In Trends

Bernie Sanders & Jesse Jackson: the fashion inspiration for young South Koreans

Young South Koreans take fashion inspiration from Bernie Sanders and Jesse Jackson

Among young South Koreans, civic rights activist and Democratic presidential nominee Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign T-shirts and French fashion brand Balenciaga’s Bernie Sanders-inspired caps are some of the hottest fashion items at the moment.

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“What size is it?” “Has it been sold yet?” Comments like these quickly appear when well-kept secondhand Bernie Sanders caps are put up for sale in online communities, as a brand new one could cost nearly US$310.

Celebrities like actor Ha Yeon-soo and singer HyunA have been seen sporting the Balenciaga cap, the design of which has been inspired by US politician Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign logo.

The Jesse Jackson-inspired T-shirts appear within reach for a wider demographic, as they are sold at a much cheaper price, ranging between 10,000 and 20,000 won.

Other than being seen as fashionable, the two items share another thing in common. They are both inspired by progressive US presidential campaigns from the past, yet their origins receive little to no attention from South Korean consumers.

The comments from major Web portal Naver speak volumes.

“It hugs my body perfectly,” one comment about Jesse Jackson T-shirts read, while another said, “It goes well with my denim.”

YouTuber Seni, who specializes in makeup and fashion, did a video on a hip-hop festival look in September, which she complete with the Bernie Sanders-inspired Balenciaga cap.

During the video, the YouTuber got ready for a music festival but the background knowledge behind the cap’s design did not take center stage.

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Online fashion retailer Yuiiyuii, which sells Jesse Jackson T-shirts, says it’s mostly the design of the shirt that has gained popularity despite its originally political nature.

“Not just Jesse Jackson but other T-shirts with similar fonts and colors gained popularity beginning around last summer.”

While the two figures once contended for the leadership of the United States, their profile in Korea is not as strong as other US political figures such as President Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

On a rare occasion in September, Jesse Jackson met with President Moon Jae-in during his visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

During the meeting, Jackson praised Moon’s North Korea policy and called the South Korean president a “breath of fresh air,” adding Moon was following in the footsteps of South African President Nelson Mandela and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

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