Style Out There : Matchy Matchy Couples Fashion in South Korea-
“Even when we say nothing our clothes are talking noisily to everyone who sees us.”
- Alison Lurie (The Language of Clothes)
Matchy Matchy Fashion. Seoul, South Korea - How does matching outfits make you feel more connected?
Day 9 & 10 -
“Matchy Matchy” fashion or the coordinated couples look was made popular in the 90’s by TV stars who liked to sport similar outfits. But now its back, and stronger than ever! Whether it is a statement piece like identical converse or a pair of printed pants, his and hers versions of the same look or even literally matching head to toe, the craze in Seoul is everywhere. But why has this fashion peaked South Koreans interest? Our mode of dress is our personal advertising, a calling card signaling who we are and where we are at. What does their choice for matching outfits say about them as a couple?
Couples culture is huge in South Korea. Called keo-peul-look or “couple look, it has spawned a small but growing industry varying from online couples clothing, selling an endless array of identical his and hers outfits. Couples swimsuits, couples snow boarding suits, couples sweaters and t shirts…The list goes on. To newspapers and magazine who pump out fashion spreads and articles on how to get the best couples look with each new seasons trends.
Unlike anniversaries in western society, where we tend to mark dates per annum. In South Korea anniversaries are celebrated every 100 days. Its also not surprising for a couple to gift to one another rings to celebrate each hundred day milestone.
Taking it one step further, Valentines day is a worldly known romantic day in any ones relationship. However, the Koreans don't stop there. The more commonly observed days are Valentines Day on February 14th, White Day on March 14th and then Black Day on April 15th. Black Day is a day more for singles. Its customary to eat a big bowl of black bean noodles and wear black head to toe to signify your single status. Only the more hard core couples keep going after these three. Other dates all celebrated on the 14th of each month include, Rose Day, Photo Day, Wine Day, Movie Day.
It appears that couples culture in South Korea is a clear declaration to the world that “you’re mine!”
I had the opportunity to talk to three couples with contrasting opinions on the subject. JI and Un Jung, like to match clothing but still want to keep their personal style aesthetic. As lovers of vintage fashion they chose to wear similar clothes but tend to coordinate looks rather than match identically.
Su Min and Nick enjoy the activity of shopping for complimentary clothes and have no problem literally matching every aspect of their ensemble. Where as, Sara and Gun are very anti the couples look. Although they expressed a disinterest in the practice of pairing clothes, it wasn't hard to notice that they ironically were wearing coordinated outfits. Sara explained that despite a mutual lack of interest for the craze, they agreed that for special occasions (for example, filming with us today) matching each other displayed a unity between them. Fashion played a role in constructing, sculpting and expressing a collective identity. It visually informed us with no need for words, that these two people were bonded. It was a commitment through clothing.
The story was pretty similar for the numerous couples who i spotted whilst walking the streets of Seoul. I was told that it was a display of their love and affection and demonstrated a closeness between the partners.
The matchy matchy look was everywhere. Couples accessorized with a few key pieces, through color or in print, and some chose to entirely match from top to bottom. I even scouted a few best friends dressed as twosomes, who coined it the “twin look”. Initially it seemed to me as though this was a fashion that was followed very much so for the approval of others, as a statement or marking that these duos were involved. Interestingly, Nick and Su Min informed me that for one year of their relationship they had been long distance, Texas to Seoul, and yet still decided to continue matching. Nick explained that this was something that they did for themselves. He likened it to that of a sports team who wear matching uniforms. It gave them a sense of unity, even though they were miles apart.
Sara, who frowned upon the matchy matchy appearance offered a fascinating insight as to why people might chose to do it. Public displays of affection, or PDAs aren’t as commonly accepted in Korea as they are in other parts of the world. Albeit that the younger generations mentality is slowly changing. Many Koreans still regard kissing in public as taboo out of respect for their elders. She explained that holding hands, linking arms or a simple peck on the cheek can be tolerated but couples should refrain from open mouth kissing, and in some cases even hugging!
Perhaps then this couples culture for matching outfits has grown out of an overall absence of public displays of affection in Korean society. It has become a kind of substitute for the lack of kissing and hugs which would normally demonstrate an intimacy with your partner.
In western society, dressing up in matching outfits seems almost childish. However, collectivity is valued as more important in Asian society. Having spent the day dressed up in matching outfits with my guide Tim, i must admit i felt absolutely ridiculous when we first left the store. It was embarrassing and it seemed cheesy or immature. Throughout the day, the more couples we discovered brought about a change in me. Hearing their reasoning behind it, and seeing how common place it was, made me adjust my opinion. I almost felt proud, like i was part of a club and that people knew something about me, by just looking. I felt like i belonged with Tim and there was a sense of unity between us.
Overall, the matchy matchy fashion seems like good fun. Despite its cutesy appearance, its a chance for couples to bond, have an activity and something to talk about. It allows you to be romantic, and demonstrative with gifts. Its a celebration of your relationship and prevents you from taking your partner for granted. Without the ability to man handle each other in public, it forces couples to think outside the box and display their affection for one another in different ways. It serves as a constant reminder that you chose to be with this person.