Just a few brief words on long underwearWinter seems to have hit Korea earlier than usual. Those who are feeling chillier than usual can always look to naebok, or "internal wear," for warmth and comfort.
Naebok refers to long underwear, usually cotton underclothing with a tight fit, which is donned before putting on regular clothes. Because naebok is said to increase the body temperature by 3 degrees centigrade, it has been an essential winterwear item of Koreans for decades. But because of the inevitable protruding hemlines on sleeves and legs, in the last 10 years naebok became uncool to wear. The fashion-conscious labeled it unsophisticated and boorish.
"It was long considered unfashionable to wear naebok, but I couldn't care less," says Susie Park, who has taken to wearing the long underwear recently. "It beats wearing several layers of clothing, and naebok really keeps you warm."
Fashion is as unpredictable as weather: These days, naebok is back in vogue and underwear companies foresee a 20 to 30 percent rise in naebok sales this winter. In the past, naebok was meant to be practical, serving no other purpose than to keep people warm.
The underwear typically came in three main colors: pink, peach and white. Nowadays, naebok has diversified its functions to accommodate people's tastes and needs. There are kitosan naebok for sensitive skin, bio naebok which contain infrared blockers, yellow ocher naebok to get rid of bad odors and control humidity, elfin naebok for extra warmth and wormwood naebok for women who have cold body temperatures. Young people prefer modal naebok, which sticks to the body like spandex. New naebok comes in different sizes as well: long or short sleeves and legs.
Kim In-seon, a salesperson for Vivien at Shinsegae Department Store, says, "These days, many people are going for the practicality of naebok. This is also an indicator of the economy as well."
With increased variety comes increased price: Naebok has become more expensive, with some well over 100,000 won ($82). Still, reasonably priced naebok can be bought online or on home shopping networks for half of that. The design of naebok has also diversified, with flowery naebok and fishnet naebok for a sexy look.
Some groups have taken to wearing naebok in order to save electricty. The entire staff at the Seocho District office has pledged to wear the undergarments, while members of the civic group Energy Regiment are campaigning for the popularization of naebok by holding street fashion shows. They argue that by wearing naebok, indoor temperatures can be decreased, thus saving energy and contributing to the lessening of global warming in the long term.
In whatever shape or form, naebok has made a comeback, and so far it looks like people will be needing it this winter.
by Choi Jie-ho