The Verbs for “To Wear” & “To Take Off”

第113課: The Verbs for “To Wear” & “To Take Off”  着脱の動詞

Not all languages have the same degree of specificity in its vocabulary for any given concept. For instance, English has far fewer onomatopoeic words than Japanese, but in exchange, it tends to have different verbs altogether for actions that differ largely by particular sound/gesture. 

Though that example does not pertain to the discussion of this lesson, it follows this same principle, which is that the English and Japanese lexicons do not meet eye to eye on many topics, of which wearing clothing is a major example. 

English does possess several verbs which mean “to wear” – “to wear,” “to clad,” “to adorn,” “to put on,” etc. – but the speaker is free to choose them freely with any object being worn. This is not the case in Japanese. Instead, the basic verb for “to wear” differs depending on the object, and to make things even more complicated, considerable overlap with varying nuance implications. 

To tackle learning how to say “wearing” and “taking off,” we will first learn the various words for “clothing.” Then, we will go over the verbs that mean “to wear” and “to take off,” and in doing so, any item mentioned as being used with is introduced to you in Japanese at that point as opposed to giving you a list of clothing items without knowing what verb goes with them. 

Lesson Note: Some of the verbs mentioned in this lesson may have other meanings which do not pertain to wearing things, but those will be left for future discovery.

Word Note: 着脱, as you may have noticed in the title, is a convenient word for referring to both putting on and removing clothing together. 


There are roughly 10 important interrelated words which translate to “clothing.”

  • 服: This is the most basic word for “clothes,” but it heavily refers to Western-style clothing. 
  • 洋服: More specifically, this is the word for Western clothes.
  • 和服: This refers to traditional Japanese clothing such as kimono (着物), yukata (浴衣), hakama (袴), etc. 
  • 衣服: This is the formal word for “clothing” and largely refers to what can be seen outwardly like shirts, pants, etc.
  • 衣類: This word largely refers to garments touching the body, including things like socks, underwear/underclothes.   
  • 着物: Traditionally, this means “clothing” in the most literal sense possible, but whenever there is a need to distinguish Western and Japanese clothing, it takes on the latter meaning.  
  • 服装: This word means is the generic word for “attire.” 
  • 衣装・衣裳: This word is akin to “outfit/garment/attire” for particular occasions. 
  • 装束: This is synonymous with 衣装 but tends to be used in reference to older, traditional Japanese garments. 
  • 衣: The KUN reading of this Kanji, ころも, does indeed mean “clothing,” but it tends to be used in set phrases and literary language or refer primarily to monk attire (僧衣・そうえ).
  • お召し物 is an honorific phrase used to refer to the clothing of others. 
  • 衣料(品): If you go to a clothing department in Japan, you will encounter this word as it encompasses clothing, accessories, as well as materials to make clothing. When specifically referring to Western supplies, you’ll see 洋品.

As daunting as this list of words might be, we see the Kanji 衣 and 服 used pervasively, and as you learn more words regarding clothing, you will get even more practice with them. 

The (Upper) Body: 着る

When you look up how to say “to wear clothing” in Japanese, you will find the phrase 服を着る. This, though, is because 服 conjures up images of things you put on the body essentially from the neck down. Think shirts (シャツ) of any kind, sweaters (セーター), jackets (ジャケット), coats (上着), pajamas (パジャマ), dresses (ドレス), kimono (着物), etc. 

1. 今ジャケットを着ています。
I am wearing a jacket right now.

2. 一年中半袖を着ています。
I wear short-sleeves all year long.

3. 普段はSサイズの服を着ています。
Normally, I wear small-sized clothes.

4. 赤い上着を着ています。
I’m wearing a red coat.

5. パジャマを着て寝ないと風邪を引くと言われる。

It’s said that if you don’t wear pajamas to bed, you will catch a cold. 

Other applications of 着る that may be confusing include swimsuits (水着) and undergarments (下着・肌着). Depending on how they are interpreted, another verb might be more appropriate (ex. 穿く for trunks (トランクス), つける for lingerie (ランジェリー), and 穿く for underwear (下着)). 

6.  プールの授業がある日は、下着の代わりに水着を着て学校に行く子も多い。
There are also many kids who go to school in their swimwear in place of their undergarment on days when they have swimming class. 

7. 暑い夏にこそ下着を着るべし!
Hot summers are exactly when you should wear an undergarment!

Controversially, some speakers, especially in Southern Japan, use 着る with 布団. This is thought to derive from the practice of using kimono in place of a proper futon in desperate times. Typically, 布団を被る or 布団をかける is preferred (see below).

Given how the root of 着る is used, it would be remiss of us not to go over the following three phrases for layering.

重ね着(を)する To (double) layer clothing
 薄着(を)する To dress lightly
 厚着(を)する To dress warmly

8. 真冬極暖3枚普通に重ね着しても寒い。
It’s still cold even when I wear three layers of clothing meant for midwinter that provide ultimate warmth. 

9. 薄着をしてね、今日暑いから!
Dress lightly since it’s hot today!

10. 厚着していると痩せている人との区別が曖昧になって助かる。

It sure helps me that the distinction between skinny people (and those like me who aren’t) is vague now that (everyone) is wearing thick clothes.

The Head: かぶる

The things that one may wear on one’s head include hats (帽子), wigs (鬘), helmets (ヘルメット), crowns (冠), etc. As for its Kanji, 被る is not exactly rare, but the word is most often written in ひらがな.

11.  通気性の良い帽子をかぶるのが良いでしょう。
Wearing a breathable hat would be good. 

12.  茨の冠をかぶって天を見上げるイエス・キリストの絵
A painting of Jesus Christ looking up at heaven wearing a crown of thorns

Do you wear your bicycle helmet? 

被る may also be used to refer to covering over the body with something including the head. Great examples of this are blankets/covers (毛布) and futon (布団), which can also be seen used with the verb かける if they are not necessarily draped over the head.  

14. 毛布を被って寝る。
To hide under the blankets and sleep.

15. あのわんこちゃんは毎晩自分で布団をかぶって寝床に入るそうですよ。
That puppy apparently goes to bed every evening by tucking himself in.

Word Note: In Ex. 15, 布団 is either relating the dog bedding to what a person would sleep in or a pet-friendly futon. 

The Waist and Below: 履く・穿く・佩く

Although etymologically all the same word, はく is spelled differently depending on what it is and where you are putting something on your waist or below. 

  • 履く is used for footwear: shoes (靴), boots (長靴), slippers (スリッパ―), etc.
  • 穿く is used for jeans (ズボン), socks (靴下), skirts (スカート), etc.
  • 佩く means “to affix” a sword (太刀) to one’s hip.

Variation Note: Some speakers may alternatively say スカートを着る, but this is not considered standard.

Because neither 穿 nor 佩 are 常用漢字, people often mistakenly substitute 履 for them. In standard publications, however, writing them in ひらがな instead is preferred. 

16. 長靴を履いているととても疲れます。
I get really exhausted from wearing boots.

17. 彼は太刀を佩いて戦場に出る。
He wore his sword and headed to the battlefield. 

18. 勝負は下駄を履くまではわからない。(Set Phrase)
I won’t know how the match will end till I see it through.

Literally: I won’t the (outcome of the) match until I’m home wearing getas. 

19. きょう、長ズボンを穿きたいと思います。
Today, I’d like to wear long pants. 

20.  タイツなのにストッキングを穿いているような見た目が叶うタイツです。
These tights match the appearance of wearing stockings despite being tights.

Word Note: The primary word for “pants” remains ズボン, which dates back to a loanword from French nearly two centuries ago. In recent decades, the fashion industry has tried incorporating newer words like スラックス (slacks), チノパンツ (chinos), ボトムス (lower garments), and even パンツ (pants/undies*). The latter word* may strike British English speakers as meaning “undies,” and in Japanese, that is indeed the meaning it was borrowed for, but due to American influence, the meaning of “pants” has finally taken hold. 

漢字 Note: Perusing through a dictionary will also result in finding the spelling 帯く, which is incredibly rare but is used synonymously with 佩く.

To Cover Over: かける

One of かける’s primary meanings is “to hang/cover over,” and in this sense, it can mean “to wear” things such as glasses (眼鏡), sunglasses (サングラス), aprons (エプロン), showls (ショール), etc. 

21. メガネをかけることでスッキリと見える?
Can you see clearly by wearing glasses?

22. サングラスをかけていると、視線の動きがわからなくなる。
When you are wearing sunglasses, you become unable to read how the glances (of others) are in motion. 

23.  お歯医者さんで治療するとき、エプロンをかけてもらいますよね。
You know how they give you an apron to wear when you’re getting treated at the dentist? 

24. ショールをかけた女性が横になって文庫本を読んでいる。
A woman (there) wearing a shawl is lying down reading a small paperback. 

Accessories: する & つける

Generally speaking, “to wear” accessories is expressed either with する or つける with the former more prevalent in the speech of Tokyoites, but because either may not always be possible depending on the item, it is still important to compare.

~をする OK ~をつける OK
腕時計 (wristwatch) 腕時計 (wristwatch)
 手袋 (gloves) 手袋 (gloves)
 指輪 (ring) 指輪 (ring)
 マフラー (muffler) (usually 巻く) 香水 (perfume/cologne)
 化粧 (make-up)  ピアス (ear/body piercing) 
 イヤホン (earphones) イヤホン (earphones) 
 ゴーグル (goggles) ゴーグル (goggles)
マスク (surgical mask) マスク (surgical mask)
眼鏡 (glasses) (usually かける) ブラジャー (bra)
 サングラス (sunglasses) (also かける) 付け睫 (false eyelashes)
 鎧 (armor)

From this chart, we see that many things can be used with either する or つける, but some must take one over the other. For instance…

化粧をする 〇
化粧をつける X

To put on make-up

香水をする X
香水をつける 〇
To put on perfume/cologne

“Mask” is also a tricky one. マスク usually refers to surgical masks, but it may also refer to face masks like those worn by wrestlers. In that case, マスクをかぶる is best. Theatrical masks (お面) and masks to hide one’s identity (仮面) take either つける or 被る with the latter used if it covers the head from back to front. 

25.  イヤフォンをつけて、電話をしているふりをしながら、ブツブツとハイヤーセルフと対話しているだけだ。

(That guy) is just complaining to (his) higher self while pretending to talk to someone on the phone with (his) earphones. 

26.  ブラジャーを付け忘れるなんて普通ありませんよ、  下心は多少はあったのでしょ!
It’s not normal to forget putting on your bra; (the person) had to have had some sort of ulterior motive! 

27. 偽物のブランド腕時計をしている人について、どう思いますか?
What do you think about people who wear fake-designer wristwatches? 

28. 呼吸器の病気など様々な理由で、マスクをつけると肌に痛みを感じたり、気分が悪くなったり、体に異変を感じたりしてしまう人がいる。
There are people for various reasons such as respiratory illnesses who experience pain in their skin, feel sick, or have bodily abnormalities when wearing a mask.  

29. 必ずゴーグルをして実験してください。
Please always wear goggles when performing an experiment!

Returning back to make-up, certain cosmetic accessories take other verbs. Options shown are listed from most to least frequently used.

  • Lipstick (口紅・リップ): つける・する・ 塗る・引く・さす
  • Chapstick (リップクリーム): つける・塗る・する
  • Lip gloss (リップグロス): つける・塗る・する
  • Foundation (ファンデーション): をつける・する
  • Mascara (マスカラ): つける・する・塗る
  • Eyeliner (アイライン): 入れる

Word Note: 塗る implies “to rub in” and 引く implies “to draw in.” 
Word Note: リップ may also be short for リップクリーム.

Nuance Note: Using する is far more casual than using 付ける or 塗る. 

30. 赤のリップを綺麗に塗れなくて困っています。
I’m having trouble not being able to neatly put on red lipstick.

31.  マスカラをしてからビューラーはやめておいた方がいいんですよ。
It’d be best that you stop using an eyelash curler after having put on mascara. 

Confusingly enough, 身につける is a set phrase meaning “to wear/put on the body” and can in a broader sense be used for anything. In this sense, the item in question is truly being conceptualized as an article/accessory (of clothing). As this phrase can also mean “to acquire knowledge,” it can be specifically spelled as 身に着ける to only mean “to wear.” 

32. ダサい人ってプチプラしか身につけてないけどねw
Lame people only wear cheap, cutesy stuff lol 

漢字 Note: つける is not typically written in Kanji, but when it is, 着ける is preferred as 付ける conjures up a more literally meaning of “to attach,” but it would not be incorrect to use it in this application of “to wear.”

The Hands/Fingers: はめる

We “wear” rings (指輪) on our fingers and we “wear” gloves (手袋) on our hands. For these words, the “to wear” verb that links them together as objects that envelop in a more or less cylindrical fashion is はめる. In either situation, はめる is more so “to put on” rather than “to wear,” but when used with ~ている that becomes irrelevant. 

For both rings and gloves, する may be used instead and is the more common phrasing in the Tokyo area. Another fairly common alternative is つける, which is closer to “to attach (to the body)” in English. In Hokkaido and much of the rest of Northern Japan, the prevailing verb used for gloves is はく.

33.  結婚していなくても、左手(の)薬指に指輪をはめてもいいの?
Is it alright to wear a ring on your left ring finger even if you aren’t married?

34.  唐辛子を刻む時には、肌がひりひりすることがあるのでゴム手袋をつけなさい。
Wear rubber gloves when cutting chili peppers since they may cause your skin to tingle. 

35.  怪我をしないように、安全手袋をしなさい。
Wear safety gloves to prevent injury.

36. 手袋をはきなさい!(方言)

Wear gloves!

はめる can also be used with 手錠 (handcuffs) and 足枷 (shackles). Confusingly, they may also be used with かける or つける. It can also be used with ブレスレット (bracelets), but this is most often used with つける since it is very much an accessory.

37.  警察のように、手錠をはめて逮捕する人たちは、普段から手錠をかける練習とかしてるの?
Do people who arrest people by putting them in handcuffs, like the police, usually practice handcuffing? 


To wear a bracelet with the hope of passing. 

漢字 Note: はめる has various other meanings, and the Kanji spelling 嵌める is generally accepted for most of them, whereas 填める is more specialized and only used in the sense of “to fit/mount into.”

Ties & Belts: 締める, する, つける, 結ぶ

Neckties are rather complicated in both how to wear them and how to express wearing them. 

To put on a tie, you say ネクタイを結ぶ, and to fasten it tightly, you say ネクタイを締める. When paired with ~ている, the latter may also take on the overall meaning of “to wear a tie.” Many people, however, opt to say ネクタイをする instead, and for speakers that are more likely to use つける for accessories, ネクタイをつける is also viable though not common among Tokyoites unless if it is for a clip-on tie. 

39. 先輩にネクタイを結んでもらった。
I had my senpai do my tie for me.

40. 亮太君の締めるネクタイは何故いつも同じなの?
Why is the tie that Ryota-kun wears always the same one?

41.  総理大臣や外務大臣などの服装を見てみるとネクタイをしています。
If you take a look at the attire that the prime minister or the minister of foreign affairs have on, they are wearing ties. 

Belts and seat belts also utilize either 締める and する. 

42. ズボンのベルトを締めすぎているとお腹が圧迫される。
If you wear your pant belt too tight, pressure is put on your abdomen.

43. それでもシートベルトをしない人は、実際かなりの人数いらっしゃいます。
Nevertheless, there is actually a considerable number of people who don’t wear their seat belt. 

Hoist around the Waist: 帯びる

If you know what an 帯 (kimono sash) is, the meaning of 帯びる should not be too difficult to comprehend. This the more common way of saying “to wear a sword” but to also have something hoisted on your waist, which could also be described by the phrase 腰に提げる.

44.  甲冑を身に着けて腰に太刀を帯びる。
To wear one’s armor and helmet and a sword on one’s hip.

Kanji Note: Very rarely, this verb may also be spelled as 佩びる.

Around the Head/Neck: 巻く

The word for “to wear” as in scarves (スカーフ), turbans (ターバン), mufflers (マフラー), headbands (鉢巻), etc. is 巻く, which makes sense given how its overall meaning is “to wind/envelope.” Confusingly, マフラー can also be used with する.

45. 彼女は夏なのにマフラーを巻いている。
She is wearing a muffler even though it is summer.

46. 頭にスカーフを巻いた女性が議会から退場させられた。
A women wearing a scarf on her head was ejected from parliament. 

47. 兄は、「必勝」の鉢巻を巻いている。
My older brother is wearing a headband which reads, “guaranteed to win.”

Word Note: 鉢巻を締める is also possible.

Word Note: For head “scarfs” like hijab, using 被る is also possible.

Words of Embellishment: 装う, 纏う, & 羽織る

The next three words we will look at are all rather fancy words for lack of a better description. 


When 装う is read as よそおう, it means “to wear” as in “to adorn.” It implies that the person is making one’s appearance beautiful. Grammatically unlike all the other verbs in this language, the object 装う typically takes is 身 (the body), which is then adorned “with” said clothing. 

48. 彼女は簪や耳飾りで身を綺麗に装っている。
She has adorned herself beautifully with hairpins and earrings. 

漢字 Note: On rare occasion, you may also see this word spelled as 粧う.


纏う is yet another word for “to wear” and is synonymous with 着る. The difference is that 纏う is rather fancy, akin to the English word “to clad.” Similarly to how we saw 身に着ける earlier, when used together with 身, the particle に is used as seen in Ex. 49 to mark how the object, which is still marked by を, is put onto the body. 

49. 襤褸纏った主人公
The protagonist clad in tattered clothes

50. 純白のウェディングドレスを身に纏った新婦さん
The bride wearing a pure-white wedding dress


As the spelling suggests, 羽織る literally means, “to put on a 羽織,” which is a traditional Japanese formal coat that is worn over the shoulders and lacks buttons. Though this may be visually obvious already, 羽織 derives from 羽織る as its nominal form. 

In addition to this literal interpretation, in a modern sense it may also mean “to slip on (a coat)” and may be used with things like gowns (ガウン), robes (ローブ), cloaks (マント), capes (ケープ), shawls (ショール), coats (上着/ コート), etc. when buttons are not involved – in line with how a 羽織 is worn. 

51.  あのお嬢さんは色とりどりのショールを羽織っている。
That young lady has on a colorful shawl. 

52.  禰豆子は羽織を羽織っているシーンが多い。
There are a lot of scenes where Nezuko is wearing a haori.

Formal Language: 着用する 

着用する is a formal word that encompasses any means of wearing clothing. It is frequently seen in technical wording such as dress codes and the news.

53.  制服を着用せずに私服のまま働くことをよしとする会社も珍しくありません。
Companies who are okay with wearing plain clothes to work instead of wearing one’s uniform are also not rare.  

54.  世界一マスクを着用しているのに、新型コロナの陽性者数は世界最悪・・・
Despite wearing masks the most in the world, positive case numbers for COVID are the worst in the world……

55.  後部座席シートベルトを着用しましょう!
Let’s wear our back seat belt!

The Honorific Verb 召す

It would be remiss of us to not mention how in honorific speech (尊敬語), there is a separate word for “to wear” that encompasses 着る and 履く・穿く. This verb is 召す. In practice, you may find it conjugated as お召しになる or 召される.

Form Speech Level
お召しになるProfoundly Respectful
 召される Highly Respectful
着られる・履かれる・穿かれる等Light Honorifc Speech 

Grammar Note: The “light” honorific speech forms 着られる and 履かれる・穿かれる are meant for typical (semi-) formal situations, but they are simply standard applications of said conjugation. 

56. 寒さが懸念されますので、防寒が可能な服をお召しになってくださいませ。
The cold is concerning, so please wear clothing that can protect you against it.

57. お客様は紺のスーツを召されるとのことでした。(Confirmation)
The customer is to wear a navy-blue suit. 

58. ヒールがある靴を召されたほうが良いかと思います。 
I think it would be best if you wore shoes with heels. 

59. 普段何センチの靴を履かれますか?
What centimeter-sized shoes do you normally wear? 

60.  こちらのお洋服を着られますか?
How about wearing these (Western) clothes?

Warning Note: Many speakers try avoiding 着られる because of how it is homophonous with 切られる・斬られる, but its use is not forbidden because of this. It is just important to make sure that your speech is clear enough to have that be a possible interpretation. 

Word Note: Though 洋服 takes お despite being a Sino-Japanese word, 服 itself neither takes お nor ご. When 服 was borrowed as a Sino-Japanese word, the word 呉服 naturally came about with it. At the time, 服 could also mean “fabric,” and so 呉服 can be literally understood as “fabric from 呉 (Wu China).” In early modern history, Japanese speakers began confusing the word 呉服 for 着物 as it could also be spelled as 御服. Even to this day, you can have kimono specially made at 呉服屋. All this being said, 服 could be viewed as taking ご but not in an honorific sense. 

To Take Off

It is arguably just as important to know how to say “to take off” clothing as it is to know how to say “to wear/put on” clothing. Fortunately, there aren’t nearly as many options for this. The three main verbs for “to take off (clothing)” are 脱ぐ, 外す, and 取る.


脱ぐ is the primary verb for “to take off (clothing)” and can be more accurately translated as “to undress/strip down,” especially when in isolation. 

61. 靴は揃えて脱ぎましょう。
Let’s be sure to take off our shoes in a neat and orderly fashion.

62. 濡れたシャツを脱ぐ。
To remove a wet shirt.

63. ズボンを脱いでからトイレに入る?
Do you enter the bathroom after taking off your pants?

64. 脱いだよ!
I’ve stripped down!


If an article of clothing can be described as being worn with つける, removing it will be expressed with 外す. Another way to view it is that if it is not a primary article but secondary in nature – which accessories are certainly that – you use 外す.

65.  ピアスを外している間も皮脂や汗は溜まるので、毎日のお風呂やシャワーでピアスホールを洗浄するようにしてください。

Even while you have your piercing removed, sebum and sweat will build up, so please make sure you clean the earring hole in your daily bath/shower. 

66. クールビズなのでネクタイを外してください。
We’re doing casual business attire, so please take off your tie. 

67. ねえ、メガネ外してみて。
Hey, try taking off your glasses.


The phrase ものを取る itself means “to remove a thing,” and so “to remove an item of clothing” is an extension of this. It is generally synonymous with 外す, but attention to context may be necessarily at times to disambiguate this meaning from 取る’s other meanings of “to take/to steal, etc.”

68.  運転中にイヤホンをとると急に騒音が大きく驚くほどだったので、ノイキャンは効いてるのだなと感じた。
I really felt that the noise canceling worked because I was surprised by how the noise (around me) was so suddenly loud when I took the earphones out while driving.

69.  腕時計をとったあとの左の手首に痕が残っていた。
There were marks left on (the person’s) left wrist when (they) removed (their) wristwatch.

Exception Note: 帽子を取る is also possible although 帽子を外す is not used. Generally speaking, 帽子を脱ぐ is most common, but when removing one’s hat in a ceremonially way to show respect, 帽子を取る is usually used, making it idiomatic in nature.