Sharing fashion trends in South Korea

Contributor: Rich Kent and Bill Smothers

United Nations Command and United States Forces Korea have been a big influence in setting the fashion trend in South Korea back in the 50’s…

Topic: cultural exchange, Fashion, People, Yongsan Legacy
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United Nations Command and United States Forces Korea have been a big influence in setting the fashion trend in South Korea back in the 50’s and 60’s.

Smothers Family arriving at Gimpo airport in 1958. Leroy Smothers was a civilian engineer stationed in Yongsan Garrison working for USAID. He assisted in the rebuilding of Korea’s water treatment facilities and pipelines.

Not only clothing from different countries to help right after the war was a new style introduced into the Korean society but also  higher officials and civilians working for USFK or Government were deployed to South Korea with their families.  Back then Korea had no economical means to importing, so American families stationed in Korea would be the western reference for Koreans interested in fashion.

Koreans interested in fashion learned the trends around Yongsan Base where they established their businesses. A proof of that is the trace of the tailoring shops around Itaewon.

Still, today Seoul has a reputation for inexpensive, high-quality tailored suits.
Many service men would have their suits, sport coats, shirts and trousers custom made at unreal prices (a nice sport coat $15, a 3 piece suit for $25 and a shirt for $1 to $5),  beautiful silk ties for a $1 each or if you bought several 2 for a $1.

Some of the tailor shops from the late 50’s are still active. One examples is Han’s Tailor shop which is currently owned by one of the original employees Mr. Yun.

The shop name changed to Hahn’s and the location is right beside its original location from the early 60’s

Mr Han and little Han by Rich Kent 1969, Itaewon, Seoul
Current Hahn’s Tailor shop Location 2016, Itaewon , Seoul. teh arrow shows the original location of the tailor
Photo of an appreciation letter from Phil Gramm US Senator in 1993 to Hahn’s tailor