BEOSEON (버선, socks)
Beoseon was called the pair of the Korean traditional socks worn with hanbok for protection, warmth, and style. They are also called jokui (족의), jokgeon (족건) or mal (말) and according to a book Hunmong jahoe written by Choe Sejin in 1527, beoseon was called bosyeonmal (보션말).
The exact date when beoseon first began to be worn isn’t known, however, the ancient beoseon is assumed to be a form extended from baji (trousers) or bojagi (보자기, wrapping clothes protecting the feet). During the Three Kingdoms Dynasty (57 BC – 668 AD), beoseon made of silk was worn but it was limited by social class.
They are made of cloth and cover the whole foot, reaching above the ankle, for the purpose of looking stylish and to keep the feet warm and protect them from cold, damp and dirt which was really important since Koreans don’t wear shoes in their houses. Though similar in shape, the socks have different materials and colours according to the wearer’s social status and occasion. For instance, the commoners wore cotton beoseon while the royal family could afford silk.
Beoseon consist of a ko or beoseonko (an upturn toe) and the opening for the foot called a buri or beoseonburi.
The types of traditional Korean socks can be divided by purpose, shape, colour and sewing technique. Although the shape of beoseon does not reflect gender, beoseon for men have a straighter seam than that of women.
Depending on the sewing method, there were:
1) Hot beoseon (홑버선, hot=one layer) single-layered unlined beoseon worn as inner sock to prevent the outer beoseon from getting dirty.
2) Gyeop beoseon (겹버선, double-layered lined socks) is made of two layers (gyeop) of fabric without stuffing the inside.
3) Som beoseon (솜버선, padded socks) is composed of the outer fabric and cotton (som) as a batting to give the feet warmth and stylish look.
4) Nubi beoseon (누비버선, quilted socks) is made of quilting (nubi) and usually worn to protect the feet against the cold of the winter.
5) Tarae beoseon (타래버선) are decorative quilted socks for children. After the quilting, they are embroidered with threads in various colours and a string is attached to each ankle to bind them at the front.
On the other hand goteun beoseon (곧은버선) or also called godeulmok beoseon (고들목버선) and nuin beoseon (누인버선) are defined by shape.
In the Joseon era, beoseon made of a white fabric were the most commonly worn colour of socks worn regardless of class (it used to be worn by royals and commoners alike) except for special occasions.
The white socks also called baekmal are generally fastened to the calf by tying together thedaenim (a type of a cloth string) around the ankle of the baji, but in the royal family these socks have a string on the back to be fastened in the front.
There were various mal of blue, red and so on, among which the jeokmal (red ceremonial socks) wore the king with his myeonbok (ceremonial attire for grand ceremonies) and jeokseok (red ceremonial shoes for the king).
The queen wore the cheongmal (blue ceremonial socks) her jeokui (queen’s ceremonial attire for grand ceremonies) and cheongseok (blue ceremonial shoes for the queen).
While they were made to fit the feet without tying strings, the jeokmal and the cheongmal had strings which were attached to the heel and tied up in the front.
Beoseonpo (누비버선, pouch for socks)
Beoseonpo were embroidered pouches for storing socks patterns of family members. Sock patterns are folded to fit into the decorative pouches.