A couple sits across from me on the Daegu subway, playing on their mobile phones. The woman' s clothes are typical Korean weekend-wear; sneakers, jeans, a green sweatshirt with an English slogan not quite suited to clothing (in this case, "Creative Director Style," with a picture of a telephone). She has an orange scarf, a black baseball cap ( "Helmet Game "), and a brown leather shoulderbag. Altogether, the outfit is quite average. However, the boyfriend beside her, without a hint of self-consciousness, is wearing the same thing. Exactly the same thing. The same sneakers, same jeans, same telephone shirt and " Helmet Game" hat, same scarf, and as icing on my this-sure-isn't-Canada cake, the same brown leather purse.
Now I think Korean fashion is altogether quite exciting. The painful high heels, the unapologetic use of rhinestones, the aforementioned English slogans; I think it works. Even the men with their purses are fine by me. But in a country with an anything-goes fashion sense, the one trend I can't quite digest is the one displayed here on the subway; the Couple Clothes phenomenon.
Rest assured, this subway sighting was no rarity. Every weekend in every Korean city, couples shop, dine, see movies, get coffees, all in matching outfits. I had to ask some Koreans about this trend. After all, back in Canada, no one dresses alike except twins or siblings, often under the hand of a zealous Mum during family photo sittings. But the feedback is unanimous. According to Koreans, this trend is "so cute!" Period. In a culture where couples rarely kiss or show affection in public, matching outfits are a non-offensive demonstration of a couple's commitment.
But the eye-rolling cynic in me isn't convinced. "You don't think it's too much? Maybe, a little too cute? " I ask my Korean friends. I try to imagine my couple friends in Canada, joining me for lunch in matching outfits. Even the mental image makes me shiver with discomfort. But the Koreans just smile at my skepticism. "They want to show the world they love each other. You don 't think that 's sweet?"
When I get off the subway, my couple-clothed seatmates stand up too, staring into each others ' eyes through similar thick-framed eyeglasses. The man gallantly takes his girlfriend 's purse, so that he 's now carrying two identical handbags on his shoulder. I admit, they are sweet with each other. Maybe this trend is like the rhinestones. Or the strange English slogans. Or the white leather boots I bought in a Korean mall and quickly regretted. While cute couples are universal, perhaps couple clothing is a concept that only works in Korea.