Jeans are a staple in many people's closets and are a versatile, comfortable option to wear for traveling and your adventures. Do certain places like North Korea allow them though?
North Korea is a dictatorship country with much stricter social rules than many other countries. The government dictates many aspects of its citizens' lives, including what they can and can’t wear.
Due to North Korea’s intolerance of Western ideals, blue jeans are not allowed to be worn by residents or travelers. Let’s take a deeper look into why jeans aren’t allowed in North Korea and what is allowed.
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What Are the Rules?
In North Korea, by law, blue jeans are not allowed and anyone that does wear blue jeans will face repercussions. North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, is against Western culture and ideals and sees blue jeans as a symbol of US influence and American imperialism, making it illegal and forbidden in North Korea’s strict society.
Other fashion choices that are considered to be Western influences including dyed hair, certain hairstyles like mullets, brand t-shirts, and certain piercings and are therefore also banned in North Korea.
Skinny jeans and form-fitting clothes are also illegal, with women in their 20s and 30s being especially targeted and punished for wearing such items.
What If You Get Caught Wearing Jeans?
North Korea’s Youth League parol the nation, policing anyone wearing inappropriate clothing. If you are caught wearing jeans, authorities will not release you until you have confessed your crimes in a written letter and someone brings you acceptable clothing to change into.
In the most severe cases, the Youth League will publicly broadcast your name, home address, and place of work on Radio Free Asia, their public broadcasting station.
What is The Dress Code?
Though many countries have unofficial dress codes due to societal influence and pressure, North Korea has an official dress code enforced by law.
The dress code ensures modesty and outlaws any fashion and looks with Western influence. You can wear clothes from your country, as long as they follow North Korea’s strict laws on appearance.
What Are the Social Norms?
North Korea has been a dictatorship since 1953 and therefore citizens' clothing has been regulated for many decades. North Koreans dress modestly and conservatively, wearing smart casual for day wear and suits and business apparel for work.
North Koreans cover their shoulders, cleavage, and knees and often wear closed-toe shoes. Makeup is very minimal and most do not wear makeup at all. Accessorizing is also minimal, and wearing lots of jewelry or large statement pieces is not common practice.
For special occasions like Lunar New Year’s Day, North Koreans will wear traditional Korean clothing called hanboks which are formal robes and gowns worn by both women and men.
What To Do
Follow all rules and regulations of North Korea and dress simply and modestly. Respect their country, culture, and leader while you are there, and follow the restrictions put in place for non-citizens. Always stick with your touring group as well.
What Not to Do
Don’t wear blue jeans or any other form of fitting pair of pants. Black jeans are considered acceptable as long as they aren’t form-fitting.
Don’t wear any clothes with brand names on them or anything that is not modest.
How To Stay Safe When Traveling to North Korea
If at all possible, it is not recommended to travel to North Korea as there is a serious risk of arrest and long-term detention as a tourist, especially if you are from the United States.
North Korea is a closed society and therefore as a tourist, you will not be allowed access or entrance to many places and shops. You must also follow their rules at all times, including not talking to any locals or photographing them.
If you are set on going, make sure to do ample research on their rules and regulations and follow them when you are there.
What Can I Wear?
Apart from jeans, there are still many options for bottoms that are allowed in North Korea. Here are some ideas.
Shorts are considered acceptable in North Korea and are worn by the locals. Make sure they go to or past your knees and are not form-fitting.
Trousers are another item commonly worn by North Koreans. They are formal and modest while still being comfortable and practical. Opt for a neutral color like brown or grey so you can pair them with whatever tops you brought with you.
Black jeans, as long as they aren’t skinny jeans are considered acceptable in North Korea. Make sure they are clean and fit well and avoid pears with tears or holes.
Discover more sustainable black jeans options here.
A conservative dress is a great, airy option that can be worn for any month. Make sure your dress covers your shoulders, and your cleavage, and goes down to at least your knees. Also, make sure your dress is not too form-fitting and avoid high and dramatic slits.
A longer skirt that goes past your knees is a good choice. Skirts are loose and comfortable for any season and you can easily be worn over other layers to keep you warm during the colder months.
Take a look at these maxi skirts.
A button-down short-sleeve or long-sleeve is a standard piece worn in North Korea. Choose breathable fabric like cotton in the summer or layer your button down under a blazer or coat to keep warm during the winter.
Flip-flops and sandals are not worn in North Korea. Some women wear open-toe formal shoes, but the majority of people wear closed-toe shoes. Opt for a simple pair of comfortable and supportive sneakers for your tour.
Go for a pair of dress shoes for a more formal look or occasion, such as eating out or visiting certain sites.
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