K-pop, short for Korean pop, is more than just a music genre. It’s a culture defined by its ability to blend music and dance genres and draw inspiration from different style aesthetics. Whether they’re on stage or the red carpet, K-pop fashion stars are known to mix luxury with streetwear and wear styles inspired by various decades. K-pop has had the ability to unite all aspects of music, art, and dance under one roof while adorning the world stage with some of the best-dressed stars.
Having built some of the biggest and most loyal global fan bases while dominating the American music industry, K-pop is beyond successful. The origins can be traced to the first Korean artists gaining popularity overseas.
The South Korean music group The Kim Sisters are believed to have laid the foundations for the beloved genre. The trio rose to fame by singing renditions of popular American songs to G.I.’s during the Korean War. Word quickly spread about the group in the U.S. and soon they were signed to American producer Tom Ball.
Following the Kim Sisters, K-pop can be broken down into three generations. The first is from 1990 to 2000. Boy group Seo Taiji and Boys combined a mesh of Korean and American pop music with hip-hop inspired dance choreography. The group wore designs inspired by American fashion and street style, continuing to introduce South Korea to U.S. fashion. They were early pioneers of K-pop as we know it now. The boy group H.O.T., which also was popular in the ’90s, emulated the professionally trained skill, iconography, and style we see today. The band often rocked matching outfits, from head-to-toe leather to colorful oversized suits.
The second generation, from 2000 to 2010, consisted of groups like Girls’ Generation, Apink, TVXQ, and more. The groups often sported matching stage outfits that were more laid back compared to what we’re used to seeing now. The Wonder Girls can be seen wearing casual street style clothes in their “Tell Me” music video, and Girls Generation performed in casual jean-tee combos, sporty sweatshirts and skirts.
The third generation of K-pop (2010 to present) reigns today. Fan-favorite boy band BTS broke records after becoming the first K-pop group in history to be nominated for a Grammy in 2020 for their hit song “Dynamite,” which gained 12.6 million streams on Spotify the first day of its release. Third generation K-pop groups have gained contracts with luxury brands like Chanel, Fendi, and Loewe to name a few.
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