Elwood 5566

Most Likely Made in China

Posted in Korean Clothes, Sport by 노강호 on June 20, 2011

When looking good means expensive, shite quality. Converse made in China!

When I was a boy of about 10, I would walk to school with a simple draw string PE bag in which you kept your sports clothes, including a pair of black, slip-on plimsolls. They were all made in China and even then we used to joke about Chinese quality but they were cheap and lasted the year. Little were we to know that in years to come the top fashions and brand items would all come from China, and probably from the very same factories that made our simple, black pumps. Today, China is the point of origin, if not for many products, then for their component parts and while the big companies berate the production of imitation, especially of their precious logos, and denounces them as poor quality, think nothing of shifting production to countries which have the lowest production cost, pay the least to workers and use the cheapest materials.

I’ve recently noticed students wearing training shoes which no longer have traditional laces and which I imagine will quickly wipe out that dumb-ass ‘in-the-hood’ habit of wearing sneakers and basketball boots with enormous tongues and the laces left undone. A new piece of shoe technology, the Boa Closure Device, replaces the need to tie laces, or not, as the case may be, to the simple turning of a knob and considerably advances shoe technology.

A leap into the 21st century

In the Moda Outlet, in the Industrial Complex of Song-so, Daegu, a significant number of the walking boots and trainers on sale utilise the Boa device. I noticed that while new lace technology is popular in the USA, it currently seems only available on cycling shoes in the UK. No doubt it will hit British shores at sometime in the future.

Converse quality, made in USA, is now a collector’s item

I can’t help but make a snipe at Converse which is popular in the UK and Korea. I wore them in the late 1970’s and throughout the 80’s when they were produced in the USA. I actually wore them for taekwondo while training outside and a pair would usually last around two years before the soles or heels gave out. Considering I trained most afternoons for several hours at a time, they were severely put to the test especially with spinning type kicks where all the body weight is on one foot.

most likely made in China!

Around 1988, it was difficult to buy a pair in the UK as their production moved to S. Korea. Since then, considerably cheaper labour cost has seen the production shift to China.  Of course, when Converse Korean-made trainers appeared on the shelves in the UK, they were subsequently more expensive and worse, I discovered a marked reduction in quality. In 2001, Converse were bought by Nike and the quality deteriorated further with the traditional 2 ply canvas being replaced by single ply textile. The life expectancy of a pair was around a year and you no longer need to worry about the heels or soles giving out, long before that the cheapo, micro-thin toe-cap will degrade until your big toe bursts out.  Converse! They sure look good but they are expensive shite and like most Nike products produced by a cheap labour force, a rip off.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.


Plastic Bling

Posted in Korean Clothes by 노강호 on April 21, 2011

One of my friends was recently passing a shop that happened to have some gargantuan trainers on display and knowing the problem I have with shoes in Korea, bought them for me. I take English size 14 and my new ones are 15 which in corresponding American dimensions, at 34cm length, are a 16.

In Britain, if you’re anything over 40 years of age, the wearing of trainers and jeans is often sneered at and taste dictates the wearing of drab and dreary conservative colours and certainly nothing that suggests activity. I won’t bother with a written description. You can judge for yourself.

is it just me or are they truly gross?

Despite not having much choice when it comes to clothes, I don’t do brands. I’m sorry, you want me to advertise your silly logo and you pay me! But there are logos and logos and a discrete trade mark is one thing but a shiny, plastic tick, and a bright red one, the entire side of the toe, just looks cheapo. Are they track shoes? Golf shoes? Simply ‘casuals’ or some Nike line of clown accessories? Do they come with a free stash of narcotics? If shoes can be ‘bling,’ and ‘bling’ is a Konglish term used to describe things which are shiny,’ then these are the epitome.

I’ll admit they’re made in China!  The tasteless mish-mash of former Eastern Bloc fashion meets the Bronx, prompted an immediate check but the soles, inner tongue etc, all appear to suggest the article is genuinely Nike  (If that means anything).     Before I could ever wear these in daylight, I’d have to seriously tone them down with wear, tear and dirt, on the streets at night. Once I’ve got them to the gym I know I will wear them and I’m very aware I could wear them in a Korean street and no one would pay much attention. But of course, the legacy of our native cultural bonds are strong, so much so that when David arrived at the school to present them to me, it wasn’t until I’d brought a carrier bag into school the next day, that I transported them home, hidden.


My present trainers, falling to pieces, are a pair of Hi-Tech Silver Shadow. Any day now and my big toe is going to burst through after which I will be forced to either train barefoot, or in the ultimate example of plastic bling.

hideous, but beggars can't be choosers!

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Sock Mania

Posted in Korean children, Korean Clothes by 노강호 on September 7, 2010





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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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Laura (1) Korean Teenagers

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Gender, Korean children, Korean Clothes by 노강호 on May 27, 2010

Not suitable for pumpkin people

If there’s one thing I love about Korean teenage girls, it’s that you rarely meet one who is a slag.  No doubt slags exist in Korea and no doubt there are examples of Korean 15-year-old girls who trowel on make-up, wear Satan’s panties and are promiscuous, but I haven’t met any. In the UK, unless you teach in a top girls school, and I was fortunate enough to have taught stints in two of the top schools, notably Colchester Royal Grammar School (a boys school) and Colchester Girls’ High School, a large percentage of the girls are strumpets.  Many of them were good students and decent kids but they still dressed and behaved in a way I didn’t think appropriate: obsessed with their bodies, with looking sexy, obsessed with sex, with behaving in a sexual manner and in flaunting their undeveloped bodies all of which comprised to denude them of personality.  From childhood recollections to my more recent experiences as a teacher, being a slapper, in the UK at least, drastically improves a girls popularity among both other girls, and naturally, among the boys. My sister is convinced that had she been in those elite ranks, she’d have had a more interesting life. Amusing though this comment is, I’m glad she wasn’t.


High school students in the 2nd grade. ( aged around 16-17) Absolutely no make-up at all was permitted in this particular school.

Laura, one of my Korean students, is 15 and totally adorable and like many Korean teenagers, a country with the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the world, she is, in the cute Korean way, ‘innocent.’ Laura definitely has an interest in boys and one of our regular conversation topics centers on which boy band she is currently into and which boys she finds attractive. Recently, she has started using perfume which I would imagine she applies  after leaving her school and before she comes to the haggwon in which I teach. The ‘safest’ place for her to do this is probably on the elevator up to the third floor, where the school is located. Her perfume predilection started about 2  months ago and in the initial stages of pioneering application, I think she doused herself in it.  The smell was ‘in your face’ and strong enough to remain in class and around the school, long after she had left.

To compliment the perfume, she has also started wearing the faintest traces of make-up, basically lipstick and some mascara. The make up isn’t applied in the manner many English strumpet’s apply it, which is by slapping it on in the manner a plasterer might plaster a wall. I’ve seen plenty of young teenage girls with such thick mascara it looks more like cladding and usually little pebbles of it will be stuck to their eyelashes or  face and will occasionally flake off like little pieces of a crusty, albino scab. The art of teenage make-up,  like their interest in sex, is uniquely British, which is to say, is an overstatement and hence pots of mascara and eyeliner and all the other accouterments of teen tartery are used with as much subtlety as that of a circus clown. For the most part, Korean teenage girls, certainly under the age of 18, are discouraged and often forbidden from make-up and so when a little is used, forced into subtlety of application,  it often enhances their features. You probably wouldn’t notice Laura’s make-up  if it weren’t for the fact that when applied, she’s incredibly sheepish and self-conscious. As for her lipstick, it is so faint I imagine it’s simply lip balm with the slightest trace of added colour.


One particularly common style of British teen make-up

Discerning how much make up Korean girls do wear, is difficult as girls, like children everywhere, will ‘push the limits’ and hence I hear stories of girls wearing ‘short’ skirts to school or who wear make up but in Korea a ‘lot’ of make-up is actually very little and a ‘short’ skirt doesn’t mean you can see their knickers.

In British schools, I often saw tell-tale signs that girls were wearing a pair of Satan’s panties and it wasn’t unusual to see that flimsy bit of ‘string’ riding above a girl’s waistband. This is a sight  I’ve never seen in Korea and Korean adults are often mortified to know that western girls, often not yet teenagers, are permitted to wear, or even want to wear, such sexualised clothing.  Indeed, in Korea, I’ve never caught glimpse of a girls knickers.  While it is solely an opinion based on my observations, and which doesn’t include routing through the children’s underwear section in my local E-Marte, I would imagine that Laura’s  knickers, like those of her friends, are void of the translucent panels, little bows and lacy frill edges  that are used to sexualise the bodies of little kids. Her knickers probably reach to her navel and  are styled like the baggy blue things, British girls were compelled to wear for PE in the 60’s and 70’s.

I mention knickers, panties and thongs, not for any perverse reason but to highlight the divergence of social values between Korean and western societies.  How children ‘choose’ to adorn their bodies, the extent to which this adornment is encouraged or tolerated, how it is subsequently received by societies both at home and abroad, expresses and exposes important attitudes and values. In Britain at least, there is a difference between ‘knickers’ and ‘panties;’ ‘knickers’ are functional  whereas the purpose of ‘panties’  is two-fold, to induce arousal in the observer and a sense of sexiness in the wearer. Satin’s panties take this to a totally different level. In Britain, many girls, will tart up their twat with ‘sexy’ panties or a thong while still children and often before using make up.  In Korea, while a little experimentation with make-up might occur whilst still at school, the transition from knickers to panties, from innocence to awareness, probably occurs at about the same time a girl becomes an adult.

Over the duration of a week or so, Laura’s perfume gradually mellowed until it was actually quite pleasant and on a few occasions, when it hung faintly in the air, I was reminded of my mother who always wore floral type perfume. It has become a regular habit of hers to hold her wrist under my nose and ask for my opinion on her latest scent. I then discovered, from her brother, that the  various perfumes  she  parades,  are her mother’s and are sneaked on when no one is at  home.

I Like my Girls in Knickers

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Korean Clothes by 노강호 on April 25, 2010

I hate girls in pink as much as I hate boys in blue.  Much of my hatred probably stems from  those pathetic toys like Barbie and My Little Pony. Parents who buy their daughters such toys are as irresponsible as those who hand their five-year old crotchless panties or a thong. Even though many women will defend their comfort, I would imagine thongs are as comfortable as high-heeled shoes in which you are forced to strut about like a chicken. You can’t run in them, you can’t stand up straight, they can be dangerous but you look so much more sexy now you’re two inches taller! As for thongs, I dread to think how they must look on a hot day after that gusset has been sawing about up a  sweaty crack like a length of arse floss. Fashion and comfort do not go hand in hand and if something is deemed ‘fashionable,’  all pain and discomfort will be tolerated in its pointless pursuit. In UK schools, a high percentage of teenage girls wear such degrading lingerie  and  I have seen evidence of such when girls have bent down. Conversely, I doubt few Korean girls under 18 wear them. Personally,  nothing looks more unattractive or more slutty than a thong or indeed a pair of men’s posing panties.  In the bedroom before a session I can go with but at all other times, keep them hidden! I like my girls in knickers, even those baggy blue ones girls were forced to wear for PE in the 60-70’s; the ones that looked like shapeless nappies. And my boys?  Boxers please! I recently wore a pair of boxers for too long and on one leg  a sort of thong developed. It was quite uncomfortable sometimes strangling my thigh like a tourniquet and at other times being consumed between my bum cheeks so, I know how it feels, girls; believe me!

My Boxer-thong.

Marmite anyone?

Ever since a few celebrity men wore pink a couple of years ago, including Peckham Beckham, who wore a pink scarf, it’s become an acceptable  colour for men.  All praise the gurus of fashion! Even kids in my classes have told me, that pink is now ‘in,’ in the UK. Of course, it’s been ‘in’ for quite awhile and for some it never went ‘out.’ I’ve worn a number of pink Ben Sherman shirts over the years but then I am forced to buy from the small selection available that fits me. I doubt I’ll wear pink now as it seems to have become a laddy-chavvy colour.  Until recently men could wear  pink as a statement of individuality,  which is of course, is exactly what Peckham Beckham did, probably on the orders of his wife who  as a talented singer and musician  is correspondingly an expert on fashion , design and  perfume, except that once adopted by the hoi polloi, it  becomes more of a uniform. Fashion is about conformity  more than individuality. If Peckham Beckham sported a turd on his head, a substantial number of the population would follow suit. Which reminds me, back in 2003, when living in Daegu, I had a pink baseball hat!

A Motorbike and pink - definitely a statement. But is she wearing a thong?

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Want to see my Boxers?

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Daegu, Korean Clothes by 노강호 on April 21, 2010

My former boxers. If young and lithe they might be sexy but on me they pose a scary sight!

podcast 13

I have a fat arse and in the UK, unlike the USA or places like North or Southern Germany, if you are tall (over 6’3), and bulky (waist over 40 inches), you can say goodbye to ever dressing decently. I’m certainly no fashion guru but then I have an excuse!  Britain is so backward in so many ways and probably the worst dressed nation in the developed world. If I had to rank them,  it would be marginally above the naff fashions of Poland and those from the former East Germany. Shortly after arriving home last Christmas, I was confronted on tubes and buses by a sea of black, browns and depressing drabby colours.

For years I’ve had to cut sleeves off my shirts. If I can buy a shirt that fits,  it hasn’t been made for a tall person who is big, but  a short guy who is mega fat. Most shirts and jackets I buy in the UK have cuffs that end just below my elbows which if I recall correctly, is reminiscent of both 80’s fashion, where  men’s short sleeves were  accompanied with a handbag, and the character Nik Nak from Man with a Golden Gun. Trousers are never over 34 inches in the inside leg unless you’re atrophied and like a chopstick and conversely, if you have the girth of an elephant but legs not much longer than those of a chair, the choice is unlimited. Meanwhile, if you’re fat and tall, you’re fucked!

Britain has a knack for giving outsize clothing shops bad names. I’m not surprised most establishments are internet based as the shame of entering them  forces you never to leave  home. Who wants to shop for fashion at a shop called ‘Mr Big,’ or ‘Fat Man?’ I usually refer to such shops as ‘freak shops,’ because in terms of store name , quality, and actually  design, Alla Poland, only a freak in desperation would wear such products.

My British made (off the peg) bag blazer, costing 477.000Won (£280) Pure shite quality!

Shortly before coming out to Korea in 2007, I bought a sports jacket at a freak shop outside London. To be honest, it is probably the most decent and respectable outsize clothing shop I have seen in the UK. The round trip tallied 2oo miles and I paid the price for the privilege of being large. The last pair of trousers I bought here, prior to my first visit to Korea, cost £80 sterling (137.000W)  and lasted a year. The quality was shit and they were shapeless and style-less and wearing them was one step up from dressing in a cloth bag. That year I had three pairs of trousers made by a friend in Daegu, each cost me 80.000Won, which then amounted to around £40 (about £46 today). Indeed, I am about to wear one of the pairs this very moment – nine years later.  My jacket, cost £280 sterling which as of today is a staggering 477.000 Won. I’ve only worn it in Spring and Autumn and then, only to go to and from work, so it hasn’t had a lot of use. However, I’ve just had to have repairs made to the lining which has come apart (cost 8000W or £4.70). A few years ago, when in the UK, I inquired about having a pair of trouser made by a ‘bespoke tailor,’ probably not the cheapest place to go, he quoted me £300 (512.000Won).

Here in Korea, there is no way any shop will stock clothes or shoes that would fit me but with Daegu as one of the world’s leading textiles centers and an abundance of reasonably priced tailors, getting something made to measure is easy. As a fat arse in Britain you’re treated to limited range of choices when you buy boxer shorts. The only option for purchase is via an online freak shop and the choices of colours, usually black, gray, white or blue with a little variation in terms of check, stripes or plain. So it was an amazing experience for me to shop at Daegu’s main textile market and chose patterns for my new boxers.

Silk boxer shorts? Cotton? Linen? Even plastic, the choice was mine!

I eventually had a tailor make me a few pairs and have since built my collection to twenty. The overall cost of each, including the material, works out at about  22.000Won (£12.50). While this is expensive for a pair of boxers, it is substantially cheaper than ordering a pair from hand-made boxer companies in the US and of course, I’ve selected the material. Needless to say, on my visits to the bathhouse, I now strut about proudly in my lovely array of  boxers. But I haven’t discarded my threadbare old ones. Loathe to wear my new ones in which to exercise, I wear them on the treadmill where the worn material and disintegrated gussets provide ample ventilation for my nether regions.


Luxury that only a fatty would appreciate

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