‘How could you wear such kind of clothing in a nobleman’s house?’
Guess what happened to the young Korean lady who heard that from her father. The story goes back to the 70s when she was a teenager. She bought a pair of jeans with the money her dad gave her to buy books. Her father was the eldest son of the family, and raised in such a noble family, he was just too conservative that he put that pair of his daughter’s new jeans into the firepot, making it into ashes. Seems like it was not too easy for jeans to settle down in Korea.
Over the years, jeans have been a symbol of youth, rebellion and freedom to nowadays when it has become a universal clothing for modern people. Jeans are worn regardless of age, gender, race, season and even time, place and occasion. Jeans have two characteristics: a universal common item in life and a reflection of the specific area in each nation.
隨著時間過去，牛仔褲成為年輕叛逆與自由的象徵， 現在更是全世界普遍的服裝，無分年齡、性別、種族和季節，甚或是時間、地點和場合。牛仔褲有兩個特點， 一是，它是全球最普遍的物品，二是，它反映著每個國家特別的一面。
The National Folk Museum of Korea is now presenting a jeans exhibition in their special exhibition hall to look at jeans through their research and collection. The jeans exhibition shows 257 artifacts related to jeans and 390 stories from a wide range of people. Levi’s has provided their collections and insights to this exhibition. The exhibition is available in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese and is divided into two parts with one as the birth and development of jeans in the West, and the other as how jeans evolved in Korea.
The exhibition starts with introducing the history of jeans over years. Jeans were created first in the U.S. as a need to create stronger clothing for miners in the Midwest. Then they later became a symbol of American ideals of equality and freedom.
Jeans later came to Korea during the Korean War. Brought to Korea by U.S. soldiers, jeans quickly spread among young Koreans and was widely available on the markets after the war. In the 1970s, jeans became the symbol of youth and rebellion as the younger generation expressed their ideas and values different from the older generation. This exhibition shows different tales and perspectives Koreans had on jeans at that time. Spokesmen ranging from jeans manufactures and models to jeans fans and haters will appear on a short clip during the exhibition.
In Korea, a country where Confucianism was strong, jeans, a product of the west was not easily accepted until the late 70s. However, as Korea became more open to western culture, the late 70s and early 80s saw jeans as a symbol of youth. A popular culture back then was singing and playing the guitar with long hair and jeans on.
At the end of the exhibition, there is a photo booth where the staff members will take Polaroid photos of visitors. A gift shop displays varieties of products made from jeans. This exhibition aims to let the visitors feel that jeans are not just daily apparels, but a product of humanity’s diversity in culture, as in jeans as a ‘cultured product.’
Jeans – Special Exhibition
2014 Oct 15 to 2015 Feb 23
The National Folk Museum of Korea
37 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-820
Official exhibition website: nfm.go.kr
TEXT: JISU J
CHINESE TRANSLATION: CHRIS Y
GRAPHICS: TONY W / HOKK FABRICA