Imported Second-Hand Clothes in South Korea: An Examination of Guje Clothing as an Autonomous Consumer Practice
This thesis considers issues of individual's 'style competence' within global order. Guje (imported second-hand garments) fashion in South Korea is an ideal case study from which to examine consumer autonomy in the adoption of this Western vintage fashion trend since the 1990s. The importance of guje clothing lies in the local-cultural discrimination between the 'imported' and the local second-hand garments; guje clothes have been considered far more fashionable than the locally generated used garments. Consequently, in guje and vintage markets, the origin bears a great significance, such as German or American yasahng, or Japanese(-import) jeans. While the foreign origin of these garments is an emblem of being stylish, the images of foreign cities are mostly presented as ideal places associated with romanticism and nostalgia. Such fashion practice reflects South Koreans 'rose-tinted' view of foreign countries and material culture. Furthermore, nostalgic memories are imagined and constructed based on Western fashion history in replacement of South Korea's own. More importantly, Japan plays a key role as a cultural and material mediator in the introduction of Western fashion, from jeans to luxury goods, to South Korea. This ethnographic research concludes that guje fashion cannot be regarded as a fully autonomous consumer practice, but rather as symptomatic of global homogeneity, which reveals the cultural and material impact of both Americanisation and Japanisation dominant in South Korea.