Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Trousers were used by the Chinese imperial court in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and this style was adopted by the Japanese in the form of hakama from the sixth century onwards. Japanese hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles.
The Chinese imperial courts of the Sui and Tang dynasties all wore the hakama. The Japanese adopted this traditional mode of dress from the Chinese. The existence of the hakama can be traced back to the 5th century.
Clay figurines wearing a similar outfit have been found by archaeologists, possibly dating the age of these artefacts to between 250 and 538 AD. It was even mentioned in the Kojiki, Japan's "Records of Ancient Affairs".
The hakama is part of the "keikogi" outfit worn by those who train in aikido, kendo, kyudo and iado; basically some areas of Japanese martial arts. It was not until the 12th century that this outfit was properly documented, when samurai warriors or "bushi" who trained in Aikido (and wore it by default) took on powerful roles in the government of the country. After the 14th century, the hakama began to be worn only by men.
At the beginning of the Edo period - which was from 1603 to 1868 - samurais had a standard outfit consisting of a hakama, a formal kimono and a heavily shoulder-padded kataginu. This combination of uniforms was called "kamishimo".
The hakama was chosen by the samurais as clothing when they rode their horses because it protected their legs. They had to wear special versions of it when they appeared before the shogun, and these versions had long extensions at the back and front, making it difficult for any rebellious samurai to execute the shogun.
Currently, the hakama is worn by Japanese men on special occasions such as weddings, pompous celebrations and funerals. University professors, as well as Shinto priests, usually do. Women also wear it, but less often.
Female Shinto shrine guards (the Japanese call them "miko") wear a white top or kimono tucked into a red hakama.
Both sexes usually wear the hakama at school graduation ceremonies or when attending an academic ceremony. Women wear the hakama just below the bust line, while men tie it around the waist.