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Clothing in South Korea

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What type of clothes do people wear in South Korea?

South Koreans are renowned in Asia and abroad for their slick sense of fashion, and with the degree to which appearance is held in Korean society, it’s no surprise. Koreans spend enormous portions of their salaries on makeup, cosmetic surgery, and high-end clothing and accessories. Many travelers agree that there is nowhere to go in their cities without buying something, and if it’s not coffee, it’s probably clothing. South Korea also has a booming textile industry of its own, and much of the clothing manufactured in the country itself can be bought on the cheap (5,000W shirts, 10,000W jeans). However, Koreans place a high value on the quality and brand of their clothing as well. One stark difference between South Korea and the United States, for example, is that you will be hard-pressed to find a Korean who is unshaven, clad in khaki shorts, or looking “Jerseylicious.” The style in Korea is usually refined and conservative, and even urban styles can be distinguished from those outside of Asia by their tendency to “leave things to the imagination.”

For women, the first rule is that your cleavage and, in most places, your shoulders, are to be kept to yourself. The upper part of a women’s body is considered more erotic than the legs, which is why you will see many Korean girls donning sweaters in the summer with notoriously short shorts on the same day. The style is very feminine, and heels are worn any day, anywhere, anytime – even with jeans. You are bound to get stares if you wear anything bearing even a millimeter of cleavage or a top with straps a millimeter wide. Aside from this, patterns and styles are free-range, but absolutely always kept clean and neat.

For men, don’t be surprised if you see other chaps suctioned into “skinny jeans” – the trend is growing for girls as well as guys. Baggy clothing is considered uncivilized, and in any occasion, it is almost impossible to be overdressed. One token accessory that is also growing in popularity is the “man purse” or the “man bag,” usually clutched by businessmen or other city dwellers in lieu of a backpack. In Seoul, designer bags and brand clothing are just about as popular with men as with women.

For either gender, body modification and unnatural hair color are still struggling to break out of their heavily-oppressed shells, but reddish or auburn hues are rapidly becoming popular for both guys and girls.

In the cities, you will see no shortage of Louis Vuitton bags, which South Koreans uphold as a symbol of wealth and necessity to “keep up with the Kims.” Department stores carry all sorts of luxury brands of clothing, perfumes, and cosmetics, and women in their twenties and thirties line-up for hours at a time to purchase luxury bags and goods.

A more modest, cheaper version of high-end style is replicated in clothing and shoe boutiques in college areas, such as near Ewha Women’s University, and Japanese tourists gather in herds at stores in Myeongdong for South Korea’s intensely popular cosmetics brands. South Korea is a huge travel destination for tourists interested in merely shopping and expanding their inventory of the latest style trends in Asia.

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Filed under: Asia, Clothing, South Korea

About the Author:

Tiffany Zappulla is VagabondJourney.com’s Korea correspondent and travel tech reviewer. She pinched pennies throughout college, sacrificing parties, treats, and occasionally even food so she could start traveling to foreign lands. So far she’s toured Scotland, Spain, and Japan (twice) on a budget, and spent three years living in South Korea actively engaged in the culture and lifestyle. Aside from her qualifications in ESL, Tiffany does other freelance writing and odd jobs. She is currently living the broke American life for awhile before deciding on her next adventure. Connect with her on Google+. has written 31 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.