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Textbook says はく is for stuff you wear below your waist (ジーンズをはいている) and きる for stuff you wear above your waist (T-シャツをきています). But checking for 着る on www.tangorin.com I find 着る defined as to wear (in modern Japanese, from the shoulders down); to put on. Does this mean I can just discard はく and use きる for everything shoulders down?

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The difference has to do with how the clothing is put on.

[着]{き}る is for clothing that's hung from your shoulders, such as a shirt or jacket. It's also used for whole-body outfits, or any combination of clothes that includes something worn this way (eg Tシャツとジーンズを着る, even though only Tシャツ is valid with 着る).

[履]{は}く is for clothing that's pulled up from below, such as pants or shoes. (Don't mix this up with 吐く, which is a totally different verb.)

[被]{かぶ}る is for clothing that's placed on top of your head, such as a hat.

つける is for small accessories like rings and earrings, that are more attached than placed or hung.

Sometimes more than one is valid - masks, for example, seem to fall inbetween 被る and つける, and so you can use either one.

(thanks to Darius Jahandarie for some extra info)

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    And かける (usually with no kanji) for glasses!
    – isayamag
    Nov 23 '14 at 22:24
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    Great way of breaking it out. Some thoughts: (1) 「仮面をつける」 and 「仮面をかぶる」 both work. (2) full outfits seem to use 「〜を着る」: 「Tシャツとジーンズを着る」「水着を着る」「熊のコスチュームを着る」 Nov 23 '14 at 22:28
  • @DariusJahandarie Thanks for the additions, updating to include!
    – Sjiveru
    Nov 24 '14 at 1:46
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    Some things are also はめるed, such as wristwatches. Nov 24 '14 at 21:29
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着る is for part on the upper body(but not everything, so is write from shoulder down, like put the cap 帽子{ぼうし}を被る{かぶる} put glasses メガネをかける) and for one piece like kimono 着物{きもの} 水着{みずぎ} ecc. ecc.

はく is from the ankle to the tip of the toe (lower body included shoes).

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