Sweating season is here, but there’s hopeAh, spring. The season when the birds start to sing, the flowers start to bloom, and we foreigners start to sweat like pigs.
At least that’s how it works in Seoul. Once May hits, life here starts to feel like a four-month-long remake of the William Hurt movie “Body Heat.”
Everybody ails when the city turns hot and humid, but men have it worse than women. Way worse. Women can switch to ventilation-optimal skirts and blouses. But we men are supposed to keep suffocating in long sleeves and ties. It’s like the fashion industry is run by a female version of the Taliban or something.
Once I’m in charge, men won’t suffer like this. Long sleeves will be banned all summer, and executives will wear those Cuban or Filipino shirts, with the open necks and the superfluity of pockets. Anyone caught tucking them in will be hauled off to apparel re-education camps, then covered in tweed and locked in steam rooms until they whistle.
Until then, though, all we men can do is seek out the coolest fabrics possible for our pants and shirts by visiting a tailor shop and having them custom made.
Most of Itaewon’s clothiers will do this for you, but the most popular right now seems to be Hamilton Shirts, a closet-sized shop next to the Nashville Steakhouse.
Hamilton Shirts may be the most customer-friendly and efficient tailor in town. Walk in and you’ll see roll upon roll of fabric, all with tags denoting the materials and the prices for clothes cut from them. One side of the store is all glass, so you can even browse from outside.
Incidentally, on weekends the store’s jam-packed, so that’s often all you can do.
Running the shop are Kim Hee-bun, who founded it in 1976, and her son Yang Moo-seon. Mr. Yang will proudly point out that while many other Itaewon tailors are shifting away from suits and toward shirts, his mother specialized in shirts from the beginning.
Ask Mr. Yang what materials are best for summer pants and he’ll point to the rolls of summer-weight wool, slacks from which cost 78,000 won ($78), or the wool/polyester blends, which he insists are washable, at 59,000 won per garment.
For shirts, choose microthin cotton, at 38,000 won apiece. Or go native, with the see-through linen/poly fabric ― which transforms Korean men into unwitting exhibitionists ― at 35,000 won.
If you want to speed up my anti-tie revolution, order your shirts with Chinese collars. The Japanese are really into them these days, and call them “Mao shirts,” Mr. Yang says.
Of course, you can ignore this advice and try to endure until October in your twill chinos. Your boss probably appreciates it, actually. When you arrive at the office he can tell how hot it is outside by how soaked your armpits are.
by Mike Ferrin