IN 1956, the very first fashion show in Korea marked the beginning of the fashion trend in this modern era. Since then interest in fashion has spiked in Korea, with many people being very sensitive to trendy clothes. Interestingly, fashion trend has continuously received huge influences from notable popular contemporary musical figures. As celebrity musicians gain social influence, fans emulate their clothing as well as their music.
1960s - Yoon Bok-hee
General interest in western suits and skirts peaked during this period, which also brought the birth of Korean westernized fashion. At the same time, easy listening or orchestral pop songs that encompassed instrumental recordings of standards and popular non-rock vocals permeated everyday life. One such famous singer was Yoon Bok-hee, whose hit song “Yeo-reo-boon” was produced in the Seoul International Song Festival. As she received much fame, her fashion started to gain as much attention as her songs. She sparked much controversy when she wore a mini skirt after coming back to Korea from a duet performance with Louis Armstrong in America. Until then, many Korean women had never thought of wearing a thigh-baring skirt, and only wore those that went down at least to the knees. Many young girls then switched to miniskirts, much to the horror of the conservative older generation.
1970s - Twin Folio
The 1970s is another period in which popular singers influenced by Western culture shaped fashion trends in Korea. Folk songs, characterized by simple stanza verses, settled in as the leading popular music genre by Twin Folio in the early 70s. They established their position with the remake “White Handkerchief” that soared on the radio charts. As the song “White Handkerchief” became popular, the performance outfit of Twin Folio was naturally mimicked by the youth. The wide collar shirts and leather belt that Twin Folio members wore were the fashion items that youths yearned for during this time period. The Twin Folio also wore American style jeans, shirts with fancy patterns and flares that created extravagant looks. Such clothing also became a trend.
1980s - Cho Yong-pil
In the 1980s, the widespread distribution of the color television gave rise to several new popular singers. Cho Yong-pil became a rising hero of popular music culture in the 1980s by embracing almost every popular music genre including trot, ballad and rock music. He produced many hit songs such as “Short Hair” and “Seoul Seoul Seoul,” broadcast at the conclusion of the Seoul Olympics in the summer of in 1988. His clothing also began to have influence as his fame rose. Cho wore on stage white collar shirts and a bow tie with high pants up, reaching up to his stomach. This eventually became the most marked fashion trend of the 1980s. Moreover, Cho Yong-pil wore shirts that had wide shoulder line with a bow time when he sang the song “Short hair,” which also became popular among men
1990s - Seo Tae-ji and Boys
Seo Tae-ji and Boys were undoubtedly the representative icon of 90s fashion and popular music. They instantly became popular with their debut song “Nan Al-a-yo” or “I Know it.” Their music video created with advanced technology caused a large sensation in the music video industry, which contributed to their fame. Again, their clothes inspired people as much as their music. They wore loose clothes and baggy pants, which created a sensational boom particularly among teen-agers and young adults in their twenties. American hip-hop style clothing, previously unfamiliar to most of the public, took over the fashion industry and retro style fashion reappeared as Seo Tae-ji and Boys wore them on stage. Moreover, as Seo Tae-ji and Boys’ covered a large spectrum of music genre, they wore distinctive outfits such as various clothes like suspenders with a checkerboard pattern, and this also became popular in the 90s.
2000s - Idol groups
From the 2000 onwards, idol groups began to flourish. Idol groups are comprised of highly attractive trained singers and dancers. Their songs are usually performance oriented, and fall under the genre of dance music. Such groups, as their name implies, became idols to much of the teen-age generation. Fans sought to mimic every aspect of such singers, most frequently by wearing their clothes. For instance, girls preferred to wear unique styles of upper clothing such as crop tops and short sleeves as the girl group Baby V.O.X wore them on stage while performing “Betrayal” and “What Should I Do.” As the 21st century began, it is undeniable that the fashion trend is harder to generalize than in past decades because many people began to seek individual tastes in fashion. However, the overall trend was about trying something new, such as wearing contradicting colors, or exposing body areas parts such as stomachs and shoulders, and this movement was led by idol groups at that time.
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As the 21st century reaches into its second decade, the style of K-pop singers has now influenced fans around the world even more strongly than before. Like the popular singers of the past, the impact of singers on the world of fashion is still dominant. Musicians affect the public in ways well beyond their melodies. They have and probably will, continue to affect the fashion industry as they did in the past.