We’ve all seen modern reinventions of the hanbok, maybe worn by a western celebrity. We’ve seen t-shirts and other items of female clothing and accessories adorned with hangeul, Korea’s script. But, short of wearing hanbok – which maybe is not the thing to wear at chic cocktail parties in Primrose Hill – what is a chap to do in order to show his allegiance to things Korean?
For something discrete, the obvious answer is a necktie, and there is an increasing selection to chose from over the past few years.
The most obviously Korean item you can find is something with big, bold hangeul script on it. Kim Kuk Won (김국원) has designed a number of these, which are available from the shop at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon and probably many other outlets as well. Bright colours, for when you’re in need of pepping up.
Lee Gun Maan’s (이건만) approach is slightly more understated, maybe a touch more sophisticated, and in some of his designs the hangeul is so discrete you need a magnifying glass to detect it. Similar designs are available for ladies handbags if you want to be co-ordinated with your other half. Lee Gun Maan has two outlets in Insadong, and also sells online.
Another his-and-hers option is available from Kachi (outlets in Korea House and the National Museum of Korea): designs inspired by the jogakpo patchwork wrapping cloths which were artfully made out of scraps of left-over fabric. Kachi makes silk ties and scarves in this design, in a range of colour combinations.
For the art lover, the most exclusive neckties can only be had from the Whanki museum. Kim Whanki is Korea’s least-known great artist (ask any Korean – they will never have heard of him), and the museum dedicated to his works in Buam-dong, behind the Blue House, is a haven of peace. The gift shop at the museum has a collection of tasteful gifts, including limited edition ties and scarves based on some of his most famous paintings. The tie pictured above is no longer available, but there are plenty of other paintings to chose from.
Finally, some ties with a sense of fun. Hermes is famous for producing ties with repeating patterns of small animals or sporting items, but the chroniclers and artists of the Choson dynasty invented the concept centuries earlier when they assembled the Hwaseong Uigwe, which documents the festive royal processions to the palace at Suwon to mark the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of King Jeongjo’s mother. Seated nobles in tidy rows, all wearing their horsehair hats, make an ideal repeating emblem for a fashionable tie – and a little bit more unusual than the pricey assortment you will find in Harrods. Available from the National Museum of Korea.
These ties are hard to obtain outside of Korea, so you can guarantee that you won’t see anyone else wearing these in your office. They’re different, fun, and stylish, and a little bit of exclusivity never did anyone any harm.