The Spectrum of Korean Fashion
When it comes to fashion, cities such as Paris, Milan, and New York City often come to mind.
Due to Korea’s trend-based fashion, many people might have the misconception that Korean fashion is all the same. However, there is actually a lot of diversity within Korean fashion trends!
Fans of K-pop might be more familiar with the hypebeast style of Korean fashion, while K-drama lovers are masters at emulating the chic and elegant style of drama leads.
Despite being completely different in terms of vibe and aesthetic, these two styles are definitely two of the most popular and distinct categories in Korean fashion.
From the edgy hypebeast streetwear style / Image: Pinterest
To a more feminine and sweet style / Image: Pinterest
Let’s find out more about these two K-fashion styles and what it is about these styles that makes them so popular not just in South Korea, but internationally as well.
Like its name suggests, urban streetwear describes the casual style of clothing typically worn by youths in urban cities.
The style takes inspiration from subcultures such as hip hop and rap. As a lot of K-pop is also influenced by American hip hop, it is no surprise that the urban streetwear styling is also popular in K-pop (especially for boy groups).
Some common clothing items that make up the urban streetwear style include:
Streetwear is a part of youth culture, and it is used by young people to signal to other young people that they are a part of the “In” crowd.
There are certain hypebeast brands that are well-known and popular among fans of urban streetwear, and it is not uncommon for people to be seen wearing t-shirts that feature these brands’ logos.
Acmé de la vie, better known by its acronym ADLV, is arguably one of the most popular Korean streetwear brands at the moment, and t-shirts with their logo on them can be seen not just on the streets of Seoul, but in Singapore as well.
ADLV Basic Short Sleeve Oversized T-shirt White, retailing at sgd58 at StyleupK
Korean actress Kim Hyeyoon looking cuddly in her Nerdy logo sweatshirt / Image: Instagram
@zoo.yeol rocking the (mostly) black and white aesthetic with his Mahagrid logo t-shirt / Image: Instagram
@_xsung looking comfy and fashionable in his Mmlg logo tee / Image: Instagram
One thing that the logo tees highlighted above have in common is their oversized fit. Due to its hip hop influences, urban streetwear often features oversized and baggy clothes.
Girls are often told to avoid baggy clothing and to wear clothes that flatters their figure, but urban streetwear fashion proves that oversized clothes can be fashionable as well.
Loose-fitting clothing gives off a casual vibe, and will give you the effortlessly stylish ‘I woke up like this’ look if styled well.
Oversized tops are versatile, and oversized t-shirts can be worn in a variety of ways, making them an essential must-have item for any streetwear lover!
Layer an oversized t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt for a grungy aesthetic / Image: Pinterest
Dominant Space Boys Oversized T-shirt, retailing at sgd75 at StyleupK
Veteze Studio Big Studio Oversized Sweatshirt in Pink, retailing at sgd65 at StyleupK
Ambler Korea Yoga Teddy Bear Oversized Hoodie in Burgundy, retailing at sgd65 at StyleupK
Sneaker culture is another subculture that influences urban streetwear trends, and because basketball shoes play such a prominent role in sneaker culture, sneakers with chunky soles have become a popular streetwear trend.
Chunky white sneakers may be reminiscent of our school days (high socks are back in trend too!), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it is also part of the reason why chunky sneakers give wearers a youthful vibe.
While many of us may not be able to afford pricey limited edition sneakers, thanks to its popularity in streetwear fashion, it is not difficult at all to find a pair of chunky sneakers that won’t break the bank.
MLB Korea Bigball Chunky A Sneakers, retailing at sgd155 at StyleupK
Compared to the more unisex style of urban streetwear, K-fashion’s other most popular style sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.
This elegant chic style is much more feminine and mature. Fashion-wise, it shares some qualities with popular internet fashion aesthetic cottagecore.
But while cottagecore celebrates life in the countryside, K-fashion’s elegant chic style is mostly aesthetic—you don’t have to be a self-sufficient DIY queen to rock the elegant chic fashion. All you need is a love for fashion and a sweet side!
Some common characteristics of the elegant chic style include:
Flowers are often associated with femininity, and so floral-inspired items make up a big part of the elegant chic style.
But not everything featuring flowers is suitable for this style; because it is also intended to look elegant, blouses and dresses are favoured over plain t-shirts.
A short floral dress looks youthful and cute / Image: Pinterest
A longer floral dress looks more mature and elegant / Image: Pinterest
Near & Dear Floral V Neck Blouse in Purple, retailing at sgd125 at StyleupK
Near & Dear Flower & Checkered Midi Dress, retailing at sgd149 at StyleupK
Wingbling Korea Flower Diamond Dangling Earrings, retailing at sgd40 at StyleupK
A-line Skirts and Dresses
A-line skirts and dresses are cinched in at the waist with a loose skirt that’s wider at the bottom / Image: Pinterest
While it may be hard to believe that the elegant chic style might share any characteristics with urban streetwear, both styles do favour an undefined silhouette.
While Western fashion focuses on defined silhouettes that emphasise the most flattering part of your figure, loose-fitting clothes are preferred in Korean fashion.
Not only do A-line silhouettes look more mature, they’re also more comfortable, and comfort is a key in Korean fashion!
Near & Dear Daisy Checkered Midi Dress Blue, retailing at sgd149 at StyleupK
Veteze Studio Mini Skirt in Navy, retailing at sgd55 at StyleupK
There are many different types of collars, from the more formal classic shirt collar, to the more playful Peter Pan collar. There are also bow collars and faux necktie collars too!
Collared tops are a great way to style up your outfit, but that does not mean that collared tops can only look formal. Wearing a top with a collar adds a little bit of sparkle to an outfit, and looks great paired with more informal bottoms, such as jeans or even shorts.
Wearing a collared blouse underneath a pinafore dress adds an extra touch of elegance / Image: Pinterest
Near & Dear Shirring Blouse in White, retailing at sgd115.90 at StyleupK
Near & Dear Tie Waist Crop Shirt in Red, retailing at sgd85.90 at StyleupK
While the two styles may seem completely distinct from each other, there actually is quite a bit of overlap between them! Instead of thinking of them as distinct styles, they’re more like two ends of the same spectrum.
Urban streetwear trends and elegant chic trends both influence each other, and there are many outfits that take inspiration from both styles to create a unique look.
For example, wearing chunky sneakers (urban streetwear) with a cute dress (elegant chic), or tucking an oversized shirt (urban streetwear) into an A-line tennis skirt (elegant streetwear).
There is no rule saying that you can only dress in one style at a time, and thinking of K-fashion as a spectrum gives you the freedom to personalise your outfits to your own liking while still staying true to K-fashion trends.
Seoul is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and most of us are familiar with at least one aspect of Korean fashion, whether it’s the K-pop influenced hypebeast fashion or the K-drama inspired elegant chic style.
While the two styles have their own distinct characteristics, the trends in each style are constantly influencing each other and it is not uncommon for people to dress in a mix of the two styles.
Shop for the latest Korean fashion trends at StyleupK today! StyleupK is an online korean fashion platform that ships worldwide. Free shipping to Singapore and Malaysia.