Of hanbok fashion and history: The truth behind each color
In every culture, colors have different meanings, different significates. Some colors may appear as colors of love, anger, creativity or modesty. It’s the same for Korean culture and especially in Korean traditional clothes such as the hanbok.
Hanbok is the name of the traditional dress worn by Korean people from the 3rd century, influenced by Nomadic origins from all parts of Asia, until our days, for a special celebration. Nowadays, hanbok is also included in daily life thanks to brands like LEESLE who reinterpret the classic hanbok to create pieces adjusted to modern fashion.
The hanbok for women is usually composed of a skirt, called Chima and a Jeogori top, which is the jacket that covers the arms and the upper part of the body. Jeogori are also worn by men in association with a Baji, which are pants. Traditionally if a person wore very bright colors and patterns, it was probably someone from royalty or nobility. Commoners wore light earth colors.
As we said it earlier, the colors of the hanbok have special meanings, as colors also have a special history in Korean culture. We now talk about Obangsaek and Ogansaek. Obangsaek is the traditional Korean color spectrum, composed of black and white, red, yellow and blue. Ogansaek is the other spectrum that you get when you mix the primary colors, such as green, light blue, bright red, sulfur yellow and violet.
Korean culture has assigned special meanings to each color, and the results are:
Red represents passion and love, good fortune and wealth. It is very common for women to wear it for their wedding. It also represents masculine energy, but in our days’ people really like it for sports as it is supposed to bring strength. It is also the color of fire and the cardinal direction of the South.
Black is the color of infinity and creation, of intelligence and wisdom and was worn by intellectuals. But it can also be seen as the color of darkness and death. It is associated with the element of water.
Blue was often worn by women of the court for their skirts and the coat of court officials, it’s the color of a new birth, of brightness and clarity but also the cool-feminine energy in opposition with red color. It’s the color of the wood and direction East.
Yellow was only worn by royalty, and gold by emperors. It’s the color that represented the center of the universe and was associated with the element Earth. Sometimes unmarried girls wore light yellow color to show their maidenhood.
Green has the same meaning as blue as it comes from it. It’s the color of a fresh start, youth, and young energy, but was often worn by the married woman.
White, associated with the element metal and direction West, is the color of purity and modesty, life, truth, peace, and patriotism.
Nowadays for modern hanbok, these meanings behind every color don’t have much influence as before, but it’s still very interesting to know when choosing your colors!
According to this, what do you think would be your hanbok colors?