Best men's select shops
Seoul-based fashion journalist and photographer Hong Sukwoo is one of Seoul’s undisputed style gurus: from taking the Sartorialist around town to hanging out with Simon Collins (dean of Parson’s School of Fashion), he seems to hang out with only the current and future arbiters of cool.
He’s pretty busy, too, with ongoing projects including collaborating with Incase on a pocket-sized magazine, writing a column in Hankyoreh and taking street pictures for Elle.com.
Style, not trends
Hong started the first fashion blog with street snapshots in Korea back in 2006.
Of his own style, Hong says that he used to pay attention to the overall look of certain designers, but now he is more interested in collecting well-made items that are not affected by trends.
"Well-made doesn’t necessarily mean expensive," says Hong, pointing to his own attire. "Right now I’m wearing a shirt from Muji, which cost around ₩30,000 and this hunting jacket from a vintage shop in Gangneung was only ₩50,000."
But not everyone has the eye of a fashion photographer, and sometimes the line between stylish and ridiculous can be quite thin. For such would-be fashion adventurers, Hong is currently writing a column in "Arena Homme."
"You can start small," says Hong. "Instead of a wardrobe make-over from shoes to watch, try a new pair of interesting socks. Or head to Uniqlo for a pair of pants that fits you better than your dad’s."
He also recommends getting fashion tips from serious fashion websites.
"If you divert just five percent of your attention for the stock market and spend it on fashion, you’ll be stylish in no time," he says.
Hong Sukwoo's picks
Unipair, the first select shop in Seoul to specialize in high end men’s dress shoes, boasts an impressive array of brands from the British classic Edward Green to more casual Italian maker Stokton.
Jay Kang, the store manager who knows everything there is to know about shoes, is proud to introduce Resh, Unipair’s in-house shoe repair service.
“Koreans like to glue protective rubber on the leather out sole of nice shoes, but the best way to wear dress shoes is in its original form," says Kang. "Resh offers high-quality replacement leather out soles so you can wear your favorite shoes for years to come."
The store also has a Prestige Room where you can try on and order luxury shoes like Stefano Bemer and Alden. Edward Green shoes start at ₩1,500,000 and a pair of Stefano Bemer is ₩2,500,000 and up.
The tastes of the younger crowd are not neglected, as the store carries widely popular desert shoes by Stokton (₩258,000) and colorful deck shoes by the French maker Paraboot (₩ 700,000).
“Paraboot shoes are so comfortable they’re called the Air Max of non-sneakers,” said Kang.
646-18, 1/F Sinsa-dong Gangnam-gu 135-896 (강남구 신사동 646-18 1층); +82 2 542 0377
Hong's next pick is Addicted, which celebrated its seven-year anniversary in April 2011.
“Seven years is a remarkably long period of time considering Seoul is still a hard place to manage a privately owned select shop,” says Hong.
The store specializes in introducing obscure European brands to the Seoul fashion scene.
“You might think our store is full of crazy outfits, like this bunny hat from Benstock Speirs,” says the shop's buyer Jiheh Kang. “But there are a lot of wearable items, like checkered shirts from the Swedish maker Velour and TopMan collection by TopShop.”
Addicted also carries retro color block suits by Peter Jensen, and funky KTZ sweats, two of many brands the store introduced for the first time in Korea. Prices range from ₩100,000 (graphic T-shirts by Cassette Playa) to ₩900,000 (winter jackets).
634-11, 1/F Singsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, 135-896 (강남구 신사동 634-11 1층); +82 2 547 7332; noon-9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday
The last of Hong's picks is MSK, a shop hidden away in the sixth-floor attic of an office building in Apgujeong.
“We have clothes that you would want to wear every day, something comfortable," says owner Suki Min. "Only the people who really love our aesthetics come to our store."
About 70 percent of the brands at the MSK shop are local labels by Seoul-based designers.
“From the beginning Min wanted his shop to be an incubator and showroom for local designers,” says Hong.
Among them is Spectator by An Teok, which has shirts, chinos and jackets of classic American style. Fitbow by Chon Kyungbin is another brand of note -- its sub-label Arkestra offers relaxed yet stylish cotton jackets with handmade details for less than ₩300,000.
The store also carries little-known foreign labels such as Our Legacy from Sweden with signature waterproof jackets and colorful chino pants by a New York based label UNIS.
569-21, 6/F Woo Jung Bd, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu (강남구 신사동 569-21 우정빌딩 6층); +82 70 8233 3107; Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Closed Sundays)