T-shirt Man has 500 unique items stashed in the closet

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T-shirt Man has 500 unique items stashed in the closet


Lee Jung-hun, above, is a self-confessed T-shirt buff. [JoongAng Ilbo]

When Lee Jung-hun, 30, started working, he began a unique hobby: He started collecting T-shirts.

Now, Lee’s closet is filled with around 500 examples.

Although his parents called him a “lunatic,” and he’s been asked the same question over and over, “Why T-shirts?” he remains unmoved.

“We have to stop treating T-shirts as an insignificant fashion item,” he says. “People usually think they’re only T-shirts, but that’s why they always pick the wrong ones.”


Life magazine, above, features a U.S. soldier clad in a T-shirt in the July 13, 1942 issue.

Lee has never been a person who “just liked” T-shirts. He didn’t buy them to kill time, nor did he buy them because he had money left lying around in his pockets. Lee has always been passionate about collecting T-shirts.

His passion also fits nicely with his career. He’s currently a designer for LG Fashion, where his job is to design T-shirts and jeans.

On a recent interview, he brought a collection of 80 T-shirts to the photo studio.

While preparing for the shoot he said, “People think that T-shirts all look the same, but they are all very unique. It takes a while to learn which style and color fits you the best.”

When Lee was a college student, he used to work at a clothing shop. After he had saved enough money to travel abroad, he flew to Tokyo and Hong Kong to shop for his beloved T-shirts.

“T-shirts in Tokyo tend to be a little smaller and tighter,” he says. “I’m not sure if it’s because of Japanese body types or different preferences in style. Even if it’s the right size, it will give a very different look.”

He found Hong Kong a great place to buy designer-brand T-shirts because of the city’s many outlets that offer generous discounts.

London has many T-shirt shops selling items with bold prints and vivid colors. “Every country has different styling and ways to digest the unique styles,” he says.

But how wise is it to spend a fortune on a designer-brand T-shirt that might quickly go out of fashion?

“You may think that it is pointless to buy expensive T-shirts but when you look carefully, you can tell why they’re worth it,” Lee says.

“Martin Margiela, one of the most famous luxury designers, is one example. The black T-shirt that I bought there has a stretched neck and a stretched small pocket. The T-shirt may look stretched but it’s actually a vintage look that the designer intended.

“To stretch a T-shirt on your own and make a look like this is nearly impossible. Luxury labels show that the designer has devoted his time and energy on making one look. Although it may cost more money, the unique look and great fit makes buying luxuries worthwhile,” Lee says.

So where does Lee suggest you head to for the best T-shirts?

Seoul: T-shirt buffs never tire of shopping at Gwangjang Market in Jongno, central Seoul.

At the market you can find many vintage, or used, clothes. From Jongno 3-ga Station, (lines No. 1, 3 and 5) ask the store owners at the entrance of Gwangjang Market where they sell vintage clothes.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a luxury item for just a few thousand won. However, at most shops, there are no exchanges or refunds after purchase, so you should be careful when buying.

Avoid white clothes if it is dark inside as there may be stains that you can’t see in the dark.

Tokyo: Kuyamatedori, a famous shopping district on a tree-lined street, has a great range of T-shirts. Take the Tokyu Toyoko line and get off at Daikanyama Station. Come out of the west exit and walk for 10 minutes. Kuyamatedori’s shops mainly sell T-shirts and jeans. Hollywood Lunch Market is one of the most famous shops. In Tokyo, there are some distinctive T-shirts from all over the world that we can’t find in Korea.

Hong Kong: Horizon Plaza at Aberdeen is a noted place for T-shirt shopping. The famous multi-store, Joyce, and luxury department store, Lane Crawford, offer great discounts. Here, the T-shirts you really love but had to forgo because of their sky-high prices, may be purchased at up to 70 percent off. From Horizon Plaza, walk for about 10 minutes and you’ll also find an outlet store named Space where the brands Prada and Miu Miu are on sale at generous discounts.

By Kang Seung-min JoongAng Ilbo [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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