The Traditional Dress for Japanese Men

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The Traditional Dress for Japanese Men
The kimono is the most common traditional Japanese garment. (kimono image by Francis Lempérière from

Japanese culture is a fascinating amalgam of respect for tradition and a desire for the new. This extends to the sphere of attire for men. While the Japanese are up-to-date with global fashion trends, and men conducting international business are almost invariably dressed in Western-style suits, traditional items of clothing for Japanese men remain widely available and are regularly worn for special ceremonial occasions.

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The word kimono translates literally as "clothing," and the kimono is the most common of traditional Japanese garments. Derived from similar robes in ancient China, the kimono is usually made of silk and is wrapped around the body and has wide sleeves. Both men and women wear the kimono. The primary difference between the kimonos for each sex is the style of the sleeves; those for men are straight cut, while those for women have a rounded edge.


The yukata is a lightweight summer kimono. The name derives from the words “yu” meaning “bath” and “katabira” meaning “under clothing”. It was originally worn by nobles of the Heian era (dating from A.D. 794 to 1185) after bathing. Today they are worn by both men and women, primarily for attendance at summer festivals. They tend to be more brightly-coloured than kimonos.


The obi is the sash used to fasten both the kimono and the yukata. Men's obis are more narrow than those for women, rarely more than four inches wide. There are two types of obi for men (in contrast to over 20 for women). The kaku obi is wider and stiffer, used for more formal occasions, while the heko obi is more flexible, narrower and worn informally at home. The obi originated in the early 17th century and was at first made of ribbon. Today it is usually manufactured from sheets of silk.


The hakama was originally designed for samurai warriors as protection for their legs while on horseback. It is a pleated garment worn over a kimono and is either split between the legs like trousers or, more commonly, not split, so that it resembles a skirt. They are primarily worn for attendance at traditional Japanese dance, arts or martial arts festivals.

Zori and Geta

Zori and geta are the traditional forms of Japanese footwear. They both originated during the Heian era and are made from wood. Zori are more formal, usually lacquered and worn with a kimono. Geta are not usually lacquered and are worn predominantly with the yukata. Both have a thong to hold the feet on, usually coloured black for men (as opposed to red for women).


The samue is the traditional work clothing of a Japanese Zen monk. Made of a light material but dyed brown or indigo to distinguish it from more ceremonial robes, the samue is worn by the monks when engaged in maintenance or cleaning of temples, or work in the fields. Some Japanese men wear a variation of the samue as a piece of general casual clothing.

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