Ninjutsu Discussions: What did ninja actually wear?

 Hello and welcome to the first article of a new series called Ninjutsu Discussions. The goal of this series is to discuss different facets of Ninjutsu from common myths to accepted histories, theories, etc. Please leave comments with your thoughts or questions regarding the articles so we can make this new series an actual discussion and not just general articles.

 So, what did ninja actually wear? This refers to the garb they are depicted wearing in movies and other pop culture. Personally I don't think they wore black "ninja uniforms" at all. The ninja uniforms found today in just about every martial arts supply website or storefront are a direct consequence of what the image of Ninjutsu has been made into for hollywood, rather than what it actually was. Please keep in mind that this is merely my opinion and I really have no concrete proof to offer except for being well informed over years of study.

 I believe they most likely wore a set of "peasant grade" clothing. Hakama would have been worn with strips of cloth to tie the bagginess of the garment down (think knees and ankles) to reduce snagging, and noise. The hakama worn would most likely have been of the umanori variety. Umanori are the type of hakama that have divided legs (like western pants). The kimono (think gi jacket) would have probably been tied with strips of cloth at the elbow and wrist to reduce snagging and noise in the sleeves. The obi (belt) would also have been simple. The coloring of this set of clothes would have varied on what was available, the season, and perhaps other circumstances as well. In my opinion earth tones were probably always used and I doubt the different pieces of clothing matched in color very often, if at all. This is because black stands out at night far more than browns, greens, etc. Even dark red and blue are better than black in the dark (test it for yourself and see). Multiple colors also help to break up the form of a person (which is why camoflage clothing is almost never a solid color).

 As far as tabi boots go, I doubt it. I would have to say they wore tabi socks and straw zori sandals. The sandals were probably "tied" to the legs with hempen rope by attaching the rope to the sandals and then to the ankles to keep them from coming off while running.

 Now, if you look at the "ninja uniform" we just created you have an easy to aquire set of clothes that were not very costly as they are of the peasant variety (who wants to hide in the mud wearing fine silks?), they are camoflaged, they didn't have to be custom made or altered, and the best part is that if you untie the strips of cloth we used for tie downs and hid them inside your kimono you looked no different than a common peasant. Add a rokushaku bo for a walking stick and a knife in your belt and you're ready for action! Without turning any heads.

 That brings me to my next point. The above was simply a breakdown of what I believe ninja "would have" worn if they indeed wore a "uniform" or a specific set of garb for their "missions". What I really think they would have worn are disguises. Why dress up in some crazy outfit if getting where you need to go is as simple as making people think you are someone you aren't? What's the point of dodging in and out of shadows while running with a sword drawn across rooftops at dusk to get to the other side of town for your super secret ninja mission when all you really have to do is dress normally and walk casually? Hollywood is one of the biggest reasons, but who can really blame them. I wouldn't go see a movie called "Blending In Without a Fight".

 Thanks for reading! Leave a comment and tell me what you think!


  1. Reply back to me at pens86@live.no if you want.

    They wore clothes as black as night, even all white during winter times. (Not sure about any others colors, but doubt there are more then those two)
    This is common and standard knowledge. You, of course, have your opinion and thoughts, no problem with that. And as far as Hollywood goes, let me just say, they didn't invent an all black uniform that ninjas use. Stealth is a BIG, BIG thing in ninjutsu, that is why we learn to meditate to gain powers. You want to be as silent, invisible and quick as a human possibly can be. And you do not want to be recognized, so ninjas although they would sometimes work in groups would for the most time be on their own with their missions. Some where farmers too, others belonged to clans and or sects. As with much OLD history, Hollywood would create realistic and absurd non realistic films about documented history. We have seen this time and again.
    A ninja had an arsenal of weapons, from big swords, to small words, to throwing knifes, toxic powder, toxic liquid, blowpipes with real toxic on the arrows. All based on the mission. Yes, you don't run with a big sword any where that is small and inconvenient. There are so many plants and roots they would use for either healing, or toxic. Did you know, some used ginger and chewed on big bites if they got injured. I.e fell down, broke a bone, bruised just to relieve some of the pain. (Chewing big bites of ginger is PAIN in the mouth!) Also they could carry different herbs that they would apply to a wound with some piece of cloth, maybe from an extra head-mask to stop the bleeding or give temp. relief and healing.

    In closing, I would say that to date. Ninjas was the best warriors to date. I don't care if US have the greatest military of all times, or if the German army could scare the whole word some 60-70 years ago. The highly skilled, highly trained, mystical ninja are in a class of it's own.

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