I grew up in the Seattle area almost my entire life. Until recently, people here dressed like we’re all going camping, or at least doing something outdoors, but this was basically all I knew. It is the Pacific Northwest after all. I’m joking of course, but Seattle definitely is not a place to find high-fashion.1 Then I went to Japan with my wife and it was a bit of a culture shock,2 as people were so stylish. Lots of name-brand clothing, but the women are really stylish. Almost every girl was wearing skirts, boots, or just really short shorts.
For me, it was a bit of a sensory overload at first, but once I got acclimated to the fashion-conscious culture, I realized that here it seemed so normal. If young women dressed like that in Seattle, people might get the wrong idea, or at the very least they might stop traffic.
If you think I’m exaggerating, watch this music video by Girl’s Generation:3
Pay attention, I am being serious here.
Yeah, this is Pop music, so of course everything’s extra polished and “cool”. No one looks like that without an army of stylists, make-up artists and fashion experts to support you, but this actually is a pretty good example of the kinds of fashion you see women wear in Japan and Korea. Even in cold weather, too. Still, while it’s pretty awesome to see so many stylish girls, I have to admit it’s always kind of wondered why so many girl’s wear such leggy clothes. But lately, I’ve been watching an awesome show online by a Canadian couple living in Korea called Eat your Kimchi, and they cover the subject of fashion:
Watching this, when I go back and watch the Girl’s Generation video, it kind of makes a lot more sense now. Notice in the video they almost always cover the upper body. This really got me thinking is how subjective, and culturally-influenced notions of “beauty” are. Showing shoulders or midriff in the US isn’t really that risqué, but it is in Korea, and to a lesser degree in Japan too, based on limited experience. On the other hand, showing so much leg in the US will get a lot of attention.
Of course, beauty is something that everyone can agree on, but it’s interesting how culture and beauty mix to produce social rules about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. I have no idea why that happens, but it does.
Just fascinating to me I guess. But as my wife tells me, I am such a nerd.
P.S. Messed up schedule again. This was supposed to go out Monday.
P.P.S. Not the first time I’ve talked about women’s fashion in Asia.
1 My poor wife misses a lot of clothing brands and stores in Japan that you can’t find in Seattle. We found many of them in London or Dublin though, so it’s a Seattle issue. Plus, the sizes are not for Asian women either, which makes life hard. I have a post about my mis-adventures with clothing in Japan too coming up. :-p
2 Living in Ireland too. People in Ireland, like most of Europe, are a lot more trim and stylish than Americans, without being over the top.
3 I like listening to Girl’s Generation in the original Korean (even though I can understand the Japanese lyrics more easily). It just sounds more natural in their native language. But I have to admit that the Japanese versions of their music videos, such as the one above, are much better produced and choreographed. Japan as a culture really does have a talent for aesthetics.