Korean Teenagers' Wacky World of 'Vacation' Fashions
Just when you thought you knew the kids in your classes they turn up with hair dyed red, or sporting the poodle perm. It’s especially worse with the girls as an adult hair style forces you to acknowledge the fact they are young women and not the kids that they’ve appeared as all year. Yes, the summer ‘vacations’ have arrived and through the blurry haze of humidity and the incessant chirping of the memi, a weird wackiness prevails.
The perms, if that’s what you call them, as I’m not au fait with the methods of metamorphosis used by women, are heavily discounted over the school ‘vacations’ and cost as little as 20.000 W (£10). This year, common trends seem to involve tinting the hair with a touch of burgundy, a summer fashion common with boys as well as girls and of course, the perm, which has been popular for several years. While boys may grow their hair longer, or at least as long as you can grow it in around 40 days ‘vacation,’ girls often paint their nails in quite adventurous and beautiful ways. Along with the various hair styles is a concurrent rise is temporary tattoos. Most of these tend to depict fantasy book characters though unicorns seem to be particularly fashionable on younger girls. Blurred and blotchy tattoos declaring filial devotion to ‘Mum and Dad,’ or the British Bulldog, are as non-existent in Korea as tattoos in Chinese characters declaring the wearer to be ‘female’ (女), this being a frequently observed ‘fashion’ in the UK. And to accompany ‘grown-up hair styles a little leniency is given to earrings, rings and other forms of jewelery bar anything which pierces or punctures the face or drives studs through noses or tongues. The great thing about Korean kiddy vacation fashions is that they are temporary and as such have to wash-off, wash-out, come-off, cut-off or un-clip, which is the destiny they all face once the new term is looming. For kids it provides a period of self-expression and/or momentary madness which helps wash away the stresses and strains of the past academic year.
I find the perms particularly unattractive. Korean hair, especially on youngsters, is wonderfully beautiful, full of lustre , body and that typically black-blue, black. The perm bakes and frizzles the life out of hair and the ensuing curls and kinks undermine rather than enhance the original appeal. Of course, I’m missing the point! ‘Vacation’ fashions are a symbol of freedom which I understand is precious especially as kids don’t really have a vacation. Only in Korea can you have a ‘vacation’ that isn’t really a vacation but not to worry, you can perm your hair and mutate into a spaniel look-a-like for your ‘vacation’ classes and summer school! Unfortunately, if your destined for a ‘vacation’ boot-camp you’re buggered! Personally, in the muggy sweat of summer the only comfortable hairdo is a number 4 buzz with a pair of hair clippers.
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.