Korean Fashion: The “Casual” Look

He... what the hell..

One word of warning though, just because you see a celebrity wearing something doesn’t mean that it’s okay to wear. Some things I see on TV… I wonder who picks out the clothes for these people and so do others. Korea is all about setting trends and celebrities here are constantly trying to do so. Take this douche for example.

He looks like a douche to me at least, but don’t wear this out in public. You’d get looks back home if you tried and you will here as well. At least not good looks, at least not from me. I’m not a pro at fashion but I get by without looking like a foreigner so whether you take my advice is up to you but please, for the love of God don’t dress like this.

One of the hardest things to get used to here in Korea is fashion. What we’re used to in our home countries isn’t always what’s normal here. The urban and surfer dude look are slowly getting trendy in Korea but seeing as how the urban environment here differs from other countries and most Koreans don’t live by the beach… you get my drift. So here’s part one of an ongoing series aimed towards getting foreigners used to the fashion out here in Korea. The easiest way to start dressing “Korean” is to pick the point closest to what you’re used to and start there. And that’s where we’ll begin.

Let’s start off with the most basic and (in my opinion) the most important look : The Casual Look.

While casual in the states or other countries means tees and comfortable pants (sometimes sweatpants), Korea’s casual is geared more towards formal casual wear. Usually made up of a button-up shirt and khakis, this “look” is appropriate for most social occasions like heading out with friends or going out on a date.

Decent suit, just remember not to touch your lips all the time while walking around. You'll look like a douche.

A button-up that can be either a dress shirt or a toned down version (either short-sleeved or long-sleeved) that you can find in most stores (button-ups you find in sections other than the suit section work fine).

  • For newcomers, I’d suggest flat colors like light blue, white or some shades of gray. Once you get further along and get more of a grasp of Korean fashion you can go for shirts that have stripes or that have some sort of design on them.

Depending on the type of shirt you wear, you want either a more casual pair of jeans (for nicer dress shirts) or a khakis (for toned down shirts) to balance out your look. At no point should any of your clothes hang off your body too much. If you can move around without stretching out your pants that’s perfect. Baggy isn’t what you want here, aim for what you would wear to a job interview, then adjust for comfort.

And that’s the basic look. A dress shirt and a nice pair of jeans or a toned down dress shirt and a pair of khakis. You can accessorize the look of course as you please, but be careful that you don’t lean too far to the casual or the dressy side.

A leather strap on your wrist is getting trendier, you don’t see it much in public but it is something that people are starting to pay more attention to. This does make your look a bit more casual but it won’t offset anything.

A tie is a little bit harder to balance, usually it’s skinny tie or no tie. And try to wear it with matching jeans, wearing it with khakis offsets the feel and makes you look like you’re going to work. Don’t try too hard, if anything start out with the basics and try on a tie and if it looks iffy take it off. Ties aren’t worn often unless you go to really trendy areas or hang out with rich friends (maybe?). Take it slow.

A vest is always nice as long as it fits in with what you’re wearing.Usually these go along with a scarf or hat, but don’t feel the need to overwhelm your shirt and pants.

It’s not difficult to get your hands on these clothes, every mall in Korea usually has a floor or set of stores dedicated to “Casual clothes”. For women this is usually dressier than you would prefer while for men the clothes are bit more toned down.

Obviously with the summer heat and humidity on the rise here, most people dressing in this sort of casual has adopted it for short sleeves and shorts (or a pair capris). Just make sure that you don’t over dress or make the outfit too casual otherwise you’ll end up with a completely different style of dress. While that might be okay too, this is just to get the Korean form of “casual dress” down. After you’ve got a decent grasp of how to dress, feel free to change the details however you want.

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