Hot Tub Time Machine (Gwangjang Vintage Clothing Market)

Shopping for men’s clothing in Seoul as a westerner is difficult for me. Actually, matching clothes in any country is difficult for me. I would not consider myself a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I still miss stores like Buckle, Express for Men(Structure was a much better name) and Banana Republic, along with consignment type stores like Ross or TJ Max in the United States. While American men often have sloppy fashion, when we do it right we look sharp while reserving our masculinity. It’s a combination that seems difficult and less desirable for men in Europe or Asia(There are several exceptions.) Let’s be honest, straight men in America still debate whether it’s ok to try to wear a pink dress shirt to work. This conversation would never escalate to if it’s ok to wear jeans that are tighter than your girlfriend’s. Men in the rest of the world seem comfortable with these conversations.  In fact, men from other countries have not only eclipsed American men, but are light years ahead of American men in embracing what I would consider more feminine styles. Yet, living overseas I’ve come to appreciate the fashion sense of Korean men . They never look like they just got out of bed. They rarely sport a t-shirt with jeans unless they are fully accessorized and are wearing a colorful pair of shoes. Korean men are extremely tall and skinny which helps even their mickey mouse shirts look slick with a good pair of jeans and a blazer. Their hair is immaculately well-kept and appears to take more preparation than sending privatized spacecraft into outer space. They layer and match clothes with an assassin’s precision and an engineer’s attention to detail. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, I can’t pull it off. I have thighs, hips, and some guttage. Skinny jeans just look ridiculous on me and the triple extra large blazers at APM in Dongdaemun don’t fit.  Additionally, I’d still prefer to look more masculine than how most Korean men dress. To summarize: the clothes in Dongdaemun don’t fit, the selection for men in Myeongdong is small, and the specialty shops in Itaewon or Apujeong are expensive. Furthermore, I feel like I am settling for what I actually want. What is the solution for men who want western fashion and sizes at an affordable price? The truth is, I don’t know. The closest solution I’ve developed is a combination of online shopping and shopping at Uni-Glow for jeans and shirts. However, my quest to find a better answer led me to a Thrfit store in Jogno that’s worth blogging about. Take Line 4 to the Jogno 5(o)-ga station and depart exit 7. You’ll notice a fairly extensive underground shopping center connected to the subway and a huge thrift market on your left. I did not have much time to explore the thrift market but the most impressive part was a large array of street food that looked incredible. The place was packed and Koreans were wasting no time stuffing their faces. The stores carried a lot of well….stuff. The second floor had a lot of fabric and um…stuff. I never buy any of this stuff so I failed to give you a proper description. Instead, here are some pictures to help fill in the gaps.

When you leave exit 7, walk straight until you reach the first intersection. You’ll see the building to your left changes shape. Above the doorway is a sign that mentions foreign clothing; walk up this wide set of steps to the second floor and you will enter the Korean version of an American time machine on the second floor.

Where these vendors get their merchandise from is beyond me. I wouldn’t say the clothing is circa 1980’s, but this Goonie’s shirt would disagree.

Just like in Dongdaemun, there are individual stalls overflowing with merchandise. One key difference is these stalls are manned by young hipsters who look like they should be teaching guitar lessons at the Nagwon Arcade. These guys are far more low key and fun to speak with than any employees at APM in Dongdaemun. I had so much fun and spent so much time just joking around with these guys that I felt guilty for not buying anything. If you don’t like being hassled by Korean clothing merchants, you’re in good company at this clothing market.

The clothes here are not Korean. They are vintage, American, and look to be around 10 years old. The clothes do come in western sizes and there are some gems to find if one searches hard enough. Even though there was a slightly sour smell and the interior lacked the pristine and glamour of Seoul’s more notable shopping areas, I was surprised to see quite a few upscale Korean girls searching for deals and unique items. I don’t think this area solves anyone’s serious clothing needs; however, it’s a great place to supplement the wardrobe with some unique items.

Fashion Time Machine
Because Stone Cold Says So
It’s Britney B*****
Shoes…shoes….OMG Shoes
Very nineties
Bedazzle 3D

The places I write about all have great atmospheres. This small vintage clothes area on the second floor of the Jogno Thrift Market is no exception. The people are cool, the clothes are unique, and the experience is genuine. With rainy season on the way, this is a stop away from the well treaded shopping paths of Seoulites and Tourists of Korea. It’s little more homely, a little more intimate, a little more attitude, and a lot more fun. Don’t take this last picture personally, I’ve just never seen a mannequin do this before. Like physicists discovering the Higgs Boson particle, sometimes it’s better to save the best for last.

Better Blogs about this area.

The Dispatches- This is great blogging about the area with a handy map for those of you subway impaired.

Insider’s Guide to Seoul– This is an awesome piece on places to visit in Seoul.

12 thoughts on “Hot Tub Time Machine (Gwangjang Vintage Clothing Market)

  1. +1 for the “shoes” reference.

    I agree with your assertion about the androgynous look being a bit more popular here than at home (in the U.S. in my case), but I think it’s a bit less eyebrow-raising in the bigger cities. Shoot, even my hometown of San Antonio, Texas has a healthy contingent of skinny-jeans wearing androgynous hipster kids. Not nearly as large of a percentage of the population, but I imagine it’s growing. Your pictures were well done for this type of review.

    Now…did you notice any size sam-baek shoes? ^^


    1. The ideal look for men in Korea is far more effeminate and lengthy than the ideal look for hipsters or emo kids back home. Korean men, in the face, can be mistaken for women on their good days.

      Thanks for the compliment; this is an older piece. I didn’t check shoe sizes.


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