I am a bigger sized guy. (I’m 6’3, 250 lbs.), Finding clothes that fit me is difficult in Korea and online resources about where to shop for larger sizes are scarce. This blog is dedicated to you - the expat males who currently live in, or plan to move to Korea! Beware - you may not meet the average male Korean size.
Recently while back in the U.S. for vacation, I was thrilled to find a wide variety of clothes that fit me comfortably. I replenished my wardrobe to meet my needs for the rest of the year in Korea. If you don't have the opportunity to visit home and stock up while living in Korea, here are a few tips on where to buy clothes in Korea that will fit and what you should pack prior to departure.
Before traveling to Korea to live, you NEED to know:
Asian body types and Western body types are completely different. Coming from America, we measure our bodies in inches. Koreans use the metric system. Be sure to learn how your measurements for shirts, pants, and shoes in the U.S. translate to Korean sizes. It isn't just about the measurement system used in Korea - an XL shirt in Korea is a small/medium for Western bodies. Fit isn't the only issue when buying clothes in Korea. Shopping for clothes (especially shoes) can be expensive in Korea. So, if you are male and not small, I recommend you over pack, rather than under pack, when you move here.
Where to Shop
In Seoul, check out Myeongdong - If you are around my size, you can still shop at some stores in Myeongdong. Myeongdong is one of the most touristy places in Seoul. You can find stores like H&M and Uniqlo where people my size can still shop. Style and size selection can be limited, so every couple of months, I take a trip to these stores to see what new is in stock. Jamsil's Lotte World Mall, Apgujeong Rodeo, and Yeouido’s IFC Mall also have these stores so you may be able to check out a place closer to your apartment when you teach in Korea.
Itaewon is foreigner central if you are living in Seoul. If you are a bigger size, shopkeepers will approach you and say ‘big size, big size’ and lead you into their store. At first this bothered me, but I realized they were trying to do business and I needed a winter coat. In my opinion, many of the clothes in Itaewon shops are overpriced from shoes to basketball jerseys. Also, the shopkeepers stock few brand items so it made me question the quality of the material. I bought a winter jacket for over 200,000 won and it didn’t last the winter season without getting ripped. But if you desperately need dress shoes or dress shirts, Itaewon is your best bet.
Dongdaemun malls like AM/PM and Migliore have a couple of floors dedicated to menswear. I feel most Westerners shy away from this place because it is compact and they believe that the merchants don't speak English. Don't be scared coming here because they carry sizes for the larger man at a better price than the shops in Itaewon. Bring cash and plan to price haggle. My friend haggled down a jacket purchase from 220,000 won to 105,000 won. Now that’s a good way to shop!
Texas Street shopping is right across from Busan’s KTX station and has catered to foreigners and military men for over forty years. This is the equivalent to Seoul’s ‘Itaewon District’. Although the selection is not as good as Seoul’s, you can find stores that carry larger sized clothing and shoes. You can also haggle on price in these shops and hopefully get a bargain.
All over Korea:
Gmarket.com is Korea’s Amazon or Zappos.com. This website is not only good for clothes, but it’s also good for home furnishings and more. Most of Gmarket can be read in English, however, some of the site is still in Korean only. If you can, I suggest you learn how to read Korean ASAP or have a Korean friend help you. I like Gmarket but payment can be difficult if you have the wrong type of bank card or if the retailer does not accept foreign credit cards. Most of vendors do offer a bank-to-bank transfer that you can easily do at your bank’s ATM.
What you should bring to Korea:
First, bring name brands, anywhere from Nike, Lacoste, or even high-end brands, from home, especially if you live in the United States before you come to Korea. Foreign goods in Korea are marked up ridiculously high because the Korean government wants you to buy Korean-made goods. Second, bring a winter coat because Korea can get cold, and depending on where you live in Korea, you may get a lot of snow. Finally, if you wear a shoe size 10 or larger, bring a pair or two of shoes with you when you move. It is really hard to find your size shoe at a good price.
I hope these suggestions help you get ready for your move here! Good luck and see you here!
After working for five years in banking, Marc decided that it was time for a change before he got too old. He left the stress from his 9-5 job to do something new and different. After coming to Korea with a group of buddies, he landed in the Gangdong Branch in Eastern Seoul. When he's not teaching and doing head instructor duties, he is out about traveling Korea, looking for the new, old, and undiscovered places to visit. Follow him on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku for the latest happenings in South Korea.