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How cool-biz style has changed in Korea

Posted June. 27, 2015 06:45,   


‘Wearing jeans at the workplace would be okay, only if they look neat (from lyrics of ‘Dance with DJ DOC’ sung by K-pop group DJ DOC). In 1997 when DJ DOC released this song, no one had imagined that an office worker could wear jeans to the workplace. Wearing trousers, a jacket, a long-sleeved dress shirt and a neck tie was regarded as a manner and courtesy even in the middle of summer. However, with growing demands for efficiency and autonomy in the organization cultures in 2000s, clothes of office workers started changing. Indoor temperature was raised to save energy and unnecessary clothes such as a jacket and a tie were removed to increase convenience at work.

From 2005 to 2010, when the 1st generation of the cool-biz style was in fashion, majority of the cool-biz style was a short-sleeved shirt without a tie. As Samsung subsidiaries’ presidents started attending the Samsung Group presidential board in this style, other companies followed the suit. A combination of dark-colored trousers and a light-blue short-sleeved shirt, also known as a ‘uniform’ for middle-aged office workers in summer, was born during this period. In 2010, the cool-biz look has become a bit bold, changing into a more casual style. People started wearing cotton slacks with a T-shirt and a casual shirt. Some of fancy workers started wearing sandals and sneakers, ushering the 2nd generation of the cool-biz look. The atmosphere to allow jeans at work was created around this time.

A checkered shirt or a body-conscious T shirt got the limelight as chic office look. Some ‘fashion terrorists’ matched socks with sandals, as they were too passionate for the new style to consider the entire outfit. In general, more and more businessmen started wearing practical and comfortable clothes. Jackets with practical features were put under spotlight again. Many men’s wear brands released cool-biz jackets with good air permeability for businessmen who needed to attend a formal event such as business meeting during the summer. Functional clothes made of ultralight fabric were launched. These ultralight clothes were so light in weight, weighing around 300g, that a wearer could hardly feel the weight.

Recently, a growing number of people are wearing knee-length shorts, which is known as the 3rd generation of the cool-biz look. Still, many people have emotional resistance against exposing calves in the office. But centering on young people, the number of office workers wearing knee-length shorts to work is on the rise. There are many people who choose ankle pants that reveal ankles, instead of shorts that expose knees. Another noticeable trend is that office workers prefer wearing short-sleeved pique shirts with collars. Pique shirts made of linen blended fabric, which is washable but looks luxurious, have been popular from last year.

Many office workers are seeking the pique shirts as they are wrinkle-free and practical, but look neat and casual. “As the cool-biz look has evolved, casual clothes that look formal with practical features are drawing attentions,” said So Hyun-soo, the head of Design Department of the domestic men’s wear brand Rogatis.