Whether you’re deep in the world of K-Pop or you’re just a casual viewer, you’ve most likely heard of the seven-member boy band BTS. The band, whose name means Bulletproof Boy Scouts (Bangtan Sonyeondan in Korean), has been an unstoppable force in the industry, with consistent hits for the past several years.
The group’s ever-growing international popularity, recently punctuated by their historic no. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 11 weeks with their new single Dynamite, is hardly surprising. Compared to their early American and British counterparts like *NSYNC, 98 Degrees or One Direction, BTS rips up the dance floor with musical genres that range from pop ballads to rap, with coordinating flamboyant tour outfits, all looking great while they’re at it, of course.
The boy band’s influence and reach lies not only in their songs but also in their visual style. K-Pop represents a new age of music, dance and style. With each album having a new concept, visuals are important to the genre’s appeal. Each ensemble worn by members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook has fans raving and imitating them. These idols serve as major global fashion influencers and trend-setters.
Since 2013, the group has undergone incredible growth, and worked hard (an understatement, to be honest) to get where they are today. However, their sound isn’t the only thing that has evolved since their debut—the group’s fashion has also changed over the years, reflecting the group’s evolution in their music, their maturity and with their popularity, access to all that fashion has to offer—from designer brands to couture and hard-to-find luxury timepieces, to fast-fashion brands and locally-made items from their native South Korea.
The appeal of their music, energetic dance moves, and their message of acceptance and self-love are magnified through their eye-catching visuals—this is evident when you see their MVs and live performances.
The song that started it all, “No More Dream,” debuted the boys in coordinating black outfits with white text or bandana print, topped off with flashy and oversize gold accessories. Their debut look referenced hip-hop looks from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s, befitting their music at that time, which was more hip-hop and had a darker undertone.
From there, we saw them embracing more gender-fluid fashion—from pulling off bright colors like hot pinks and pastel-colored suits with ease, to wearing ruffles and pieces from women’s designer collections and accessories like chokers, drop earrings and brooches.
Aside from fashion, their collective hair evolution is a different story altogether. From RM’s mohawk to Jungkook’s cherry red and Suga’s mint shades, they have pretty much tried out every possible hair color they can think of.
Off-duty, BTS might be seen in denim and street fashion, but the K-pop band surely knows how to suit up if the occasion calls for it. For the 2019 Grammy awards, the stars wore coordinated suits and tuxedos, designed by South Korean designers Kim Seo Ryong and JayBaek Couture.
My favorite look would have to be the custom Dior tour stage outfits by Kim Jones last year which featured bomber jackets, cargo pants and shirts, also incorporating a variety of hats, bags, boots, and harnesses created in collaboration with Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama. The custom Dior stage outfits not only made news, but also redefined sponsorship in K-Pop.
From a more futuristic military look, we saw them in ‘70s-inspired fashion for their hit single Dynamite, sporting retro looks from Gucci, Etro and Fendi. For teasers of their BE concept photos, posts by Big Hit Entertainment of members wearing relaxed luxe lounge looks circulated online, with matching designer slippers and mules from Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton.
When it comes to fashion, BTS isn’t afraid to experiment. Obviously, a team of stylists shapes each member’s looks, but you can also note how the style preferences of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook shine through in whatever they wear, whether they’re in formal wear, hanbok or incognito outfits at the airport. No two members are wearing the same outfit, and every member is wearing something distinct from the others.
The evolution of BTS’ fashion has showcased the members’ individuality every step of the way without forgoing the unity needed for the group to succeed—showing that, while they make up a team, each of them brings something unique to the group, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With their next album dropping soon, I’m sure the ARMY can’t wait to see what the group will have in store and how their style will evolve in the years to come.
(BTS Map of the Soul concept photo released in February 2020, from Big Hit Entertainment official FB)