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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Giving Summer the Finger

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, Education, Korean children by 노강호 on September 3, 2010

Goodbye to all that!

The summer holidays finished last week and one of my students notes in his diary.’This week school finished and we had to change our hair and faces.’ Gone are the ‘poodle perms‘ the vibrantly painted finger nails, ear-rings, temporary tattoos, and dyed hair. Unlike many western countries where teachers battle with hair styles and make up, in Korea it’s all removed before the term starts. Of course, Koreans will tell you the same battle ensues in their schools but they are skirmishes in comparison.  I’ve taught one boy who was forced to run 10 times around the sandy ‘parade ground’ in only his boxers because his trousers legs were too narrow, and a beating because your hair is a centimeter too long isn’t uncommon.  And the ‘budgerigar club’ that exists in every British secondary school (ages 12-16), little cliques of girls who sit for hours on end brushing each others hair, moronically starring in mirrors and slapping on cheap make-up like little Jezebels, all during lessons, is in its infancy.

Painted nails

A little re-touch needed

The irony, of course, is that school never really finished and the vacation that was, was never really a vacation. One of my students spent the entire summer at a cram but claimed he loved it. Packing your son or daughter off for the entire summer isn’t what I’d do if I was a parent.  Another boy spent two weeks in a military boot camp,  ‘thanks, mum!” Another three students, siblings, spent the entire summer in an English school in the Philippines but their English is no better than when they left. So, with summer drawing to a close it’s back to the study routine, constant tests, the after school classes and reading rooms and don’t forget piano lessons and taekwon-do! As for the poor the third year, high school students (고삼), they have the biggest exam  (수능) of their lives looming. An exam which will not only determine their academic future but very possibly the background of their future partner as well as their occupation. DD (‘D’ Day), and that’s exactly how Koreans identify it, is 76 days away and every third year student will be counting. Their vacation was great! They didn’t have one!


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Korean Teenagers' Wacky World of 'Vacation' Fashions

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Education, Korean children by 노강호 on July 20, 2010

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.

Vacation hair fashion

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.

Vacation fashion - the shaggy perm

A little re-touch needed

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.

Love those locks!

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© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.