Japanese Men's Kimono: 18 Things You Should Know

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When we think of Japan’s famous cultural dress, the kimono, it’s fair to say that most probably think more of a woman’s kimono than a man’s, given that it is more common to see women wearing them than men. Men’s kimono, however, have a long and rich history; and remains an important garment today.
So, if you want to learn more about men’s kimono, who wears them, and how to wear one yourself, keep reading!

1. What are Japanese Men's Kimono?

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The kimono is a traditional Japanese garment, one that is recognized as the country’s national dress. Kimono have been around for centuries, with kimono-like gowns having originated in China and brought into Japan during the Kofun period (300–538 CE).

A man’s kimono is a long robe that is secured around the middle with an obi belt, much like a woman’s. They are made from one long bolt of narrow fabric and feature a square body and rectangular sleeves, they often contain designs that convey meaning to those who know how to read them and can signify certain things of the wearer such as their families house, their social status, or their role at a particular event.

2. What is the History of Men’s Kimono?

Nango Rikimaru by Utagawa Kunisada, 1863

The origins of the garment date back to the Kofun period (300–538 CE) when kimono-like dress came to Japan from China. It wasn’t until the Heiain period (794-1185) that the distinctive kimono we think of today came to be as Japan began to cut ties with China and started to develop their own cultural fashion.

During this time colors became bolder and flashier and lower-body elements such as the hakama (pants worn over kimono) fell out of favor with the obi belt rising in favor. This love of color and show of wealth only grew at the beginning of the Edo period (1603–1867) thanks to the wealthy merchant class whose outfits rivaled the samurai families and aristocracy.

Miya by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1855

To combat this, the Tokugawa Shogunate created sumptuary laws meaning that the lower classes could not wear kimono with intricate patterns, red or purple fabric, or gold embroidery. A new aesthetic known as Iki (粋) was developed by the merchant class, a more subdued look that, at a glance, would not seem overly bold but closer inspection revealed the true craftsmanship of the garment. This aesthetic and the shape of the kimono from this time remain extremely popular to this day.

When the class system was abolished, colorful kimono returned with a vengeance, though with Japan opening to the world, men began to adopt Western clothing and the men’s kimono gradually fell out of fashion. Today, the kimono is not seen in daily life very often, especially on men, but its appeal remains and has spread globally with many taking inspiration from men and women’s kimono alike.

3. What Types of Men’s Kimono are There?

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Whilst there aren’t as many varieties as women’s kimono, there are still a few different ways men can wear kimono. The seasons also have a big role to play in what type of kimono a man can wear, whether they wear one with lining or change to a thinner yukata style.

Montsuki: This is one of the most formal styles of men’s kimono. There is a black version ー known as kuromontsuki (kuro means black)ー and a colored version ー iromontsuki (iro means color).

Odekake no Sharegi: This is a stylish going out kimono, one that remains formal but without the same pomp and ceremony as the montsuki.

Kutsugi no Sharegi: This is a casual kimono, one that is worn around the house or to do local chores such as shopping.

Yukata: This is perhaps the most common Japanese robe you will see men wear today, particularly during the hotter summer months given the garments' lightweight material and how it is worn more loosely. Yukata often come in a range of patterns and colors, though men’s yukata tend to be more subdued and darker than women’s. Although yukata are in fact a type of kimono, they are sometimes considered as a separate garment. Find out more in Yukata vs Kimono!

Mofuku: This is an all black silk kimono. It consists of a black kimono featuring five crests known as mon or kamon (family crest) with an all black haori with the same five crests. Almost the entire outfit should be black with the exception of white tabi (socks) or a gray haneri (the undercollar)

4. What Does a Japanese Men’s Kimono Outfit Consist Of?

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Both men and women’s kimono are made up of multiple items of clothing. Men have some items that differ from women’s, and they can assemble their outfit using these different element’s. These are listed in order of how you would put them on.

Juban (襦袢): These are the undergarments and there are a variety of options but the purpose is to stop your kimono from getting dirty from your body sweat. The first level is called hadajuban. For formal occasions white juban are worn.

Nagajuban (長襦袢): This is a robe worn above the hadajuban and below the kimono and stops the kimono from being stained. Though only the collar is seen they often include intricate designs on the back or on the inside facing the wearers’s body.

Kimono (着物): The main robe worn with the word kimono literally translating to thing to wear (ki = thing, mono = to wear).

SHOP THE LOOK | Vintage Men's Haori Jacket

Obi (帯): The obi for men is a thin belt worn closer to the hips that holds the kimono in place.
Haneri (半襟): This is a collar worn under the kimono collar and on top of the juban collar. It is removable so it is easier to wash.

Hakama (袴): These are trouser worn over the top of the kimono, they can be worn divided, with separate legs, or undivided. Though mostly worn by men, you can see traditional shrine maidens wearing red hakama.

Haori (羽織): This is a jacket worn over the top of the kimono, they come in short length and long length. The jacket’s lapels do not cross over like a kimono and lie open, sometimes connected by a haorihimo. Wearing this on top of a kimono instantly makes it more formal.

5. When do Men wear Kimono?

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Japanese men do not tend to wear kimono as frequently as women, but there are still plenty of occasions where the traditional dress is required or desired.

Certain events may call for a formal kimono; the montsuki is worn by grooms and fathers of the bride at weddings as well as by organizers or judges at special events. Mofuku are worn specifically at funerals, especially by those closely related to the deceased.

The more casual styles of kimono are likely to be seen more frequently, especially the yukata which can be worn when relaxing in one's house, when visiting an onsen, or attending a summer matsuri (festival) such as those held during Obon.

In springtime, when many head out to celebrate the cherry blossoms, it’s very common to see women dress up in kimono, with rental shops found all over common venues such as Kyoto. At this time of the year it is possible to see men also wearing kimono in a casual manner, usually paired with a haori. Men can also wear a kimono when taking part in a formal tea ceremony, keeping colors subdued and making sure you take off your haori before entering the room.

6. Where Can I See Men Wearing Kimono?

SHOP THE LOOK | Men's Nagajuban Robe

If you visit Japan during the cherry blossom season and head to any of the key viewing locations you are bound to see some men wearing kimono alongside the women. Another time you are almost assured to see men wearing the traditional garb is by heading to summer festivals, such as hanabi (firework festival), where many young men will don yukata.

If you are visiting Japan and staying at a ryokan (traditional inn) you may see fellow guests also wearing yukata around the inn after visiting the onsen or heading to dinner and breakfast.

Another great spot is to visit the sumo districts, such as Ryokgoku in Tokyo, as sumo wrestlers must wear traditional Japanese attire when outside of their training rooms. If you head to see them compete, judges also must wear formal kimono attire. Priests and monks at temples and shrines can also be spotted wearing traditional attire when performing their duties, these can range from simplistic gowns to extravagant kimono during certain ceremonies.

7. How are Men’s Kimono Different from Women’s?

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Though men’s kimono and women’s kimono share many similarities, both robes cut from a long bolt of fabric secured with a belt, there are also some major differences.

One of the most obvious differences is that men’s kimono are much more subdued in color and design compared to women’s. Another obvious difference is the obi, whilst women’s obi are thick and worn around the waist and are often brightly coloured with intricate designs and bow styles, Men’s obi are much thinner, less colorful and worn closer to the hip.

Men’s kimono are also shorter and the sleeves more squared and sewn differently to the body of the garment. Men have the option to style their kimono with haori and hakama, the jacket and pants, and instead of wearing an obijime (obi rope) men can instead accessorize with a haori-himo, a rope that holds together the haori jacket.

8. Why do Men wear Kimono Less Often than Women?

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This goes back to when Japan began to open up to the west. Emperor Meiji issued an edict that all policemen, railroad workers, and teachers wear western clothing for their role. For men in business (a field women were not allowed to enter) western attire became synonymous with business attire, which meant men phased out the kimono at a much faster rate than women.

Though the kimono clung on throughout WWII and the industry pushed for kimono to be worn during Japan’s economic boom in the late 20th century, Japan’s economic stagnation in the 90s hit the kimono industry hard.

These days however, there has been something for a revival for the garment. It has become very common at formal occasions with more grooms opting to wear it for their wedding in recent years. A number of men’s kimono fashion brands have begun to appear in the last decade or two, meaning the kimono for men is definitely back in vogue.

9. What Colors are Men’s Kimono?

SHOP THE LOOK | Vintage Men's Kimono

Men’s kimono tend to use more subdued colors such as the classic Japanese indigo, blacks, grays, greens, and sometimes brown. These colors are all in line with the aesthetic of Iki and show style and elegance through restraint.

In the summer paler hues of these colors can be seen, particularly when wearing yukata, with light blues, light greens and even beige also being appropriate colors for men’s kimono.

10. What Common Design Features can be seen on Japanese Men's Kimono?

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Men’s kimono are often more plain than women’s, but when they do feature designs they hold just as much meaning. Here are some popular designs that can be found on men’s kimono.

Mon (紋): These are crests found on mofuku on montsuki kimono worn during formal occasions. Kamon let everyone know what family you are from and most modern Japanese families have one.
Samekomon (鮫小紋): Thismeans shark skin pattern, and consists of intricate curved dotted lines. This is believed to protect from evil and illness.

Mansuji (万筋): This literally means 10 thousand stripes, and is a striped fabric that traditionally required a lot of skill to make.

Ichimatsu (市松): Checkered patterned kimono are still pretty popular today.

Kyokou (亀甲): Much like the pattern on a turtle shell, which this pattern is named after, this design consists of hexagons. This represents longevity and enlightenment.

There are of course plenty of other designs that can be found on mens kimono, such as hand painted or printed designs such as landscapes, animals, trees, and objects that all have their own meaning. With men’s kimono though, these more detailed designs are found on the inside of the robe, hidden away. Check out these beautiful designs featured on nagajuban, a robe worn under the kimono.

11. What are Japanese Men’s Kimono Made From?

SHOP THE LOOK | Vintage Men's Kimono

Traditionally, men’s kimono were of course made from natural fibers such as silk, cotton, wool, and linen. Silk is used for formal kimono, but even then there are a number of different ways you can weave silk to produce different finishes and thickness in the final cloth.

Chirimen, omeshi, and meisen silk are all types of silk crepe which provide a certain level of shine and softness. Rinzu silk is a type of silk satin damask popular during the Edo period and ro and sha silk are types of silk gauze, very popular in the summer thanks to their breathable nature.
Other natural fibers are also used with wool being favored during the winter thanks to its heavy and thick nature and cotton and linen being preferred during hotter summer months, especially for yukata.

Today we have the rise of synthetic fibers and many modern kimono are made using polyester. These kimono are often cheaper and easier to care for, making them the more popular choice today.

12. What Accessories do Men Wear with Kimono?

SHOP THE LOOK | Men's Geta Sandals

Men can accessorize their kimono with a few subtle accessories, some necessary and others more optional.

Tabi (足袋): These are socks worn under the sandals and are almost always white or black.

Haorihimo (羽織紐): This is a rope that connects the haori jacket in the middle. When wearing a montsuki kimono the haorihimo usually has a white pom pom design.

Sandals: There are three different types of sandalled footwear that men can choose from. Geta (下駄) are wooden platform sandals that keep you kimono from dragging on the floor, zori (草履) are flat sandals made from leather, vinyl, or fabric often with a cork base, and setta (雪駄) are flat sandals made from woven bamboo or palm leaves in a tatami style.

Fans: It is very common for men to keep fans on them, often during the summer months where the rounded fans are commonly seen. Some formal events require men have a white folded fan as part of their outfit.

Kinchaku (巾着): This is a small cloth bag with drawstring to keep valuables such as your phone or seal (or in more modern times, a mobile phone).

Certain occasions require certain accessories, a funeral mofuku, for example, needs all black accessories except for a white haneri, white haori-himo with a pom pom and striped hakama in a neutral color such as gray. A white fan must also be carried or tucked into the obi.

13. How Much do Men's Kimono Cost?

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Men’s kimono can vary in price depending largely on quality. If you wanted to buy a vintage robe made of pure silk you could be looking at roughly ¥30,000 - ¥50,000 ($200 - $340) but different fabrics, especially synthetics could be much cheaper. Japan has plenty of second hand kimono for sale and if you were to visit a recycle shop you could well find a polyester one for ¥500 ($5).

That being said, if you were to go to a kimono shop and have one tailored for you, you could be looking at much, much more depending on the fabric, the design, and the techniques used. Some tailor made kimono sell for upwards of ¥200,000 ($1,350).

14. Where Can You buy a Men's Kimono?

SHOP THE LOOK | Men's Kimono

For those living outside of Japan, online stores, like Japan Objects Store can open up the world of traditional Japanese dress to you with kimono and kimono accessories on sale and delivered to your door. Prices can range from ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 ($200 - $340).

If you are lucky enough to head to Japan, don’t miss out on visiting vintage kimono shops and recycle shops to see if you can find a bargain or, if you are looking for something a little more personal and want to design your own kimono, visit one of the many artisan kimono shops found in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto.

15. How do you Care for a Men’s Kimono?

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It is not recommended that you wash a kimono in a washing machine or tumble dryer but instead take them to a dry cleaner. Polyester kimono may be the exception here, but should still be air dried. If you do want to wash by hand yourself, wash them in lukewarm water with alkaline free soap or shampoo, make sure you air dry it fully away from harsh sunlight.

Kimono should be correctly folded and placed in a dry storage area where they are covered to avoid sunlight (which can cause the colors to fade) and dust or any mite that may enjoy munching on them.

16. What are some Modern Adaptations or Interpretations of Men's Kimono?

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Though some like to keep the kimono look as traditional as possible, there are plenty of modern interpretations of the design. In Japan, there has been a resurgence of interest in the kimono, with more emphasis on encouraging men to wear them again.

Some modern kimono are being made from alternative materials such as denim or with bolder designs that reflect Japan’s modern society and art. Many designers, both Japanese and from outside Japan, have been inspired by the kimono and its iconic shape. Robe-like gowns have become more popular with both men and women thanks to their loose shape and flexible styling.

As Japan and Japanese culture has been featured heavily in Western media in recent years, with shows such as Shogun, Blue Eyed Samurai, and even the live action of Avatar: The Last Airbender showcasing the beauty of the countries clothing design, we may well see more interest in men’s kimono grow.

17. How do Men Style Modern Kimono?

SHOP THE LOOK | Vintage Men's Haori Jacket

There is a growing trend among people who love to wear the kimono, but styled in their own unique way. This can come through in the colors and patterns they choose to how they style or accessorize.

Instead of wearing the full look, some opt to wear certain elements of the kimono outfit and pair them with more modern articles. This could be a haori with a pair of jeans or the hakama with a crisp white shirt. Alternatively modern accessories have been added to give the kimono an update such as wide brimmed hats and briefcases for a chic take, or chunky boots or sneakers for an edgier look.

18. Can Non-Japanese Men Wear Kimono when Visiting Japan?

SHOP THE LOOK | Men's Yukata

Of course! Japanese people are usually very enthusiastic about to sharing their culture with people who come to visit Japan, and people that work in the traditional craft industries, including kimono designers and makers, rely more and more on international interest to survive. Rental stores are more than happy to help you put on a kimono. Do be aware of some simple rules when it comes to wearing a kimono, the most important of which is that the left side is worn above the right side (only dead people wear it the other way round).

If you head here at certain times of the year, such as cherry blossom season, or head to more traditional parts of Japan, like Kyoto, these can be the perfect opportunity to try wearing a kimono whilst visiting. Of course, you aren’t just limited to this, many abroad have taken inspiration from the design and wear it in their own country, perhaps in a more casual manner. The important thing about kimono is respecting the culture and learning about the importance of the garment, which, if you have read this article, you’re on the right track!

1 則評論

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