December 3, 2021

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Rolling Deep: South Korean Youth Roam the Metropolis in Hair Curlers

Rolling Deep: South Korean Youth Roam the City in Hair Curlers

SEOUL — In a subway automobile on a latest fall afternoon, seven younger South Korean girls stood quietly amongst a crowd of commuters. They wore seasonal jackets and wind breakers similar to different passengers, however one accent made them stand out: old-fashioned hair curlers locked tightly into their bangs.

These plastic cylinders, often Velcro-covered, could be seen practically in all places round Seoul — in cafes and eating places, on public transportation, on the road.

And whereas they might appear to be a vestige of a earlier period, the younger girls who put on them say they don’t seem to be solely purposeful but in addition a sign of shifting ideas about gender and beauty and a mirrored image of the nation’s generational divide.

Jung Yoon-won, a 23-year-old faculty scholar in Seoul who makes use of curlers every day, mentioned she wore them outdoors her house to take care of the right curl in her bangs earlier than going to an occasion or assembly. She mentioned her mom had requested her to cease, fearing others would discover it inappropriate.

However for Ms. Jung, look issues extra on the vacation spot than on the best way there. “You solely must look good in entrance of the folks you care about,” she mentioned.

That unbiased perspective is shared amongst many youthful individuals who don’t really feel beholden to the conventions that had been as soon as strictly observed in South Korean society. Younger folks immediately say they’re much less involved about what different folks suppose and are selecting as an alternative to stay extra carefree.

Ms. Jung doesn’t view curlers as a relic of the previous, however as a software to assist her look put collectively as she zips throughout the town from one place to the subsequent.

“There’s a notion that ladies immediately ought to at all times have their hair be presentable,” she mentioned. She bristled at the concept she was supporting antiquated magnificence requirements or clinging to the times when going outdoors in Seoul with out excellent hair and make-up was like leaving the home with out carrying garments.

In contrast to earlier generations of girls who felt it was essential to prepare in personal, hidden from the sight of males, she and others care a lot much less if their grooming efforts are seen, Ms. Jung mentioned. “That’s why it doesn’t matter when you’ve got a roller in on the subway or cafe.”

Hair rollers in South Korea are sometimes worn in bangs. Costing as little as 80 cents apiece, they’re accessible and reasonably priced for most girls. Korean celebrities usually post pictures on social media sporting curlers. Older girls are each intrigued and mystified by the phenomenon.

Lee Jeong-jin, 51, has a 21-year-old daughter who continuously wears curlers outdoors the home, a lot to her mom’s disappointment. Ms. Lee, who lives close to Seoul, mentioned it’s common for younger folks to have a “so what” perspective.

She will relate. Utilizing hair spray to create tall, voluminous hairstyles was the pattern in South Korea when she was in her teenagers, she mentioned. “I’m fairly positive the older era thought we had been the bizarre ones again then,” she mentioned.

But Kim Ji-in, 54, sees the hair curlers as a part of a broader shift amongst younger girls who really feel they need to be allowed to behave as they select in public, with out having to observe expectations about magnificence and gender.

“I’ve seen one girl in her 20s sitting on the subway ground together with her make-up sprawled out in entrance of her,” she mentioned. In her time, it was unthinkable for a lady to go outdoors with rollers in her hair, she added.

Resistance to South Korea’s often-rigid magnificence requirements and restrictive views about gender shouldn’t be new. After #MeToo allegations swept the nation a number of years in the past, some girls responded with “Escape the Corset,” a motion by which they deserted make-up and wore bowl cuts to protest oppressive beliefs about bodily attractiveness.

Nonetheless, the nation has one of many world’s leading beauty industries, accounting for almost 3 percent of the worldwide magnificence market in 2019, in line with the Worldwide Commerce Administration, a U.S. authorities company.

The South Korean cosmetics business has flourished regardless of the pandemic. Amorepacific, one of many nation’s largest magnificence conglomerates, reported an 8.5 percent year-on-year improve in gross sales within the first quarter of 2021. Exports in magnificence merchandise additionally rose by 16 p.c from the earlier yr, in line with the Korea Trade Association.

However more and more, younger folks say they like to return as they’re.

Kim Dong-wan, a 25-year-old researcher in Seoul, mentioned he was confused when he first noticed girls carrying hair curlers in public about six years in the past. Now he says that he’s “detached,” and that ladies these days are much less prone to be pressured to cover such issues and are additionally demanding extra respect. “Instances have modified a lot,” he mentioned.

Whereas older South Koreans might not approve of the usage of hair curlers in public, Yoon Da-young, a 22-year-old scholar in Seoul, mentioned it’s not their place to know youth tradition or why youngsters and girls of their 20s would proudly step outdoors with curlers of their hair. “The pattern is to put on them out now,” she mentioned.

Younger girls simply need to have the ability to “do what they need in peace.”

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