It’s been almost 3 years I have been living in South Korea and with every passing day I realize there is a lot left to know about this nation and its culture. This place has an unexplained air about it. Korea is a nation with a long and deep-rooted cultural history of Confucianism dating back to the 8000 BC roughly. However, modern Korea (South Korea) is a peculiar amalgamation of the past and present. When it comes to fashion the world looks up to the West, so does South Korea. Yet like any other country it has is own way of defining it. Fashion sensibilities of the North Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and certain parts of Northern China are completely different from their South Asian counterparts like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and others. There is a certain unconventional pattern in the appearance, which leaves behind clues from where they could have hailed from. Following few facts are some of the signature looks of Koreans and North Asians, which may lead any other foreigner to be curious.
Lack of creativity with Korean national dress – As I mentioned in my opening lines that Korea is a country with long history. Its traditional dresses too hold a strong place in it. ‘Hanbok’ is a beautiful traditional Korean wear worn both by men and women. Another traditional wear called ‘Hwarot’ worn by women is also very significant. Even at their weddings they choose to wear western style gowns. The use of traditional dresses in daily life can commonly be witnesses on the streets of Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Kyoto unlike South Korea where the use of traditional wear is limited to festivities and tourism areas.
Covering up our upper body – South Korea is a place, which witnesses severe and harsh winters. Thanks to Russia, which passes on its Siberian air. The whole country could be seen in their overcoats, Jackets and fancy gloves, especially Seoul, which is the fashion capital of Korea. During January to April the scene is pretty much similar everywhere. Things appear to be different in late April and May and by the time the calendar page sets on June it’s all about flats, chappals, cute Korean hair buns, flip flops, huge bags and super short shorts. The strange thing is no matter how short their shorts are when it comes to their upper body they suddenly become very conventional. Any average Korean or North Asian women are very reluctant to reveal their shoulders. And there’s no way for a low-neck or deep back top.
Men use bb cream & lip balms – Korean men, especially the youth are very soft spoken and polite in their behavior. Rarely a Korean man could be spotted making eye contact to a stranger without plausible cause. They are almost always very well dressed and accessorized wearing a layer or two of beauty balm creams. I first noticed it during my first year of working at my workplace when one of my male colleagues asked me to come over his workstation to check out a detail in a power point presentation we were working on. While speaking as I took a very close look at his face I saw him wearing thick layers of foundations that was making the natural color of his neckline prominent. I suggest just pick any Korean drama and see it for yourself how men are into heavy make-up giving women serious competition.
Matching couple dresses – Wearing matching couple dresses are more a part of their casual dressing. But this is a very common sight in South Korea to spot young couples wearing top to bottom matching attire and cozying up in cafes.
Artificial collars – Collars are huge within Korea among women and other North Asian countries. Tops, T-shirts, Sleeveless Shirts (rare), Jackets, dress almost everything comes with Collars. Loose collars can also be bought in different garment markets. These come in various kinds, like plain collars, textured collars, textured collars, designer collars with pearls and laces etc.
Skirt-Leggings – Well, I could not find out an exact name for this skirt cum leggings even n the shopping streets. They are everywhere in Seoul. Basically these are a pair of leggings with a short skirt attached to them. These are more popular with high school and college students. Young girls in their late teens and early 20s can be easily spotted wearing them in university areas like the Ehwa Women’s University narrow streets, Yonsei University are cafes etc.
Super tight Skirts – Now this is more corporate or formal dressing. During my two year stint of Working in Seoul and mingling with men and women with all kinds of Client servicing industry I noticed women are very much into Skirts for formal occasions and almost never do they wear trousers or pants. But the skirts worn are so obnoxiously tight and cause tremendous trouble in movement. This concern becomes more evident when Korean people, who just love to eat out, go out for lunch. Though not all, but majority of the Korean restaurants have tradition sitting on floor arrangements. The women just struggle to somehow eat their lunch and stand. Guess they invited the idea of “no gain without any pain” too seriously.
Lace Lace Lace – Korean and Japanese girls have huge fascination with Lace. One of my friends said it is called the “Dating dress” in Korea. They wear it everywhere. Korean wear even pumps made of different designs of Lace during the summer and honestly it is very comfortable with an elegant look. However lace t-shirts, clutches, hairbands and shrugs is a bit too much.