HISTORY & USE
Antique photo of Kendo armor (left) and modern photo of Portland's Kendo club (right)
Kendogi are martial arts jackets meant for Kendo, a sport practicing swordsmanship with wooden swords. Bogu, Kendo armor, was adopted as a uniform into Kendo from other martial arts styles in the late Edo period, far after samurai were abolished from Japan. Today, very similar sets of Kendogi and Bogu are still used in the sport, in the same traditional styles as those adopted generations ago.
Kanji reads "Moriyama", the name of its original owner
Kendogi are made of a thickly-embroidered cotton Sashiko fabric. Each is dyed a deep indigo that fades with time. The dye and the embroidery are both done to make the fabric more durable. Most jackets are made to last 5 or 10 years of daily practice.
Each jacket contains the soul of the person who practiced with it, through the small fading and personal details. The 'X' shape at the back of a Kendogi comes from the armor that is worn on top. Most jackets are embroidered with the owner's name or school. Sometimes these jackets are kept for a long time, and repaired or patched on the inside.
Here at Kiriko, we're excited to keep the life of these jackets alive, styling these vintage jackets into modern wearable outfits. The different shades of indigo blue are iconic for Japan, and can be worn as nicely as denim.
Kendo jackets come in a range of sizes, for kids and adults. Cut very square like most traditional garments, the shoulder seams fall far below the natural shoulders, and the sleeves fit very wide.
In practice they are meant to be tied tightly closed, but if they are worn open any jacket can fit a wide range of sizes.
The oversize silhouette and heavy, rugged material, make a masculine piece that can be worn in any wardrobe.
Kendogi layer nicely into many outfits. they can be worn underneath a coat or jacket, closed or open, similar to a cardigan. The blue contrasts beautifully against a canvas or army jacket, and even against natural shades of leather. When worn on top, the short sleeves of a Kendogi make for very unique sleeve layers. It can be worn well over tight jackets or button-up shirts.
Originally dyed a deep, near-black indigo, Kendo jackets fade with time, use, and every wash. It always holds a bright, beautiful shade of blue, never fading to a dull shade. Fading and evolving with you, the jackets will fade to the shape of that backpack or messenger bag that you use every day.
ONE OF A KIND
While most modern kendogi are embroidered by machine, some are hand-embroidered. This style is usually known as Musashizashi. It's less durable than the thick, machine embroidered fabric, and is usually worn by beginners or to show off. This handmade style is lighter, cooler, and has a unique charm.
Handstitched Musashizashi jacket (left) compared to a machine-embroidered jacket (right)
The blank blue canvas is a great base for patchwork or contrasting fabrics. Sometimes we patch Kendogi with rare and bold Japanese fabrics as part of our Hitotsu line.
Cross-sashiko stitched shoulder patch (left) and orange Obi fabric detail (right)
LIKE A DENIM JACKET
Just like a denim jacket, Kendogi have a very casual, rough look to them. They have a familiar "denim" blue, and a similar rough texture. Anywhere a denim jacket would work in an outfit, a Kendogi could probably work as well.
Layering on top of a denim jacket. Casual streetwear style.
Help the story of these jackets live on.
Wear them, love them, hand them down.