When you are walking on a street, you can see various and unique fashion items such as shirts, bags, and accessories. Among them, strange and weird English spellings are written. For example, you can easily find many T-shirts with Stockholm syndrome letters on the internet. Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which a hostage is mentally assimilated to his or her captor and shows favor or support for the captor. This occurs when a person is kidnapped and that person has sympathy for the kidnapper. If you wear a T-shirt with this word, people who know the meaning of the word might think you are strange.
To explore why this strange lettering culture is prevalent in Korea, Seowon News interviewed Professor Kim Byoung Hee, Department of Advertising and PR.
The Seowon News: In Korea, we can see frequently many English lettering T-shirts. What is the reason this culture appears or what is the origin for making these products?
Kim Byoung Hee: Since about 2016, lettering fashion has become popular. The lettering was noticed as an attractive way of expression that the public could easily recognize, so the culture of lettering fashion began. Also, the lettering has emerged as a powerful way of expressing personal values because it contains ‘meaning’ in writing.
SN: Do you think that the lettering clothes is part of a marketing strategy?
KBH: Of course, it's one of the fashion marketing strategies. Clothes are sometimes labeled as ‘perishable goods’ like food. It's because after a fashion popularity fades, consumers don't look for them, and they disappear from the market. Therefore, marketing experts develop activities aimed at consumers who don't want to fall behind in fashion.
SN: Why is lettered clothing so popular with Korean consumers?
KBH: In Asia, we tend to worship English, so we think that clothes with English lettering are excellent in design. There is even a tendency to recognize clothes with embarrassing English lettering messages as beautiful. It's a serious problem.
SN: Why do you think people don't consider the bad English when they buy lettering clothes?
KBH: The biggest reason is blind foreign language worship. Also, people don't know the meaning of the English words on their shirts and think only of fashion. I've even seen someone wearing an English dress that says, “I'm a prostitute.” If you knew what it meant, would you wear it?
In addition, Professor Kim Byoung Hee said that people's blind worship of foreign languages and ignorance are ruining the original design value of lettering. Therefore, we need to make sure we don't wear clothes with messages we don't understand.