Korean Daenggi

Daenggi - Traditional Korean hair ribbon to wear with a hanbok
Photos: Bong Hyunjung/Getty Images via Canva
Q: When I watch historical South Korean television series, like for instance Mr. Sunshine, I often see women in traditional clothing wearing a thin strip of fabric attached to their braided hair. Do you know what this is called?
A: The name of this hair accessory is "daenggi." The Korean daenggi - 댕기 - is a traditional hair ribbon that has been worn in Korea for centuries. It is a long, narrow piece of fabric or a ribbon that is tied around the hair to keep it in place. The daenggi was an important part of the hanbok, a traditional Korean garment, and was used to enhance the overall attractiveness of the outfit.
The origin of the hanbok can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC - 668 AD), where it was worn as a symbol of social status. During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), the daenggi was worn by both men and women. It was an important part of Korean fashion, used to enhance the beauty of the hanbok and to express the wearer's social status.
During the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, there were strict rules and regulations regarding hairstyles. One of the most notable restrictions was a prohibition on cutting one's hair. This is why so many people, both men and women, had very long hair during the Joseon Dynasty. It was believed that by keeping their hair long, people could show their respect for their ancestors and their dedication to traditional Korean values.
The daenggi is typically made from silk, cotton, or ramie, and is available in a wide range of colors and patterns. It is often adorned with embroidery, tassels, or other ornamental elements, which enhance its beauty and elegance. The design of the daenggi can vary depending on the occasion and the age of the person wearing it. For example, young girls may wear a brightly colored daenggi with cute patterns, while older women may prefer a more subtle and elegant design.
Korean hair ribbon - Daenggi
Photo: Ying Qi Chai/Pexels
The daenggi is not only a beautiful accessory but also a practical one. It is used to keep the hair in place and to stop it from falling into the face. In the past, women would often tie their hair with the daenggi before going out in public, as it was seen as a sign of respect and modesty. Today, the daenggi is still worn for special occasions such as weddings, festivals, and cultural events. It enhances the overall beauty of the hanbok and is a symbol of Korean cultural identity. It is viewed as a way to connect with South Korea's rich history and traditions.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in traditional Korean fashion, and because of this the daenggi has become increasingly popular among South Koreans. Fashion designers are incorporating the daenggi into their modern designs, thus creating a fusion of traditional and contemporary elements. The daenggi is also popular among K-pop stars, who wear it in music videos and on stage. This helps to spread Korean culture to a worldwide audience.
A daenggi attached to the end of the hair gives the illusion that the hair is longer than it actually is. In a way, this is similar to how you can make your hair look longer with a silk scarf, as illustrated below.
Silk scarf attached to a ponytail to make hair look longer
Photo: Vlada Karpovich/Corelens via Canva
Ways in which hair is styled and hair accessories from times gone by sometimes reemerge in a modified form in our contemporary fashion. Old photos, paintings and also historical television series and movies are an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration for someone who is observant and creative. Who knows, maybe one day a visit to a museum could become interesting anyway to fashionistas who aren't really into history...
See also: Asian hair and hairstyles