The style of The North Face apparel one wears makes you either a loser, a gangster, or head honcho–at least in Korean elementary and middle schools
January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
I can’t remember if this kind of posturing happened on such a scale while I was in elementary or junior high, but I did go to school in Utah so one could say I wasn’t exposed to the American average. Nevertheless, this CNNGo article gives a nice summary of what I’d previously only heard through the grapevine (aka my mom): The North Face jackets are in high demand among Korean grade-schoolers, and depending on what version they wear, their social lives and status are either happenin’… or stolen from them.
(No mention in the article of what happens to those who don’t even own a jacket, not even the “bottom” style, Nuptse 2. Are they “losers” too, only… tier 2?…)
Anyway, it is apparent that Korea’s intense materialist culture and need to save face via consumerism has reached the young and younger customer market by attaching social significance to poofy, feathery (and American! Most important) outdoor wear. However, my questions are
A) How and when did this trend start? and
B) Did The North Face’s branding/marketing/advertising have anything to do with it?
Also, the article never differentiates between boys and girls. Are girls wearing down jackets and getting bullied for it too? Somehow I doubt it… and that makes me go on to wonder if there is an equally vicious game among female students that isn’t as violent or obvious as the male one.
Korea’s love for American goods is definitely variable (beef, anyone?) but overall American brands are very popular and seem to have caught on well (i.e. Starbucks, Nike, TOMS, UGGS, Forever 21 etc.). But I’ve never heard of a foreign good being such a delineated consumer status symbol for school kids–and by feature, no less, not even by brand. And that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of analogous examples elsewhere in the world; but this kind of fad seems to have surprised everyone (reddit responses, hiexpat.com’s opinion, a tumblr blog post on the subject. Renewed violence over these jackets in the Korean news.)
In addition… it’s not like these jackets come in kid-size. I’m imagining black marshmallows with heads and legs sticking out, swaggering around the school…