Korean men have never had the chance to freely wear shorts.
As children, they wear what their mothers give them. Entering junior high school, around the time they have a yearning to look cool, they wear school uniforms. Shorts are not allowed during the scorching summer. They wear long school uniform pants for six years until they graduate from high school.
In college, their clothes are often mixed and matched to reflect the preferences of caring girlfriends. When they get married, their wives do the job. When they get older, saleswomen tell them what to mix and match.
Korean women have multiple options when they choose what to wear at work. For the most part, men’s choices are limited to ties and dress shoes, which means there is a good chance of Korean men becoming fashion disasters.
Most recently, men’s sense of fashion was put to the test with a recent announcement by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. To save electricity, Mayor Park Won-soon recommended shorts for public servants who do not interact with the public in their jobs. Jackets are forbidden from May to September and the city also said it will encourage 25 other district offices and even private companies to join the so-called “Super Cool Biz” campaign.
In fact, the campaign has been around for many years, but a failure for most of them. For example, shorts and sandals were allowed for public servants in Daegu in 2008, but the campaign fizzled within a year perhaps because fashion-deprived men couldn’t figure out how to adapt shorts and sandals to the workplace, even though they are ubiquitous outside the office in the summer.
On the first day of the “Super Cool Biz” campaign earlier this month, more than a few public employees got an “F” in fashion when they looked like they were heading for a hike in the mountains rather than to City Hall.
For those who want to stay cool with regard to temperature and style but don’t know how to handle shorts, the JoongAng Ilbo offers a few suggestions, with the help of stylist Yun In-young.
The long and short of it
Shorts have gotten shorter. In the past, shorts for men typically hit the knees, but the latest trend reflects a rise of sorts for Bermuda shorts. As the name suggests, the shorts come from the island of Bermuda, which is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Since the island is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, its weather is balmy throughout the year. When Bermuda shorts are complemented with a jacket and long socks, the look is considered almost like a suit in many Western countries.
When wearing a jacket and shorts, there is one important rule: Oxford shoes and knee-length socks go together. If shoes have pointy toes, do not wear them with Bermuda shorts. The color of socks should be similar to that of the jacket. If the jacket color is difficult to match, you can’t go wrong with dark brown or burgundy socks.
When you want to accent your look with socks, pick socks with daring patterns. Soft cotton or linen jackets will give you a laid-back look.
The semi-suit look with Bermuda shorts requires knee-length socks, but that might be too much for Korean men. If so, then wear ankle socks and loafers or sneakers for a sophisticated shorts look.
Strike a balance
Experts say this year’s shorts look is inspired by the London Olympics because shorts are one of the most active fashion items this year, said Hong In-su, a professor of ESMOD Seoul, a global fashion school.
But one should avoid looking like an athlete by picking the right jacket or blazer with the right fabric. If one’s wearing a glossy windbreaker jacket, then the inner top and shorts should be cotton.
Avoid sandals or flip-flops for the same reason. When matched with shorts, the result is a look that is more holiday than cool biz. If you stick to conservative looks, wear similar colors of shorts, top and shoes, and accent with a different color cardigan or jacket. Some trendy colors are orange, grass-green and light sky.
Cool biz craze
Regardless of the Seoul’s city campaign, the cool biz look has been around for a couple of years. The Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo has been promoting its cool biz look with lighter materials for men and women.
“It’s a bit early to collect cool biz sales data but we’re promoting the look by sending coupons via social networking services and they are getting rave reviews from customers,” said an official from Uniqlo Korea.
Other brands for men also are jump ing on the bandwagon by launching clothes with cool materials. Maestro Casual, one of the brands owned by LG Fashion, has tripled production of some of its clothes with seersucker fabric, which is cooler than linen. Manstar by FnC Kolon also launched seersucker lines for those who can’t give up style but want to stay cool. Summer jackets without shoulder pads also have been launched by Cheil Industries for the summer season.
By Kang Seung-min, Sung So-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]