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Why Indigo?

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  • Why Indigo?

    Hello,

    I've read a lot of threads here about setting the dye, color fading, and color bleeding onto skin.

    I was talking to some of my older familiy members, and they said that years ago, this was common with new clothes a few decades ago and you had to set the dye for them.

    I was just wondering why all the best kendo gear uses Indigo dye? The technology exists to get the same color without these problems. Is there some advantage to using indigo, or is the indigo dying process part of the martial arts tradition in Japan?

    I'm not complaining... just curious.

  • #2
    Indigo dye has anti-bacterial/bacteria preventative properties, if I'm not mistaken.

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    • #3
      It's traditional. Plus, there's no artificial dye that really looks like indigo, especially as it wears.

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      • #4
        It's traditional
        I've been curious about this for a while - why the colour indigo?

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        • #5
          Indigo comes from, I believe, the root of a specific plant. In Japanese it is called aizome. As said above it not only has antibacterial properties (it suppresses sweat smells), it also ages beautifully, which is very important with Japanese things. Also the process of fixing the dye to the fabric uses caustic soda, which actually gives the cotton added strength.

          Polyester/cotton hakama last longer than cotton, but they swish around unattractively IMHO. Coton hakama have a shape and a stiffness that gives them, and the wearer more presence.

          b

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Newbie
            I've been curious about this for a while - why the colour indigo?
            Well, it's really not the colour indigo we are talking about, it's the dye indigo.

            More about the dye can be found here.

            Originally posted by Omnis
            Indigo dye has anti-bacterial/bacteria preventative properties, if I'm not mistaken.
            I've heard the same thing. That can explain why my indigo dyed Keikogi doesen't smell bad after a few practices, compared with my non-indigo Keikogi - I have to wash it more often to get rid of 'the kendo smell'.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by sputnikk
              More about the dye can be found ...
              And it is also "traditional" since it was a vibrant color that could be obtained (without too much work) from an indigenous plant. It was hard enough to obtain that it was valued ...

              John

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ben
                . . . it also ages beautifully, which is very important with Japanese things. . . .Coton hakama have a shape and a stiffness that gives them, and the wearer more presence.
                Wabi sabi

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by sputnikk
                  That can explain why my indigo dyed Keikogi doesen't smell bad after a few practices, compared with my non-indigo Keikogi - I have to wash it more often to get rid of 'the kendo smell'.
                  Sputnikk, my keikogi stinks to high heaven after every practice. After reading the link you posted I started to wonder if the indigo in my keikogi was dyed traditionally

                  "A preindustrial process for dyeing with indigo, used in Europe, was to dissolve the indigo in stale urine. "

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sputnikk
                    More about the dye can be found here.
                    Nice link ! So Japanese indigo dyed clothes are NOT damped in horse urine after all...

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                    • #11
                      I was told that design of the keiko gi jacket and the use of indigo dye were borrowed from the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department circa the late 1800s. They used something similar for their call-out coats and the kendoists figured that if it was sturdy and durable enough for the firemen, it would serve them well.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Spendius
                        So Japanese indigo dyed clothes are NOT damped in horse urine after all...
                        Well, that depends on who you talk to - we had a guy out here a couple of years back at the Newport Japanese festival. He had just returned from a couple of years training in Japan in traditional indigo dying. He was saying that the 'recipe' for starting the fermentation vat varied a lot by region and group, but that urine was in most of the recipes he was exposed to.

                        John

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                        • #13
                          I see in a website about indigo and traditional indian medicine, that the plant has a wide range of uses: http://www.plantcultures.org.uk/plan..._medicine.html

                          Now I feel better about being blue.

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                          • #14
                            Don't freak too much - urine's very sterile and Japan'd hardly be the only place to use it.

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                            • #15
                              Well ...

                              Those (traditional) vats may start off 'sterile', but the whole point is to get a certain type of microorganism growing - it maintains the reducing environment the dye needs to get into solution. I have seen one old style vat in action, and it did not smell pretty. At all. "Vat" is generous, it was just a lined pit in the ground. One the other hand, there is always laundering ...

                              John

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