There are several things that South Korea is known for: the Samsung phone your less affluent friend uses, League of Legends tournaments and plastic surgery hotels, to start. The most ubiquitous export from Seoul, however, has been K-Pop, particularly Psy and his infectious/irritating "Gangnam Style." For the uninitiated, K-Pop is a saccharin blend of pop, hip hop and dance. The singing’s auto-tuned, the dancing’s tight, and the videos are colorful. Across the Pacific and to an increasing extent in the US, marquee K-Pop acts like Girls' Generation inspire the kind of fan worship not seen since the heyday of the Spice Girls, and that includes creating trends with their over-the-top style.
Most of the women and men in K-Pop videos are dolled up in garish yet alluring outfits better suited for a video game character. It may not make sense to go work in a pair of harem pants, a sequined hoodie, and enough eyeliner for all of Fall Out Boy, but taking some fashion risks with a few K-Pop-inspired items could make you stand out. If Korean pop stars become as popular stateside as Korean makeup or Korean fried chicken—and they might, as Girls' Generation's latest hit, "Party," is an obvious heir to Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen's bubblegum summer songs—then these idols' style are a preview of what we’ll be wearing.
Borrowing fashion cues from their neighbors to the north, this SHINee (yes, that's how it's spelled) video is filled enough military ensembles for a Memorial Day parade. Jackets are covered in flair, accentuated by oversized epaulettes and accessorized with everything from walking sticks and monocle chains to an equally accentuated peaked hat. Notice how everything is fitted to the contours to the body—it’s helpful for both goose stepping and practicing your krumping with your five best friends.
Get the look: Find a women’s military costume since it’s probably already body-hugging. Get grandpa’s formal military jacket and bedazzle the crap out of it with flair you’ve stolen from an Applebee’s waiter.
Several years ago men’s harem pants were all the rage amongst a certain popstar set. But the world of K-Pop moves so fast that they’re probably already retro. It's a departure from the typically close-cut lines of most Korean singers’ trousers, but you can’t go wrong with pants that give you all the comfort of skinny jeans and the crotch roominess of bloomers. You may be tempted to go for black or grey, but adding a print or gold lame will let everyone know that this is a style choice, not the result of a horrible dryer accident.
Get the look: There are several vendors that sell men’s harem pants. For for those of you who can sew, take a old pair of sheets or some sweatpants and follow this tutorial. If you friends mock you, just say you’re doing some Prince of Persia cosplay for a Con.
Post-Apocalyptic Disco Chic
Having a crazy dictator with nukes as a neighbor will make even pop stars ponder the possible effects of a nuclear winter. Several K-Pop videos have pondered the end of civilization, but despite the radiation and devastation, there’s still time fall in love and then dance about it. Get in early by making sure your nuclear shelter is stocked with enough leather, metal studs, furs, and boots to make the Mad Max meets Studio 54 version of the future a reality.
Get the look: A fur that was tarnished during a PETA protest with some leather chaps will do the trick. Make sure you have some clasps and belts to make a fashionable chest harness or face mask.
This one’s easy. At least 20 percent of the members of every K-Pop group have a hair color that doesn’t normally exist in nature. The biggest trends are dishwater/blonde ombre or super bright colors. Nikki Minaj should be jealous of some of the colors EXO, SHINee and Girls' Generation are sporting. This one’s tricky because not every man or woman can pull off cotton candy-colored hair. But if GDragon can do it, so can you. And he gets to hang out with Justin Bieber.
Get the look: Go to a Sally’s Beauty Supply and get the entire spectrum of Manic Panic colors or just borrow your older sister’s, she probably still has some from the 90s laying around.