What Is Korean Street Style? A Look Inside This Leading Fashion Destination

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There is no doubt that with the use of Instagram, street style has evolved to become a subculture that doesn’t seem to be diming it lights anytime soon. Not only is street style emerging fast, but South Korea is nearly an incubator for the most inspiring trends and styles. It’s essentially where designers go with a blank canvas, and by hitting the streets of Seoul, they are guaranteed to get more than what they’ve come for. But, how did all of this start, and what exactly is this street style like today?

What would you find if you were to walk the streets of Seoul?

The Birth of Korean Street Style

The country of Korea is completely torn into 2 separate worlds. While North Korea is a command (planned) economy, South Korea is quite different. The mixed economy of South Korea is a mix of free-market principles in addition to central planning by the government. While the history of Korea is long and harsh, the amount of individuals who are using personal style to express themselves is continuously increasing.

Considering South Korea is the world’s 14th largest economy, this influences the culture to dress heavily with top brands inspired by the western world. Although, since the government intervenes with the laws and regulations, there are many brands that are banned (like Supreme) and therefore many Koreans pay high prices for the top brands from resellers.

If they cannot get access to resellers, than the counterfeit market becomes a reality. Although, considering Seoul is the 5th largest economy in the world, the fashion around here really has no price tag. Fashion is a big part of the culture. It’s a level of self expression and it has stronger roots than in the west. After the Korean War, the contemporary movement on fashion started.

From then, until the 1990’s, fashion evolved and more and more as women expressed themselves through fashion and makeup. This was a worldwide movement which brought us to the 1990’s where Korean street style was ironically born. The birth of k-pop (korean pop music) was also the beginning of a highly influenced fashion scene that now still growing in it’s nostalgia. Artists such as Seo Taiji & Boys marked a revolutionary moment in the history of K-pop as they incorporated rap, and other western music types into their music, to shake up the prior censorship and Korean ethics.

This is also known as The Korean Wave (Hallyu).  Although, not only K-pop influenced Korean Street Style, pop culture plays a big role as well, including Korean movies and activities, such as the ever-so popular Karaoke. Since there is a lot of hierarchy in Korea, and looks are very important, the Korean Wave influenced many individuals to strike a statement dressing in correlation to Korean Pop Culture, and shying away from traditional, conservative dress. Although it’s strongly influenced, this means that the trends also change fast.

What Korean Street Style Is Composed Of

After studying the trends from Fashion Week in Seoul 2019, we’ve compiled the top trends that stood out to us, and more-so were a form of self-expression. From girly to edgy, to colorful and monochrome, Seoul really does have it all – everything except for the expected. So, without further ado, here’s some trends you’ll find when you take a look inside Seoul’s Fashion Week:

The “Cutie Look”

A cross between school boy / school girl innocent, meets a proper and powerful pantsuit, completely hitting the put-together look. The key to making this look current is wearing pants with a hemline that just shows your ankles. Forget what your mom and dad say about your about your pant legs fitting proportionately with your shoe. Instead, it’s become fashionable to have a high hemline and let your ankles show as much as possible. And yes, this means throwing away those dress socks as well.

Non-Neutral Monochrome

We probably don’t have to tell you that monochrome looks are in style, and it seems like they will stay. Although, what we’ve learned from Seoul’s Fashion Week is that monochrome works for any color except  neutral colors in South Korea. Dressing in neon orange from head-to-toe or a cherry red says more of a statement rather than that beige suit that you can wear nearly everywhere.

The street style is all about standing out, and avoiding blending in and conforming.

Comfort Is Key

With the influence of athleisure from the west, a relaxed fit and cut off clothing is more than acceptable in regards to Korean Street Style. The 90’s nostalgia is predominant here, as cut off pants, graphic tees, big sneakers and oversized hoodies make up the look of this style. Although, it’s not just your average Levis t-shirt and boyfriend jeans. Instead, graphics on the back of hoodies fastened with safety pins creates a “grunge” look, in addition to the comeback of nylon jumpers. Although, of course, not your average nylon jumper. These have be redesigned to mix prints, cuts and thickness of materials to become even more unique.

Prints That Leave An Imprint

In the west, it’s a daring style-statement to mix prints. Although, with Korean Street Style, it’s nearly become a normality. Not only are the prints in this street style a statement themselves, there is no fear in mixing them. The prints seen the most are graphic prints that are truly unique, such as the wifi symbol or other geometric shapes. The classics, such as plaid and leopard print are still prominent, although you can even go the extra mile and mix two different types of these prints. And, although neon isn’t a print, it’s definitely a staple in this type of style.

No More Traditional Seams

Clothing that is sewn together with the traditional seams doesn’t seem to excite this crowd. Instead, ribbons of colours, straps, laces, rope, string and safety pins are the new way to show a little extra style. Laced-up dresses, pants, hoodies, etc. are statement styles that accentuate a unique cut of the traditional garment. With this street style – the more creative the style is, the louder the statement is made.

Functional Accessories

From bucket hats to fanny packs, accessories that are actually useful are coming into style. Bucket hats take the trend of nylon, and are becoming more and more popular, especially the typical “Supreme” branded hat. Fanny packs have taken then runways by storm all over the world, including fanny packs that double as belts, or belts with a clip-on pouch. This trend is also equally as popular to men as women, considering unisex dressing is a commonality in South Korea.


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