What Is Hanbok? History Of Korean Traditional Wear

Hanbok is a traditional Korean dress and one of the most beautiful fashion styles in the world. The history of Hanbok is traced back 2000 years ago. You might have noticed your favorite Korean stars in K-drama and K-pop wearing Hanbok. Korean men and women wear this traditional clothing at birthday parties, weddings, and major holidays.

If you are a non-Korean and interested to know the history of Hanbok, this post is for you. Read it and explore what Hanbok is, how it is made and why Koreans wear Hanbok.

What Is the History of Hanbok?

girls pink hanbok

In ancient times, the main aim of making Hanbok was to create an outfit that facilitated ease of movement. The history of this traditional Korean dress is traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period (Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla from 1st century BC–7th century AD). The earliest form of Hanbok was depicted in Goguryeo tomb murals art in the 5th century.

The basic structure of Hanbok, as shown in the ancient arts, consisted of:

  • Jeogori jacket
  • Baji pants
  • Chima skirt
  • Po Coat

The name Hanbok was first used in the 1881 document Jeongchiilgi to differentiate Korean clothing from Japanese and Western clothing. However, the origin of the name Hanbok is unclear. Later, at the beginning of 1900, Hanbok became an ethnic symbol of Korean clothing. In 1996, the Hanbok day was established to encourage Koreans to wear this outfit. 

What Is the History of Children’s Hanbok?

kids white hanbok vest

In Korea, children wear Hanbok on their first birthday. Children wore Kkachi durumagi on Seollal, New Year’s Day in the Lunar calendar in ancient times. It is a colorful overcoat and also called obangjang durumagi (meaning an overcoat of 5 directions). Kids used to wear it over jeogori (jacket) and jokki(vest) and put a long vest called jeonbok over it. Young boys used to wear a peaked cloth hat called bokgeon and a pleated cloth hat with a tiger pattern called hogeon.

What Does Wearing Hanbok Mean?

Wearing Hanbok means a traditional Korean dress for formal and semi-formal occasions such as weddings, festivals, kids’ first birthday parties (Doll), etc. Traditionally, Hanbok colors depict the 5 elements of yin and yang theory, white(metal), red(fire), black(water), blue(wood), and yellow(earth). 

What Is Hanbok Made Of?

In ancient days, the Hanbok for the upper class was made of closely woven ramie cloth, light fabric, or patterned silk. The middle-class Hanbok was made of cotton. Nowadays, the commonly used fabric for Hanbok is muslin, silk, and satin, besides cotton and woven hemp. Hanbok has a linear shape, and it is made with a flat fabric. The exceptional feature of Hanbok is it gains dimensionality only when someone wears it.

What Does Hanbok Look Like?

korean boys hanbok

Traditionally, the women’s Hanbok consists of jeogori and chima(skirt), while men’s Hanbok has jeogori and baji(pants) and usually a short coat “baeja.” Children’s Hanbok has the same style as men and women. Natural dyes are used to color Hanbok’s fabric. The thin top and wide bottom of the Hanbok look like a bell, and it is a unique feature that distinguishes it from other traditional costumes. This outfit’s straight and curved lines represent a unique Korean aesthetic and design.

Korean ladies usually wear special footwear with Hanbok called kkotshin, dinghy, and unhye(silk shoes with blossom weaving), while men wear heukhye and taesahye.

The modern Hanbok is the evolution of the traditional past Hanbok. Many South Korean designers, including Kim-Hye soon and Leesle Hwang, have started designing more comfortable and daily wear Hanboks.

Why Is the Hanbok Important?

Hanbok is important because it represents Korean culture. The color of Hanbok depicts the wearer’s marital status and social position. The patterns and embroidery on Hanbok show the person’s wishes wearing it. The printed flowers on the wedding dress, such as peonies on the Hanbok, symbolize the wish for honor and wealth. In past days, tigers, cranes, dragons, phoenixes were printed on royal officials’ Hanbok.

Can Non-Korean Wear Hanbok?

korean girls hanbok

Yes, non-Koreans can also wear Hanbok. It depends on your love and respect for a culture. Non-Koreans usually wear Hanbok for appreciation and cultural exchange. You can wear their traditional costumes as long as you respect a culture. Make sure not to mock or make fun of any culture.

Final Thoughts

Korean traditional wear Hanbok’s classic look and elegant flowing design are unique among all other cultural costumes. Nevertheless, it is an art piece that depicts the beauty of nature. If you are a non- Korean and respect other cultures, try this amazing outfit. We are sure that you’ll fall in love with this traditional wear.

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