‘Fashion knows no age’: stylish Seoul seniors | South Korea

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Ppots and pans, piles of shirts and shoes, jewelry tables, and boxes full of knick-knacks. On the cobbled streets near Seoul Dongmyo Station Exit 3, hundreds of vendors sell everything from old Instamatic cameras to books, bags, and vinyl records.

Located in the historic district of the South Korean capital, Dongdaemun, the bustling Dongmyo flea market is dotted around a shrine built to honor an ancient Chinese military commander. But there’s more to this neighborhood than bargains, vintage clothes, and retro treasures. It also serves as a cultural hub for the city’s senior citizens to shop, socialize and show off their unique style.

Chae Myung-hee and Shin Tae-geun
Left: Former womenswear designer Chae Myung-hee said fashion has always been a part of her life.
Right: Shin Tae-geun has been selling children’s clothing for 50 years at Daegu’s Seomun Market, after starting his career as an assistant at a children’s tailor where he learned to sew and make clothes. She still cares about fashion, and makes sure to look perfect before going out.
Composite: Kim Dong-hyun

“One day, I saw a senior man looking for clothes like me. His style fascinated me,” recalls Seoul-based photographer Kim Dong-hyun, 29, who spends his days documenting the city’s vibrant senior street fashion scene, much of which he shares on Instagram.

Over the years, Dongmyo has undergone many changes, becoming a new destination for young people’s appreciation of vintage clothing on a budget. In essence, Dongmyo has always been a playground for the city’s elderly residents.

“I’ve met some people who have been going there every week for 30 years,” Kim said, based on the many conversations she has had with people she has photographed. South Korea is a rapidly aging society. By 2050, the number of elderly people could reach almost 44% of the country’s population. While many older people feel healthier than ever and don’t consider themselves old, elderly loneliness is a significant problem.

“In Korea, there aren’t many places where parents can go and have fun. But in Dongmyo, they can shop, play, meet friends, and drink makgeolli [rice wine]. It’s their territory, and they don’t need to care what other people think.”

MacArthur
‘MacArthur’ is also part of the Dongmyo military crew. She likes to reinterpret military style in a modern way while decorating her outfits with colorful embroidered patches and badges. Photo: Kim Dong-hyun

“From their hairdo to their glasses and shoes, they know how to look good and take care of themselves. They pursue their own style and unique way of expressing their individuality. Many of us believe that trendy people are just young people, a message that the media is amplifying. But fashion knows no age,” he said.

Among the senior citizens hanging out in Dongdaemun is Lee Seok-ki, one of the members of the group known as the “military crew”. The group consists of three men whose styles differ from one another: Lee prefers a minimalist, traditional military look, while his friends like to reinterpret military style in a modern way, decorating clothes with colorful embroidered patches and badges.

If anything, senior fashion is more subtle, says Kim. “It’s like wine. In your 20s, you just taste everything, but in your 70s, your taste buds are sharper – you know what you like.”

As a child, Chae Myung-hee, 74, developed a passion for fashion that led her to work as a women’s clothing designer for 40 years. Even during the pandemic when some people dress and avoid makeup, she says she tries to always look great, whether she’s wearing a mask or not. “It’s always been a part of me,” Chae said.

Lee Joong-hee and the Woman in Dior
Left: Lee Joong-hee always enjoys dressing up. He likes to look for clothes that he thinks look good on him without paying attention to what other people think.
Right: Lady in Dior: When Kim Dong-hyun first saw her, she was wearing Dior, so give her a nickname. ‘Every time I meet her, I’m impressed with her sense of style,’ she said.
Composite: Kim Dong-hyun

In her forthcoming book, Mut – Street Fashion of Seoul, Kim provides a glimpse into the world of senior fashion. He hopes the book will provide a new perspective on a demographic that is often overlooked or underappreciated. Kim said older people should be recognized for their coolness and talent, known as meet in Korean, or as Kim prefers to style her online and in her books – mut.

“It’s more than the English word ‘cool’,” he said. “Sometimes it can mean something extraordinary, sometimes it can mean good, sometimes beautiful or extraordinary. I can’t express it differently or translate the word, and see no need for it.”

The images offer hope, he says, and a new way of looking at aging. “I think some people have hope when they see my photo. They can see that they can also continue to be fashionable as they grow older.

“When headlines use the word ‘grandfather’, we automatically think of something negative… I want to show that seniors have individual personalities, that they can also have their own personalities. meet.”

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