Garot

Garot

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Clothing

Writer KoBooja(高富子)

Work clothes dyed with persimmon juice and dried in the sunlight that were worn on Jeju Island.

It is not known when garot began to be worn on Jeju Island. Representative of the life of Jeju islanders until the 1950s, garot were worn so frequently by the women so that it became their informal attire. They were well loved because they were hygienic, economic, practical and environmentally friendly. From the 1930s, Korean-style baggy harem pants (mombbe) dyed with persimmon juice became popular. Consequently, entering the 1960s, the traditional women’s lower garment galgungjungi (wide-leg culottes-style pants) almost disappeared. Going into the 1980s, however, with the decline in farm work it was hard to see anyone wearing garot anymore. In addition, the need for garot further declined as military training suits, reserve military uniforms, dress shirts, or other worn-out clothes could be used as work clothes or old clothes could be dyed with persimmon juice.

Social changes driven by industrial development and the influx of Western culture into Korea caused demand for garot to disappear for a while. In the 2000s, new dyeing methods satisfying modern needs and sensibilities have led to production of a variety of everyday articles that are dyed with persimmon juice, including clothing, shoes, hats, bags, and bedding.

There is no clear evidence how garot gained their name. However, it can be guessed that the first syllable gar (gal) comes from their functionality as work clothes which turn brown in color (galsaek) like bricks or fallen leaves, and the second syllable from the symbolism of rough hemp cloth (galpo).

Above all, garot garments are the joint product of nature and human care. They are a chemical-free product since only the natural dyeing agent persimmon juice and sunlight are used, and success in achieving the desired result depends solely on natural conditions and human care invested in the sun-drying process. The optimal condition for sun drying, which takes five to ten days, is completely rain-free weather.
In addition, garot are adaptable to nature, the environment, and the human body. At first the clothes are stiff and reddish brown but gradually turn brown and soft. When the garments are first worn they feel coarse. However, like new clothes that are starched stiff, the crispness of the cloth prevents garot from clinging to the body and makes them feel cool. Hence, the garments do not require finishes such as starching. In addition, as persimmon juice acts as a preservative, the work clothes do not easily decompose or get damaged even when they are covered in sweat. Nor do they give off a bad smell. Since the color is similar to dirt, they are not easily stained, and even when they are dirty it is not easily noticeable. This means the clothes do not require frequent washing or the use of soap. Garot can be worn in the bath and the dirt and sweat is easily removed by rubbing the clothes. After they are washed and wrung, they can be worn again right away. Dressed in garot one does not get injured when stumbling over a thornbush or on the grass, and rough elements such as hairs growing on the surface of barleycorns will not stick to the clothes, or will easily fall off if they do.

More than anything, renewability is the most important feature of garot. New garot garments can be worn for two to three years. When worn continuously for one year, they fade in color and begin to look scruffy. In this case, old garot can be dyed again with diluted persimmon juice and dried in the sun. This extends the life of the clothes as the newly dyed garot can be worn as if they were new.
It is hard to assess how long garot last. Parts of the worn-out clothes that remain intact can be cut out and stuck on a bamboo basket or used to patch up small holes or damaged parts of everyday items to make them last longer. Garot can also be passed on to the next generation. In Jeju, when a baby is born, the body is cleaned and the baby is wrapped tightly in a cloth for three days to prevent exposure to cold air. Galjungi, men’s pants dyed with persimmon juice, are used to wrap the baby. The head of the newborn baby is placed in the low part of the crotch, the shoulders and belly are covered with the two legs, the belly and chest are covered with the waist section, and then the whole body is wrapped tightly. This is designed to protect the baby from cold and to correct its posture as it is not yet able to control its own body. In addition, as the baby cannot be bathed for several days the skin feels itchy but garot helps to soothe this. Another benefit of garot is that the dirt-like color of the clothes makes stains or dirt less conspicuous.
When a garot garment is worn out and can no longer be worn, it can be used as kindling or thrown into the compost heap. Even the last threads can thus be returned to nature as fuel or compost for the benefit of humans.

Garot

Garot
Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Clothing

Writer KoBooja(高富子)

Work clothes dyed with persimmon juice and dried in the sunlight that were worn on Jeju Island.

It is not known when garot began to be worn on Jeju Island. Representative of the life of Jeju islanders until the 1950s, garot were worn so frequently by the women so that it became their informal attire. They were well loved because they were hygienic, economic, practical and environmentally friendly. From the 1930s, Korean-style baggy harem pants (mombbe) dyed with persimmon juice became popular. Consequently, entering the 1960s, the traditional women’s lower garment galgungjungi (wide-leg culottes-style pants) almost disappeared. Going into the 1980s, however, with the decline in farm work it was hard to see anyone wearing garot anymore. In addition, the need for garot further declined as military training suits, reserve military uniforms, dress shirts, or other worn-out clothes could be used as work clothes or old clothes could be dyed with persimmon juice.

Social changes driven by industrial development and the influx of Western culture into Korea caused demand for garot to disappear for a while. In the 2000s, new dyeing methods satisfying modern needs and sensibilities have led to production of a variety of everyday articles that are dyed with persimmon juice, including clothing, shoes, hats, bags, and bedding.

There is no clear evidence how garot gained their name. However, it can be guessed that the first syllable gar (gal) comes from their functionality as work clothes which turn brown in color (galsaek) like bricks or fallen leaves, and the second syllable from the symbolism of rough hemp cloth (galpo).

Above all, garot garments are the joint product of nature and human care. They are a chemical-free product since only the natural dyeing agent persimmon juice and sunlight are used, and success in achieving the desired result depends solely on natural conditions and human care invested in the sun-drying process. The optimal condition for sun drying, which takes five to ten days, is completely rain-free weather.
In addition, garot are adaptable to nature, the environment, and the human body. At first the clothes are stiff and reddish brown but gradually turn brown and soft. When the garments are first worn they feel coarse. However, like new clothes that are starched stiff, the crispness of the cloth prevents garot from clinging to the body and makes them feel cool. Hence, the garments do not require finishes such as starching. In addition, as persimmon juice acts as a preservative, the work clothes do not easily decompose or get damaged even when they are covered in sweat. Nor do they give off a bad smell. Since the color is similar to dirt, they are not easily stained, and even when they are dirty it is not easily noticeable. This means the clothes do not require frequent washing or the use of soap. Garot can be worn in the bath and the dirt and sweat is easily removed by rubbing the clothes. After they are washed and wrung, they can be worn again right away. Dressed in garot one does not get injured when stumbling over a thornbush or on the grass, and rough elements such as hairs growing on the surface of barleycorns will not stick to the clothes, or will easily fall off if they do.

More than anything, renewability is the most important feature of garot. New garot garments can be worn for two to three years. When worn continuously for one year, they fade in color and begin to look scruffy. In this case, old garot can be dyed again with diluted persimmon juice and dried in the sun. This extends the life of the clothes as the newly dyed garot can be worn as if they were new.
It is hard to assess how long garot last. Parts of the worn-out clothes that remain intact can be cut out and stuck on a bamboo basket or used to patch up small holes or damaged parts of everyday items to make them last longer. Garot can also be passed on to the next generation. In Jeju, when a baby is born, the body is cleaned and the baby is wrapped tightly in a cloth for three days to prevent exposure to cold air. Galjungi, men’s pants dyed with persimmon juice, are used to wrap the baby. The head of the newborn baby is placed in the low part of the crotch, the shoulders and belly are covered with the two legs, the belly and chest are covered with the waist section, and then the whole body is wrapped tightly. This is designed to protect the baby from cold and to correct its posture as it is not yet able to control its own body. In addition, as the baby cannot be bathed for several days the skin feels itchy but garot helps to soothe this. Another benefit of garot is that the dirt-like color of the clothes makes stains or dirt less conspicuous.
When a garot garment is worn out and can no longer be worn, it can be used as kindling or thrown into the compost heap. Even the last threads can thus be returned to nature as fuel or compost for the benefit of humans.