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The History Behind Our Mask Design

The History Behind Our Mask Design

In our Winter ‘19 collection, we featured an American favorite icon, Mickey Mouse, sporting a traditional Korean mask called talTal are generally made of wood and have a human or nonhuman face carving. During the mid-Goryeo Dynasty in the 12th century, they were used in war and burial ceremonies, but more prominently in the arts. Villagers frequently gathered and performed wearing various tal, using them as disguise while mocking the aristocracy. While Korea no longer uses tal for war and religious rituals, the art of talchum (mask dance) is still practiced today. Tal key chains or even full-sized replicas can be found in souvenir shops around South Korea.

Hahoe (pronounced hah-hweh) is a village located a few hours north of Daegu and produced what are considered the twelve signature tal. As three of the tal went missing over time, only nine were registered as Korea's 121st national treasure in 1964.

The actual artist of Hahoe-tal remains unknown to this day. But legend says, a young man by the surname of Huh was the creator of Hahoe-tal. During a period of illness in the Hahoe village, a deity appeared in Huh's dream and enlightened him to carve special tal that would cease the sickness. He was instructed to do this in private until the all the tal were completed. But a young lady, who was in love with Huh, noticed his absence and longed to see him. She found his private hut and crossed the straw rope that hung as a boundary. She punctured a hole through his paper window and secretly peeked while he was working on the last tal. At that moment, Huh vomited blood and immediately died without finishing the Imae-tal, the only tal missing a mouth piece.

This design was a fun way to fuse two significant pieces of American and Korean theater culture in a way that no one has ever seen before. You can find Mickey and Minnie wearing two of the original Hahoe-tal: Mickey in the yangban (aristocrat) tal and Minnie in the bune (young flirty woman) tal, a common pairing during performances. The combination of the old school black-and-white Mickey and the traditional tal masks is a visualization of our brand’s mission: keepin our roots eternal.
Shop our Mickey Mouse Tal design here.

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