Korean Fashion Follies
I sleep very little. I am just one of those people who has too much on their mind and it’s hard to shut it down for more than a few hours. I would say I average about 4-5 hours a night. However, that doesn’t mean I am never tired. the two linchpins (you can have TWO linchpins?!? That’s, like, twice as safe!) to my sleep-deprived momentum are my morning run and the I.V. of coffee I plug into my forearm and drag around with me throughout the day. Almost everyday I drag myself out of bed, throw on my shorts and a tank top, then stumble out the door to run down by the river. Little did I know when I moved to Korea, that I would be breaking the cardinal rule of fashion and decency in Korea during my daily runs: You cannot show your shoulders.
On one of the first morning jogs I took in Korea, I kept receiving all these strange looks and glances. These were not the “Oh, there is a white guy” look that I have become accustomed to through my travels, but more of a “How could he go out into public dressed that way” look. Confused and slightly perturbed, I decided to get to the bottom of Korean Clothing Law:
In the beginning, I just observed what I saw around me. From what I have gathered, showing shoulders and/or chests is an extreme faux pas in Korea. However, I also noticed that there are no guidelines for how high/short your shorts can go. The song clearly asks, “Who loves short-shorts?” The answer is a resounding, “Korea loves short-shorts” (You may keep singing at this point if you would like). Think of the shortest shorts you have ever seen, now cut those in half, that is what you are likely to find on a Friday night at the bar. The observation portion was complete, I decided to research. The possible history of Korean clothing, or “klothing” as I will now call it, began like this:
Entirely Partially Truthful and Completely Not-at-all Accurate History of Sleeves in Korea.
Korean’s culture is a vast and deeply unique one, but what is the FIRST thing that comes to your mind when you think about Korea? Yup, Kimchi, I read your thoughts…through the internet. Much like Kimchi, all of Korean food is made spicy/hot. Now, Korea is also a big fan of recycling. Trash is all regulated through different color bags. All burnable waste is placed in green bags and recyclables are placed in whatever color you want (that isn’t green). Because the Korean people value a low-pollution rate of garbage, they do not provide you with toilet paper in restrooms, kleenex, or wooden chopsticks at restaurants (true story). Now, when eating food, such as Kimchi, at a restaurant with your friends, you might notive that you nose has began to drip due to the spiciness. It’s completely rude to blow your nose at the table, but what other option is there? That’s right, you wipe your nose on your sleeve…what? You don’t have sleeves? You are wearing a tank top? How dare you tread on thousands of years of spicy-food traditions!…Now you are getting it. Ok, well, now that I ranted and
completely mostly BS’d my way through that baffling piece of Korean culture, let’s look at my students’ work.
Adventures in Konglish:
When a student’s homework prompt says something along the lines of, “We have been studying about heroes from myths and legends. Please draw your own hero and then tell why they have the powers they do,” and the student writes “Invisible Kid”…THAT is the student you need to keep your eye on because he is too smart for his own good. He didn’t write why the hero had that ability, but I assume he would have wrote something like, “He has the power of invisibility so that he can help me overcome the internal conflict that I constantly have with doing my homework properly or playing video games all night.”
The above picture was an assignment where the student was suppose to write a poem that Sacagawea might of written when she was reunited with her family. It fully reads (Please read with the voice of George Takei): “Hey gays! What are you doing? Who is Sacagawea? Is she okay? I want to watch Sacagawea. Can I meet you? I want to watch you. Bye bye and see you later!” I’ve never really been much for poetry until now, but I think that this is really avant-garde and I look forward to future submissions.
A guy who lets his shoulders show when he runs…who also writes a blog.