Hair curlers in public? That’s just how they roll

In a subway automobile on a current fall afternoon, seven younger South Korean ladies stood quietly amongst a crowd of commuters. They wore seasonal jackets and windbreakers just like different passengers, however one accent made them stand out: old school hair curlers locked tightly into their bangs.
These plastic cylinders, often Velcro-covered, may be seen practically all over the place round Seoul — in cafes and eating places, on public transportation, on the road.

And whereas they could seem to be a vestige of a earlier period, the younger ladies who put on them say they should not solely purposeful but additionally an indication of shifting concepts about gender and sweetness 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 each day, stated she wore them exterior her dwelling to keep up the right curl in her bangs earlier than going to an occasion or assembly. She stated her mom had requested her to cease, fearing that others would discover it inappropriate.
Plastic cylinders, often Velcro-covered, may be seen practically all over the place round Seoul (Jean Chung/The New York Times)
But for Jung, look issues extra on the vacation spot than on the way in which there.
“You solely must look good in entrance of the folks you care about,” she stated.
That impartial angle is shared by many youthful individuals who don’t really feel beholden to the conventions that have been as soon as strictly noticed in South Korean society. Young folks in the present day say they are much less involved about what different folks assume and are selecting as an alternative to reside extra carefree.
Unlike earlier generations of ladies 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, Jung stated. “That’s why it doesn’t matter you probably have 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 are accessible and reasonably priced for most ladies. Korean celebrities usually publish photos on social media sporting curlers. Older ladies are each intrigued and mystified by the phenomenon.
Lee Jeong-jin, 51, has a 21-year-old daughter who regularly wears curlers exterior the home, a lot to her mom’s disappointment. Lee, who lives close to Seoul, stated it’s common for younger folks to have a “so what” angle.
She can relate. Using hair spray to create tall, voluminous hairstyles was the pattern in South Korea when she was in her teenagers, she stated.

“I’m fairly certain the older technology thought we have been the bizarre ones again then,” she stated.
Yet Kim Ji-in, 54, sees the hair curlers as a part of a broader shift amongst younger ladies who really feel they needs to be allowed to behave as they select in public, with out having to observe expectations about magnificence and gender.
“I’ve seen one lady in her 20s sitting on the subway flooring together with her make-up sprawled out in entrance of her,” she stated. In her time, it was unthinkable for a girl to go exterior with rollers in her hair, she added.
Resistance to South Korea’s often-rigid magnificence requirements and restrictive views about gender is just not new. After #MeToo allegations swept the nation a number of years in the past, some ladies responded with “Escape the Corset,” a motion in which they deserted make-up and wore bowl cuts to protest oppressive beliefs about bodily attractiveness.
Still, the nation has one of many world’s main magnificence industries, accounting for nearly 3% of the worldwide magnificence market in 2019, in accordance with the International Trade Administration, a U.S. authorities company.

The South Korean cosmetics trade has flourished regardless of the pandemic. Amorepacific, one of many nation’s largest magnificence conglomerates, reported an 8.5% year-over-year enhance in gross sales in the primary quarter of 2021. Exports in magnificence merchandise additionally rose by 16% from the earlier yr, in accordance with the Korea Trade Association.
But more and more, younger folks say they choose to come back as they are.
Kim Dong-wan, a 25-year-old researcher in Seoul, stated he was confused when he first noticed ladies 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.
“Times have modified a lot,” he stated.
This article initially appeared in The New York Times.
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