Kokoro Cultural Series: A Fascinating Dive Into the History of the Japanese Haori and How It Is Worn Today

Generally recognizable around the world and praised for its beauty, traditional Japanese attire is a captivating topic for those unfamiliar with the culture. Many classic Japanese pieces of clothing have been adapted into modern fashion, and it is fascinating to learn about their origin - doing so allows us to further our understanding of these styles, their historical significance, and how they came to be where we find them today.

Defining the Haori

The Haori is one amongst many well-known traditional Japanese garments, and is often confused with the popular Kimono. Whereas the Kimono is an ankle or floor length dress that ties at the front and features wide sleeves, the Haori is a lightweight jacket-like piece often worn over the well-known ceremonial outfit.

Omitting any kind of closing mechanism at the front, the Haori was designed to be worn open, a feature which allows for the more intricate and detailed clothing worn underneath to appear.

Traditional, stylistic features of the Haori include ornate silk fabrics and mid-thigh or knee lengths. Naturally, adaptations of the style found in contemporary fashion today include a wider variation of fabrics and lengths.

Diving Into The History

As with many other fashion items, the Haori was favored by different demographics throughout the years, consequently serving distinct purposes over time.

Samurai warriors in the Sengoku Period (1467-1615) wore what is believed to be the first appearance of the Haori in Japanese culture. Its origin and use as military attire made the Haori a clothing piece exclusively made for and worn by men, and largely reflected the status of wealth of the Samurai class during this violent and tumultuous period.

The Edo Period (1603-1868) followed, imposing a time of strict government control over the population. Affecting most areas of daily life, sumptuary laws left wealthier citizens unable to openly flaunt luxurious items such as the silk Haori. In its turn, the jacket was altered to fit the new and far more subdued social requirement: embellished, colorful silks were used as linings in the Haori, while their outside appearance remained largely discrete and understated.

Simultaneously, overall economic growth during this time led to the rise of the Haori as a favored style amongst the Japanese middle class; though these weren’t the opulent and extravagant versions worn by the elite, the design gained traction as popular dress.

The 20th century witnessed a boom in artistic growth and expression in Japan. This shift was certainly present in fashion, and can be seen reflected in Haoris that came to outwardly feature more striking and dramatic designs.

Though geishas were known to have worn the Haori in the 1800s, the 20th century also saw the popularization of the style for women. Excluding variations in size and aesthetic, there seemed to be no significant structural differences between male and female Haoris.

As a part of traditional Japanese ceremonial dress, the original Haori is still seen today in cultural events and rituals. Beyond this long-established, customary role, Haoris’ widespread presence can also be found in far less formal contexts in the 21st century.

How is the Haori Worn Today?

You can find quality, modern variations of the Haori today. Worn as an ode to culture and personal style, the jacket champions self-expression through the framework of Japanese history.

Kokoro's Haoris feature intricate art designs and Japanese poetry, adding inevitable, meaningful flair to your look. As a brand, Kokoro routinely features Asian styles within its collections, making it possible, easy, and stylish to integrate these culturally significant pieces of fashion into your modern wardrobe.