As of late, it seems like BTS can’t stay out of the headlines—the group’s ever-growing international popularity, recently punctuated by their historic win for the “Top Social Artist” award at the Billboard Music Awards, has transcended their loyal fanbase and caught the attention of Western celebrities and prominent media outlets. People can’t stop talking about them, and while they may seem like a completely new phenomenon to those previously unfamiliar with the group or K-Pop itself, the boys have actually been around since 2013, and the group has undergone a lot of growth to get where they are today. However, their sound isn’t the only thing that’s changed since their debut: the group’s fashion has evolved over the years, reflecting the changes in their style and image. Here are some of the hallmarks of BTS’s fashion evolution.
HEY, WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?
The song that started it all, “No More Dream,” featured the boys in coordinating black outfits with white text or bandana print, topped off with flashy gold accessories like chains, large pendants, and… big rings! Here, the boys maintain a sense of unity through their shared color scheme, yet have a touch of individuality as well. No two members are wearing the same outfit, and every member is wearing something distinct from the others—for example, Suga’s bandana, Rap Monster’s sunglasses, Jimin’s snapback, and J-Hope’s masks—reflecting that, while they make up a team, they each bring something unique to the table. Additionally, the ensembles mix hip-hop fashion trends from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, further establishing the group’s powerful debut image.
Released the year after their debut, “War of Hormone” transformed the boys from their previous image to a grungier, more rock-and-roll one that matched the change in their sound. Although all the members are seen in distinct outfits, each one combines classic, retro trends from the 50s and 60s with punk or grunge elements pulled out of the 90s and early 2000s. For example, Suga’s simple white t-shirt and jeans visually echo the style of mid-century greasers, while the plaid patches on the jeans serve as a nod to the pattern’s popularity in the 90s. Similarly, J-Hope, V, and Jin put a twist on traditional suits by changing up a key element or two—for example, swapping out a suit jacket for a leather one, or suit pants for distressed jeans.
YOU’RE MY EVERYTHING
Released in 2015, “I Need U” was unlike anything fans had seen from BTS thus far. The boys tapped into their emotional side, straying from previous releases and accessing a darker, more troubled image that matched the somber, melancholic tone of the song. Here, BTS appears less like a boy band and more like just a group of boys dressed in a neutral color palette and wearing casual, layered outfits that you might see on the streets every day. This boy-next-door image was also employed in the videos for “Prologue” and “Run,” allowing viewers to see the boys more as characters entrenched in feelings of longing and melancholy instead of as celebrities.
PEACHES AND CREAM, SWEETER THAN SWEET
Late 2016 saw the release of “Blood Sweat & Tears,” the song that directed widespread, international attention towards BTS. During this era, the group turned away from its youthful, boyish image and instead evolved into a mature, elegant one that paired well with the song’s sensual, dark mood. Here, the boys were predominantly styled in black pants, crisp dress shirts, and structured jackets with elaborate prints or embroidery, lending an artistic, princely look to the group members. Occasionally, the outfits would include a modern touch, such as distressed jeans, chokers, or low necklines; other times, they evoked days gone by with high, ruffled necklines, puffed sleeves, and cummerbunds. This change in appearance ushered BTS into the WINGS album era, distinguishing them from their past releases while maintaining the cohesion of a group.
I MISS YOU
In early 2017, BTS returned to their youthful image with the release of “Spring Day.” Here, the boys seem to evoke the image previously seen in “I Need U,” but with a brighter twist. Instead of portraying the brooding, angsty image seen in previous eras, BTS appears with more emotional complexity, reflected in the soft yet vivid styling presented in the video. The outfits offer a dimension of coziness and warmth that supplement a different response to melancholy and nostalgia than “I Need U,” coordinating with the upbeat, yet pensive and reflective tone of the song.
READY, AIM, FIRE!
Although the outfits seen in “Not Today” appear simple enough, they vary from one another so as to distinguish each member while continuing to give them the appearance of a team. Furthermore, the ensembles appear to harken back to the group’s roots in popular streetwear styles as seen in several of their previous releases, such as “No More Dream,” while updating the look and giving it a modern touch. Here, the members follow a certain template of wearing coordinating unzipped bomber jackets, a t-shirt, button-down, or hoodie underneath and dark pants paired with Puma sneakers. However, each of the members has a distinct color scheme and combination of various elements, once again showcasing BTS as a team of individuals rather than simply as a group. For example, Suga and Jimin’s jeans feature zipper accents on the legs; V, Jin, and Rap Monster wear headbands; and J-Hope sports a snapback, offering coordination without total uniformity. The overall appearance of the group is trendy, eye-catching, and athletic, matching the powerful, emphatic tone of the song.
The evolution of BTS’s fashion has showcased the members’ individuality every step of the way without forgoing the unity necessary for the success of the group. Overall, BTS proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this sense of synergy is present even in the clothes they wear. With this in mind, I can’t wait to see what BTS comes out with next and how their fashion continues to change along with them!