[HOT ITEM]Topping things off: Make way for the bucket brigade

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[HOT ITEM]Topping things off: Make way for the bucket brigade

It is rare to witness a hit fashion accessory that is versatile enough to appeal both to young and old, not to mention men and women alike. The peninsula is in the midst of such a phenomenon -- the bucket-shaped hat.

On a recent Saturday night in Sinchon, a major party district for young people in northwestern Seoul, the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition witnessed a group of teenagers in studied, hip-hop styles, with baggy pants and T-shirts, all completed with the same bucket-shaped hats, albeit in different colors and with slight variations in style. Oddly, nary a baseball cap was in sight.

"It's a beonggeoji hat," said Kim Yun-jeong, a 17-year-old high school student. "It's the hottest thing to cover your head these days." Beonggeoji literally means headgear, and it's what bucket-shaped hats are called among young people. Her version was in bright navy blue denim, brimmed with beige and embossed by an "X-Large" decal.

Park Han-kyu, who owns a shop dedicated to hats near Ewha Womans University in Sinchon, said that nowadays he specializes almost entirely in bucket-shaped hats. "Navy blue denim along with beige cotton are especially popular," he said, adding that many teenage couples wear the hats to complete the couple look.

"When it first came out last year, I did not think it would be a hit, but it is," Mr. Park said. Bucket-shaped hats, which some might say resemble planters, come in a variety of versions, such as the length of brim, color and whether it has a string attached. The hats' reasonable prices, less than 12,000 won (about $9), along with being easily washable, make the bucket chapeaus popular, according to Mr. Park.

Our Ms. Kim seems to feel as if only she and her friends had the right to be bucket-headed, but a quick look around is all it takes to see the hats are everywhere.

Kim Min-ju, who owns a shop in the Mesa shopping mall in Myeong-dong that caters to a wide range of age groups, said that her women customers vary from their late 20s to mid-40s. The hats are most popular for family members who are going on a trip. "Middle-aged women especially like it to wear while mountain climbing," said Ms. Kim. Their favorite designs and colors are different, though. More subdued colors like beige and white are the favorites for Ms. Kim's customers.

Do they buy hats only for themselves? Ms. Kim says no, adding that her customers, especially mothers and wives, tend to buy hats for their family members whenever they buy one for themselves.

Considering that more people wear hats in the spring and summertime, the enthusiasm for being bucketheaded will not fade away in the foreseeable future, at least according to Mr. Park in Sinchon.

by Chun Su-jin

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