If you've had some knowledge of martial arts before training Brazilian jiu jitsu - even if it's just watching The Karate Kid on repeat in your parents' basement - you're probably familiar with the term "kimono".
One might assume that kimono referred specifically to a martial arts uniform, but in reality, the Japanese word generally translates to "garment", and literally means "something to wear", as "ki" is "to wear" and "mono" is "thing." It's actually a term more often used for the colorful everyday - and ceremonial - garments traditionally worn in Japan. While it's not inaccurate to call the BJJ uniform a kimono, more often than not it's called a "gi". But why??
The term "gi" originated in judo, a derivative of the word “keikogi”, which roughly translates to training gear, as "keiko" means "to practice" and "gi" means "suit"... so basically, jiu jitsu practitioners are training and competing in BJJ suits. If you're lucky enough to find a gi that fits like a finely tailored suit, this isn't far from the truth!
Initially, the kimonos used by Japanese samurai were large and baggy, much like the uniforms worn by Aikido practitioners. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, is credited with transforming the traditional training garment into more of what we see today in modern judo, a kimono made of sturdy woven cotton, with a tighter fit and shorter sleeves. At this time, these keikogis were all white.
As Brazilian jiu jitsu developed, into the mid to late 1900s, the BJJ gi also transformed, becoming even more fitted, with longer sleeves (than the traditional judo gis), and more colors (including blue and black). The spread of jiu jitsu competitions also affected the appearance of the jiu jitsu gi, as competitors would seek out sponsorships to help pay for their athlete lifestyle in exchange for a prime advertising spot on their gi.
Today, there are tons of different jiu jitsu gi brands, each with their own cut and aesthetic style. Most of these gis are made in either Pakistan or China, designed by companies in the U.S., Brazil and Europe, and shipped to nearly every country in the world.