A hanbok is traditional Korean attire that is worn on special occasions. Children will wear a hanbok on their first birthday, and adults will wear it at their wedding, 60th birthday, funerals, festive days, and religious ceremonies.
For a woman a hanbok consists of a high-waisted skirt, and a long-sleeved bolero style jacket. She would wear traditional footwear called hwahye, also called flower shoes because of their likeness to flower petals. Women who were not married would wear their hair in a long braid with a ribbon attached. Married women would wear their hair in a bun held together by a decorative pin called binyeo. A binyeo could be made from wood, bronze, silver, gold, jade, bamboo, or animal bones.
For a man a hanbok consists of a large overcoat with the sleeves being longer than a woman’s jeogori. Pants are worn underneath, and are roomy to make sitting comfortable. White socks are worn with kkotsin shoes. The hair would be held together with a headband called manggeon, and a hat made of horse hair.
The reason hanboks have come back in style among young South Koreans is because of social media. The hashtag hanbok has many posts on Twitter and Instagram. On Instagram there are 163,828 posts of young men and women displaying their own beautiful hanboks.
“I saw lots of photos of my friends in hanbok posted on social media sites. I thought it would be cool to do the same. Photos last forever,” said 20-year-old university student Cho In-ho.
“I saw a lot of my friends uploading their pictures wearing hanbok and it seemed really interesting. I thought hanbok could only be worn during just a few days of traditional holidays, but it was interesting that it could also be worn in our daily lives,” said Kim Min-ji, a 14-year-old middle school student.
Hanboks have also taken over the fashion world. Prominent fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, designed a 2015 cruise collection for Chanel that was inspired by clothing from the Chosun dynasty.
When Lagerfeld was asked where the inspiration came from, he said that he “loved traditional Korean clothes, materials and patterns.”
Since 2014 sales of hanboks have grown online. The Chosun Ilbo has reported that sales have grown 30 per cent in 2014, and 21 per cent in 2015. The largest sales of hanboks have been with men jumping to 78 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
Dolsilnai is South Korea’s biggest casual hanbok store. The owner, Kim Nam Hee, admitted that young people never came in, but now because of high demand they created a new line targeted at young people. Sales have risen 2.5 times over in the last three years, with sales expected to triple this year.
To modernize hanboks, stores like Dolsilnai are making clothes machine washable, less bulky, slimming the pants, shortening the skirt, and using different patterns and embroidery.
Li Xiangu-yu, who works for the Seoul-based Chinese tour company HZ Travel, has seen an increase in the amount of inquiries from her customers about hanboks. HZ Travel would like to have an official “Hanbok Day” where younger generations can learn about the history of the Korean cultural dress, and its significance throughout history.
“It should serve as a chance for them to learn the tradition, not just enjoy it as one-off fun,” Li said.