In our dojo a student earns the right to wear the hakama when he earns the rank of 3rd Kyu. While some may argue that Ueshiba Morihei O-Sensei insisted that all students wear the hakama, in the western world I think it is wise to require that the student have a certain degree of seriousness and dedication before allowing him to wear the hakama. In a way, I believe O-Sensei’s was implying that all students of Aikido must be serious and dedicated from the moment they decide to begin Aikido. In the western world, I think that would be a bit much to ask. The Japanese culture is not our culture.
So, for me, earning the right to wear the hakama has, in a way, changed my thinking. From the moment I was awarded 3rd Kyu I immediately felt a change in my attitude toward Aikido. I had always been dedicated and diligent in my practice. But now I feel a sense of responsibility.