WHEN SOUTH KOREAN RAPPER Psy’s annoyingly catchy pop song Gangnam Syle made history last week by becoming the most liked video in YouTube history (oh, and soaring to the top of the UK charts), the entire world was soon practising their lasso dance moves. But while it was clear the tune was awful, repetitive and catchy in equal measure, the question remained: what is Gangnam Style?
‘lt’s nothing – just dress classy, dance cheesy,’ says Psy. But the reality is Gangnam is a very wealthy 15 square mile Seoul neighbourhood, with multiple high rises, even more designer boutiques and gorgeous girls with a very distinctive style. ‘lt’s very polished, on-trend and – crucially – moneyed, its expensive and the brand name is visibly identifiable on the clothes, they’ll buy it,’says James Pearson, co-editor of Korean news site koreaBANG. Unsurprisingly for what’s known as the Beverlly Hills ol South Korea (complete with its own ‘Rodeo Drive’), Gangnam girls know their labels. Banya Hwang, 27, spends £1,500 a month on bags and £1,000 a month on shoes. ‘Labels,’ she explains, ‘show which level of social class I belong to.’ For her, it’s Chanel accessories, Hermes for horse-riding clothes, and Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu and Dior for bags. These girls can afford to splash out. Indeed, with.the average apartment costing $700,000 -18 times the average national salary – Gangnam represents Korea’s wealthiest 1%. Which is probably why last year over 5,000 Chanel 2.55 Medium bags were sold there every single month, ‘ln Gangnam, money is an important status symbol,’agrees Jae-Ha Kim-, Korean social commentator. ‘The girls dress well because they can afford the latest trends.’And the resulting look? ‘Skirts or dresses are very short, heels are skyscrapers, but arms are covered and low necklines are a no-no during daytime,’ she explains. ‘And let’s just say you look very out-of-place in two-inch heels.’ But Hermes isn’t for everyone. ‘Many Koreans aspire to be Gangnam style. Others, however, despise its superficiality. It’s a place where women go to Starbucks to be seen rather than drink coffee,’ explains James. He reports there are also a whole host of Gangnam wannabe women who are known as ‘soybean paste women’s their tendency to live on a cheap stew made of bean paste, forgoing lunch for labels. Well, that’s Gangnam style..
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