a great way to immerse yourself in the celebrations.
15. Where to Buy Kimono Jackets?
Kimono jackets can be bought in souvenir stores across the country, though often these are not of a particularly high quality. Craft shops across the country that specialize in silk and Japanese cotton will often have more authentic handmade version for sale.
And of course, you can check out our own Japan Objects Store, where we have a great selection of vintage silk haori jackets. The men’s kimono jackets have soothing exterior colors with vibrant imagery enlivening the inner lining. The women’s kimono jackets are decidedly more elaborate, running the gamut of designs from pink, forested backgrounds to autumn-inspired designs.
We also have padded Kurume cotton hanten jackets in a range of color tones for men and women, as well as stylish cotton haori for women.
We have mentioned it here already, but it’s worth reemphasizing: the primary thing to look out for when purchasing a kimono jacket is quality of the textiles used. Kimono jackets produced using 100-percent silk or Kurume Kasuri are investments, but worthwhile ones if you are able to look after them properly. For those who care about authenticity, handmade hanten, haori and happi created with natural dyes will get you the best bang for your buck.
17. What Size Kimono Jacket Should I Buy?
Because of their loose fit, kimono jackets aren’t as size specific as Western clothing. That said, the Japan Objects store has a style guide to help you with your purchasing decisions. For women’s kimono jackets, the sizes S, M and M/L roughly correlate to US size 2 – 10, 6 – 14, and 6 – 16, respectively.
Each women’s and men’s kimono jacket also comes with specific measurements along the length, width, yuki (spine to end of sleeves) and sleeves.
18. How Should I Look After My Kimono Jacket?
It’s recommended you always hang your kimono jacket up to avoid creasing and add a few years onto its shelf-life. So much the better if you can hang or display it on a wide hanger that maintains the garment’s original shape. Ad hoc hangers are available for this purpose and can be found at craft stores in Japan and online marketplaces.
19. How Do I Clean my Kimono Jacket?
For cotton kimono jackets, it’s best to use cold water in a gentle wash or by hand in order to avoid shrinkage. Irons are not guaranteed to remove creases from 100 percent cotton and risk damage, so steaming in a dryer or shower room may be better. Vintage silk should be dry-cleaned to avoid any damage to delicate fabric.
Leave a comment