From Blackpink to K-drama actresses, everyone’s wearing the modern Korean Hanbok! Here’s where you can get one for yourself and how to style it right!
The South Korean traditional attire ‘hanbok’, also called Chosŏn-ot in South Korea, quite literally translates to ‘Korean clothing’.
They are vibrant and colorful outfits, which are worn by Koreans on formal as well as semi-formal occasions.
Like any motif of tradition and culture, the hanbok has been interpreted and reinterpreted over the years.
Its history can be dated back to the Three Kingdoms period in Korea which fell somewhere between the 1st century BC and 7th century AD.
Related: Korean Fashion Style Guide
In fact, come the twentieth century, the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism introduced a Hanbok Day in 1996, to encourage citizens to wear traditional attire and to spread awareness about Korean culture.
Today, the hanbok is widely rented and purchased by locals and tourists alike, to take photographs in and to add their own twist to it.
The hanbok instantly grabs your attention, with its tulip skirt and short jacket mostly sported in block prints.
This outfit is now becoming increasingly popular, with a contemporary twist – the modern hanbok.
Let’s first take a quick walk down history lane.
Hanboks are first believed to have been used by the Gogura dynasty and were more towards the comfortable side.
To make activity and movement easy, the hanbok consisted of breathable bottoms and a short jacket.
However, by the end of the Joseon dynasty, hanboks became more of a cultural marker, being worn only on important occasions, celebrations, and festivities.
The term ‘hanbok’ refers to the attire of both men and women. Both versions include an upper garment, called the jeogori, which is either a top in the case of a woman or a shirt in the case of a man. The jeogori is usually short or cropped for women, and long in length for men.
The bottom half of the garment is called chima for women, which is usually an all-encompassing, wide-length, tulip cut, full-length skirt.
The male version called baji, on the other hand, are loose-fitting pants that end at the ankles.
The male hanbok, through history, has seen little to no change over the years. The female version, especially the jeogori, saw huge alterations throughout the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.
The size of the jeogori shrunk drastically from the same as that of the male version to a short underbust length blouse, and at one point, even a version that was breast-bearing short!
The modern jeogori for a woman has now reverted back to a cropped top style length, and the rest of the hanbok has remained largely unchanged.
Modern Korean Hanbok
Traditions have been evolving, and with it, so have the cultures and practices in South Korea.
While the hanbok was initially a garment meant to be worn to special occasions, the youth have reinterpreted it to be more casual wear as well.
Hence the modern hanbok, now also called daily hanbok, is the latest version of the national costume, interweaving through changes in society, politics, and gender.
Due credit needs to be given to pop culture. In the music video for How You Like It, for example, BLACKPINK wore the modern hanbok in one of the dance sequences.
Brightly colored and chic, this representation of pop artists in hanboks created a wave of fans, followers, and general fashion enthusiasts to try their own hand at interpreting the traditional wear.
Today, the hanbok serves a dual look, a dual purpose. It continues to be worn for traditional occasions and weddings, in a manner that has been confirmed to over the years.
In such a case, rules and customs are maintained, and the hanboks are worn with care, pride, and a sense of profound cultural identity.
The hanboks, however, also work with sneakers, joggers, and jumpers. The jeogori, Chima, and baji are mixed and matched with jeans, jackets, and sweaters.
Where can you buy modern Hanboks – brands to shop online
Headed by designer Hwang Lee-sle and started in 2014, this brand aims to make hanbok fashion accessible and unmistakable.
Based in Jeonju, but shipping all over Korea, Leesle is a leading modern hanbok line which even got featured in Vogue Magazine.
They have a wide range of options which include both traditional and contemporary interpretations of the attire.
With a variety of textile, design and materials to pick from, Leesle really brings out the best of modern hanbok culture – comfort and versatility.
They also have seasonal collections for both men and women, which are consistent with the colors, looks, and trends of the quarter.
Leesle has been worn by K-pop artists including BTS’s Jimin, SHINee’s Taemin, and Wanna One’s Lai Kuan-lin.
One of the most happening fashion labels for modern hanboks, Danha Seoul was founded in 2018 and is all over the internet today.
What makes this brand stand out is the fact that they are eco-friendly; they only use organic and recycled fabric.
Further, there are promoters of local practices as they use traditional Korean drafting methods to minimize fabric wastage.
Their line is usually recognizable from their floral and pastel prints and color palette, which tend to have an avant-garde aesthetic to them.
Of course, they also have a wardrobe catering to the nude and muted shades, given their popularity in recent times.
And the best part? They sell adorable little hanboks for kids!
Danha Seoul pieces are abundant in BLACKPINK, where both Rosé and Jennie wear blouses from their Summer Collection in one of the music videos.
Kkot Gureum is well known for customized pieces which are doing really well in social media circles!
She is especially known for her gorgeous skirts and dresses which are a more elegant version of the modern hanbok.
Her prices are quite reasonable, and ideal for those looking for a quaint feminine fit.
As the name suggests, Daily Han works towards making modern hanbok more accessible to the quotidian lifestyle.
They actively campaign to achieve this, showing laymen and models wearing hanboks and performing everyday tasks, or even pairing hanboks with other casual clothing.
They have a range of short-sleeved jeogori which are made from lightweight fabric, which is perfect during the warm seasons.
A prestigious and widely acknowledged brand, Heo Sarang has worked with stage outfits for even Kpop bands and artists.
Their knack for classy interpretation and styling of the modern hanbok stands out. And to keep with the times, they have fits that are feminine, masculine, as well as gender fluid ones.
Modern Korean Hanbok on Amazon
Surprise, surprise! You can even find a stylish modern Koreran Hanbok on Amazon.com. Just look at the one below!
Modern Korean Hanbok: Appropriation or Appreciation
A long-drawn debate, the crux of which is in people questioning if it is right to transcend the traditional customs to the extent as evident today when it comes to the evolution of hanboks as daily wear.
It does feel a lot more like genuine appreciation and pride in the Korean costume, than appropriation.
Modern hanboks are, for youths who feel separated from a time when it was used traditionally, merely a way of embracing their culture in the way they understand.
And what’s more, we cannot deny the sheer beauty and uniqueness of hanboks, be it traditional or modern.
Styling a Modern Hanbok
An absolute hit among young influencers and fashion icons, the modern hanbok is especially prevalent in the K-pop scene.
Surprisingly versatile, hanboks can now be spotted at weekend brunches, weddings, parties, and garden strolls.
Celebrities have actually started promoting Korean small businesses by virtue of wearing and styling hanboks.
This is not only a great way to support local and homegrown brands, but it also does wonders to revive traditional Korean culture.
There are innumerable variations of the hanbok today, and more fits to be tried and discovered as we speak.
Skirts and dresses now come in all lengths and sizes, and there is also variety in the style of the sleeves on the jeogori tops. The blouse can be tucked in for a clean look or can be left out for a casual laid back one.
When it comes to tulip skirts, you can pair them with a long sheer skirt, or wear it as a conventional two-piece set.
Most importantly, remember that there is no right or wrong way to wear the modern hanbok; it is an enjoyable, comfortable, and chic way to honor and appreciate the Korean clothing culture.
The modern hanbok can be found in a host of different colors, patterns, and designs, with contemporary elements and accessories (like belts and whatnot).
There is something for everyone, every size, every gender. It is fluid like the society, molding itself to the person wearing it.
Apart from this, there are options that go beyond the traditional textile. There are options in lace and linen for shorts and shirts. There are co-ord sets and matching sets for couples.
So there’s a lot of variety that you can create with a modern Hanbok!