Hakama (袴) are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Hakama cover the lower body and resemble a wide, pleated skirt. Hakama were originally worn only by men, but today they are worn (albeit slightly differently) by both men and women. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles.
There are two types of hakama, divided (umanori 馬乗り, horse-riding hakama) and undivided (gyōtō hakama 行灯袴). The umanori type are divided like trousers, but nearer the bottom of the garment. This type of hakama are often called "divided skirts". Both types are identical in outside appearance. A third type, called "mountain" or "field" hakama, were traditionally worn by field or forest workers. They are looser in the waist and narrower in the leg.
Hakama are worn over a kimono. There are four straps, a long one on either side of the front of the garment, and a short one on either side of the rear. The rear of the garment has a rigid board-like section and a toggle which is tucked into the rear of the obi, and helps to keep the hakama in place. Hakama were originally worn by samurai; it is often mistakenly said that they used it to disguise their footwork and stances from an enemy, but in reality the warrior would tuck the hakama up through the belt when a confrontation was imminent, just as the sleeves of the kimono were tied back with cord. Later on, hakama were also used to protect clothing from dirt and tearing. Hakama have seven deep pleats, two on the back and five on the front. The pleats are supposed to represent the virtues considered essential by the samurai. Many martial artists continue this tradition, but different sources give different meaning to these pleats. The most formal type of hakama are made of stiff, striped silk, usually black and white, or black and grey. These are worn with black montsuki kimono (kimono with one, three, or five family crests on the back, chest, and shoulders), white tabi (divided-toe socks), white under-kimono and woven straw sandals of various types. In colder weather a montsuki haori (long jacket) with a white haori-himo (haori-fastener) completes the outfit.
Hakama can be worn with any type of kimono except yukata (light cotton summer kimono generally worn for relaxing, for sleeping, or at festivals or summer outings). While striped hakama are usually worn with formal kimono, stripes in colours other than black, grey and white may be worn with less formal wear. Solid and gradated colours are also common. A hakama makes any outfit a little more formal.
While hakama used to be a required part of men's wear, nowadays men usually wear hakama only on extremely formal occasions and at tea ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. Hakama are also regularly worn by practitioners of a variety of martial arts, such as kendo, iaido, aikido,kyudo, et cetera. Sumo wrestlers, who do not wear hakama in the context of their sport, are, however, required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever they appear in public.
There are many ways for men to tie hakama. First, the obi is tied in a special knot (an "under-hakama knot") at the rear; men start with the front section, bringing the ties around the back and crossing them over the top of the knot of the obi. The ties are brought to the front and crossed below the waist, then tied at the back, under the knot of the obi. The toggle is then tucked behind the obi, and the rear ties are brought to the front and tied in a variety of ways. The most formal method results in a knot that resembles two bow-ties in a cross shape.
Hakama traditionally formed part of a complete outfit called a kamishimo (上下 or 裃). Worn by samurai and court men, the outfit included a formal kimono, hakama, and a sleeveless jacket with exaggerated shoulders called a kataginu (pictured above). Instead of hakama, samurai visiting the shōgun at court were sometimes required to wear very long hakama called naga-bakama (long hakama). These resemble normal hakama in every way except their remarkable length in both the back and front, forming a train one or two feet long and impeding the ability to walk normally, thus helping to prevent a surprise attack or assassination attempt.
Some hakama during the Sengoku period had the hems made narrower than the body in imitation of the ballooning trousers worn by the Portuguese. This style carried on into the Edo period and became called karusan-bakama. In addition to the taper, they had a secured band of cloth — looking rather like a pants cuff — sewn around each leg’s hem, so the ballooning fabric would not open out like regular hakama.
Sashinuki are a type of hakama that are meant to be worn blousing over the leg and exposing the foot. To accomplish this, they are somewhat longer than normal hakama, and a cord is run through the hem and drawn tight, creating a "ballooning" effect . To allow for the body required, more formal sashinuki were six-panel hakama rather than the more low-class four-panels. Technically, this cord around the ankle makes sashinuki a type of kukuri- (tied) bakama.The earliest form of sashinuki were cut like normal hakama (albeit a bit longer) and have a cord running through the hem of each leg. These cords were pulled tight and tied off at the ankle. This was the form commonly worn during the Heian period. Sashinuki were worn by court nobles with various types of leisure or semi-formal wear.
Women's hakama differ from men's in a variety of ways, most notably fabric design and method of tying. While men's hakama can be worn on both formal and informal occasions, women rarely wear hakama except at graduation ceremonies, though this is by no means a rule. Women also wear hakama as part of their martial arts uniform. In some schools, hakama are reserved for senior students. Only very rarely are hakama worn by women at tea ceremony.
While formal men's hakama are made of striped fabric, women's hakama tend to be of single-colour or gradated fabric. Women wear hakama at the true waist, while men wear them slightly below. An Obi (sash) is considered optional for women in some martial arts wear. The method of tying the himo (ties) is also different, with women's hakama being tied in a simpler knot or a bow. The front himo are first wrapped at the back, then again at the front, then tied at the back in a knot. Then the back himo are brought around to the front. At this point, it may be tied with a bow at the left hip, just in front of the opening, with the ends of the himo at equal lengths. For more secure fastening, the himo may be wrapped once at center front, then tied inside at the back. Like all types of traditional Japanese clothing, it is important to fold and store hakama correctly to prevent damage and prolong the life of the garment, especially those that are made of silk. With hakama this is particularly important, since hakama have so many pleats which can easily lose their creases; recreasing the pleats may require specialist attention in extreme cases. Hakama are often considered particularly challenging to learn to fold properly, in part because of their pleats and in part because their long ties must be correctly smoothed and gathered before being tied in specific patterns. Various martial arts traditions in which practitioners wear them have prescribed methods of folding the hakama. This is often considered an important part of etiquette.