Ninjas have a mysterious aura around them. Everyone knows that they were skilled in martial arts and that they could disappear into the night without a trace. It’s perhaps because of this idea that many people assume ninjas were covered in black.
Ninjas did not wear black when out on missions. They needed to blend in with the crowds and their environment. Black garments would have drawn too much attention for them to operate unnoticed.
This article will explore the world of ninja clothing and gear to find out what these legendary warriors wore on their secretive missions. The answer isn’t as straightforward as fiction portrays it.
What Clothes Did Ninjas Traditionally Wear?
Ninjas wore the clothes that were best suited to the situation they would be operating in. The clothing choices were varied and would prioritize blending in with the crowd and their environment. It makes more sense to dress inconspicuously so they can operate without detection.
Contrary to popular belief, ninjas did not always wear black clothing. This common misconception is due to the media’s portrayal of these spy-masters. The black costume may have originated from traditional Japanese dance theater known as Kabuki and popularized in the west due to their portrayal in Hollywood. 
In reality, there was a lot of flexibility in ninja clothing. There were many different types of clothes that ninjas could wear, and they often chose outfits that would blend in with their surroundings. For example, if they were operating in a forest, they might wear green or brown clothes to camouflage them well.
There’s no evidence to outright deny that ninjas ever wore black. However, we can assume that the opportunity didn’t come up very often. Even in the black of night, there would be better options to blend in amongst the crowd and patrolling guards.
Ninjas could use different materials to make their clothing. Some materials were better at hiding them in the dark, while others provided better insulation or protection from weapons. Their clothing was more similar to what samurai wore. Many of the ninjas we know of are depicted wearing these types of garments.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive proof of what ninjas wore. Much like their secretive nature, this has remained a minor mystery.
Why Didn’t Ninjas Wear Black?
While there’s no absolute answer to the question of what they typically wore, it seems likely that they would pick whatever would best help them achieve their objectives undetected.  Their missions were dangerous, and it was common for ninjas to face incredible odds.
This is why their choice of clothing was so important. Shinobi—another word for ninja—literally translates to ‘to conceal,’ which is what ninjas did best.
Ninjas didn’t wear black because wearing black from head to toe would make them stick out, no matter where they were. It wouldn’t have helped them conceal themselves against the environment.
A ninja was much more likely to look like a townsperson, a farmhand, or one of the guardsmen. This was how they would penetrate defenses: blending in with the crowd and environment, not by covering their body in fabric.
What Did Ninjas Wear on Their Heads?
Ninjas would wear whatever the situation required—headgear could attract unwanted attention. A ninja would stick out in a busy street if they wore a hood and a mask. In order to blend in, they would wear the same headgear as the locals, if any.
Ninjas didn’t wear anything on their heads unless it would help them blend in. Ninjas are often depicted wearing zukin, which is a hood that covers their heads, paired with fukumen, which would cover their faces. However, this attire would have attracted unwanted attention.
The zukin hood and fukumen mask were designed to conceal the ninja’s identity and keep them from being recognized. It also protected their face from the elements. The zukin and fukumen also helped create an air of mystery around these elusive warriors by obscuring their features.
Interestingly, there is no evidence that ninjas ever actually wore these items in real life. The image of the zukin-wearing ninja was popularized by Hollywood movies, which is likely where the idea came from.
For a ninja going on a mission, they would select their headgear to match the details of their quest. If they were heading into a heavily guarded castle, wearing a fukumen mask or headband would draw attention to them. It would make them stick out, which is the opposite of what a ninja wants to do.
Did Ninjas Ever Wear Blue?
Ninjas would have worn dark blue instead of black if they had a mission during the nighttime. This would be much more successful in concealing them as black would still be too obvious even in the dark.
One of the most iconic images of a ninja is a figure clad in all black, moving silently through the night. However, this is not the only color that ninjas have been associated with.
Some historical records show that ninjas actually wore blue clothing much more commonly than black.  They would likely wear this color when operating in areas where there was a lot of snow, as the blue would help them blend in with their surroundings.
At night the sky is a shade of dark blue, so if a ninja was on a nighttime mission, they would have found it more beneficial to wear dark blue clothing. This will give them much less visibility after dark.
Ninjas Wearing Other Colors
Black is not as camouflaging at night as people may believe. It’s a color that rarely occurs in nature and would only be unnoticeable in the absence of light. Even in the nighttime, there is plenty of light—for example, fire or moonlight.
If a ninja was operating in rural or forest areas, they might elect to wear earthy colors such as green or brown—similar to the camouflage uniform modern soldiers wear. These colors would help them blend in with the ground and trees.
Ninjas were stealthy warriors who dressed in a way that would help them conceal their identity and blend in with their surroundings. They would wear whatever was necessary for the specific mission, be it workwear, formal attire, or guard gear. If they wanted to camouflage, they would have chosen shades of green or blue.