Samue Buying Guide
In 30 years of living and travelling two and from japan, I’ve owned a lot of clothes. Samue and Jinbei have come to be two of my favorite Japanese garments. Most of the information on this page is a combination of information I’ve found on Japanese language sites. It comes from the actual makers that are producing high quality Samue in Japan.
Hopefully this information is of use to you!
Are You A Samue Person?
The first thing to be aware of is that Samue are strongly associated with buddhist monks, as being the clothing that they would wear when doing work related tasks such as cleaning up, or, say, raking the stone garden. In this way they have become to be considered “work wear” more generally.
It’s funny how these sorts of clothes, such as the now ubiquitous jeans, take on air of “salt of the earth working person”. There’s something about clothes that are associated with work that appeal to our sense of “authenticity” and thus become “stylish” over time.
Whether or not you think you are a “samue” person or not is for you to decide. But it’s good to know what you are, quite literally getting yourself into.
I’ll go more into the details about best way to choose a Samue below, but here are a few of my favorites:
Hand Woven Cotton Samue With Contrasting Top and Bottom
Striking, stylish & unusual Samue with contrasting top and bottom
Samue Jacket : Hand Woven Cotton 100%
Pants : ChomThong Hand Woven Cotton 100%
Garments made with thread-dyed fabric.
- Sleeve shape and price tag may not make item appropriate for work uses.
How to Choose a Samue
Here are the top points to consider when looking for your samue.
- Decide What Season You Want To Wear Your Samue In – And The Best Material
- Decide What Situations You Will Be Wearing Your Samue In
- Everyday Use
- For doing physical tasks
- Figure Out What Size You Need
- What Style Do You Want
- What Quality & Price Are You After?
- Think About What You Are Going To Wear or Coordinate Your Samue With
To break these down one by one
Decide What Season You Want To Wear Your Samue In – And The Best Material
In Japan, people generally wear different Samue for different seasons. Generally speaking, it looks like this:
Summer – Linen
Spring & Autumn – Cotton
Winter – Thick cotton or “Sashiko”, wool or quilt material. There also lined samue, sometimes stuffed with cotton or wool. You can also wear your samue with a thick winter hanten.
If you are looking for the most “versatile” Samue, go for a 100% thin cotton garment, and you should be able to get by with wearing it through most of the year, if you are willing to put some kind of thick underwear or sweater underneath the Samue. Cotton doesn’t do as well in summer though. If you live in a hot climate, you’ll really want to invest in a hemp garment.
Should I get natural or synthetic fibre samue?
There are also Samue made of synthetic materials such as polyester. These won’t give you the same comfort level on the skin, but they will be both easier to clean, and easier to dry out. So if you’re looking for more of a “work” orientated samue, say for painting or doing arts and crafts in, that you may want to wash and wear again easily, then polyester is a good choice.
For most other purposes, a natural fibre is the best way to go.
Wasuian Men’s Quilt-Work Winter Samue
An ultra warm Samue for the colder months. It includes lining filled with Teijin Warmal materials. Teijin warmal is a high tech heat-retaining batting material in which “zirconium silicate ceramic” is kneaded into the outer layer of the fiber. It “quickly absorbs and re-emits infrared rays emitted from your body” to keep you warmer longer.
- Unique blend of traditional and high tech materials
- 100% cotton outer material
- Waseian is the in-house brand for maker Idaseni, with their own workshops in Japan
- Some people may not like the look of the elastic sleeve cuffs.
Visvim Indigo Denim Happi style kimono top
Half-sleeve garment-dyed non-stretch denim kimono-style shirt in indigo. Shawl collar. Open front. Welt pockets at waist. Partial cotton twill lining. Contrast stitching in white.
- High end fashion piece
- Classic Denim
- 100% cotton.
- Made in Japan
- Fashion item – with fashion price tag
2. Decide What Situations You Will Be Wearing Your Samue In
- Everyday Use
Samue have become more common as everyday wear as fashion items in their own right. In this case, there’s not too much you need to worry about from a design perspective other than the points like coordination, climate that are outlined on this page.
3. For doing physical tasks
In Japan, samue are considered work wear for doing tasks associated with the everyday traditional life. They might slip them on for doing ceramics, arts & craft, cooking, doing physical work such as giving a massage. You will often see people in traditionals and Ryokan wearing them for doing their household chores.
If you want to wear your samue for these kinds of purposes, you may want to look for one that uses elastic in the sleeves, and/or is designed that you can roll up the sleeves when necessary.
Another great material option for work wear appropriate samue is Denim. Denim fades over time, which means your samue gets more character the more you use it. It’s like your favorite pair of jeans all over your body!
Surugajino Samueya Men’s Samue Bio Wash Denim 141-9903
There’s just something about denim. It’s associated with labor, and the authenticity of work. It fades over time and get character. It feels tough and secure.
- Tough denim construciton
- Tapered elastic sleeves leaves hands unobstructed for working on tasks
- Elastic on cuffs are difficult roll up.
Samue as Sleepwear
Samue are sometimes used as “Sleepwear” in Japan, and they are fairly close to the design found in a lot of western pajamas. Samue’s sibling, the short sleeve and legged jimbei, tends to be even more popular for wearing to bed, as they leave your limbs more free to move around.
If you’re looking at samue as sleepwear, then cotton is a good way to go because it feels good and “breathes”.
Men’s Tsumugi Samue 100% Cotton
Tsumugi materials are associated with an extremely smooth to the touch feel. These samue are 100% cotton and so are made from a breathable fabric that is ideal for using either as daily wear in mid-to warm temperatures, or as sleepwear.
- Smooth feel fabric
- 100% cotton
- Open sleeve design
- Open sleeves not well suited to doing involved tasks with the hands
3. Figure Out What Size You Need
Making sure you have a garment is the right size is the most obvious thing to consider when making a purchase. Samue are generally worn fairly loose, and they are easy to adjust using the draw strings that they have on them. So it’s generally best to er on the large side when buying a samue.
4. What Style & Design Do You Want
Traditionally, Samue are considered very “functional” items and have come in a fairly limited number of muted colors. With their rise as more of a fashion item, you can see brighter designs, and more striking patterns coming into play. This is mostly going to matter of personal aesthetic choice in relation to the purpose you are buying the garment for. It’s also going to depend on what you are going to wear with it.
About samue sleeve cuffs
There are samue with sleeves that come right down to the wrist and others that end higher up to leave the friends free to work on tasks. Other more work-orientated samue have elastic cuffs so that the taper in around the wrist.
5. What Quality & Price Are You After?
There are a wide range of qualities and prices in the world of samue. Because the Japanese see their own traditional clothing as something of a matter of pride, they generally look down on anything that is made outside of Japan, such as the garments that are made in China. That being said, you can often find garments made outside Japan that are of an acceptable quality at a largely reduced price.
6. Think About What You Are Going To Wear or Coordinate Your Samue With
Recently, there has been a rise in the amount of people coordinating traditional Japanese clothing with Western style garments. One option is to try slipping a western garment underneath. I have a Japanoscope gallery of Western/Japanese Clothing ideas below.
If you want to go the tried and tested route, you would be looking at wearing the samue with sandals or setta on your feet, a Japanese style haori on top, and with Japanese style accessories such as this…
Here’s a mix of the better quality samue you will find out there, including some slightly unusual, more colorful, denim and patchwork samue!
Clothing, Shoes and Jewelry
KYOETSU Men’s Fleece Samue Japanese Winter Lounge Set$95.99 View product on Amazon
Clothing, Shoes and Jewelry
Edoten Men’s Japan Kimono quilted clothes Sasiko Samue$95.00 View product on Amazon
Caring For Your Samue
A good Samue can last for a long time if you look after it. This is especially so if you go for a Samue that uses a natural material like cotton or linen.
Can you machine Wash a Samue?
The short answer is, yes, you can wash your samue in the washing machine. But you’ll get a longer life out of it if you do a hand wash.
The exception to the rule is with some of the more boutique indigo-dyed or pure silk samue that may require special care. As always check the label! Even if the label is in Japanese, you can often at least find a picture of a washing machine with a cross through it!
Whatever the samue, if you do put it in the washing machine, it is best to fold it and put it in a net. One of the good things about Samue is that they dry quickly. It is a good idea to smooth out some of the wrinkles, as much as possible, while it is drying so that you can cut down on ironing time later.
Reading The Tag
The tag above reads:
表地 Front Material 綿 Cotton 100%
裏地 Rear material 綿 Cotton 100%
中わた Inner Padding 綿 Cotton 70%
ポリエステル Polyester 30%
What is the difference between Samue and Jinbei?
Samue are long arm and leg garments and Jinbei are short. Jinbeir are usually worn in summer and hot weather, while there are different samue for each of the seasons. Samue are more associated with work related to tasks, while Jinbei are often associated weather, such as visiting hot spring baths.
If you’re looking for something to wear in the summer months, check out our guide to Jinbei here.
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Hi, I’m Peter. I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology. I have succesfully completed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.