Five Korean Menswear Style Icons

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Five Korean Menswear Style Icons

Words by Mr Ashley Clarke

19 March 2018

Meet South Korea’s most stylish men.

It used to be, when we thought about style in East Asia, Japan was the unquestionable zenith. In recent years, however, it has had a rival. Thanks to a new wave of fresh young things in the worlds of art, music and fashion, South Korea’s star is rising fast. Originally catapulted into the international stratosphere with breakthrough acts such as BIGBANG and Psy’s viral hit “Gangnam Style” – plus, some jaw-dropping street style in Seoul more recently – Korea is making the jump from the periphery of the fashion world into its frenetic centre, and some of its celebrities are veritable bellwethers when it comes to style trends in the rest of the world. So, to chime with Seoul Fashion Week, which kicked off today, we’re shining a light on some of the icons in Korea who have caught our attention. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does show a cross-section of Korea’s most stylish gentlemen. From streetwear to suiting, some are astronomically well-known across the globe and some are less so, but they are all part of Korea’s fashion ecosystem. Take note.


Rocking a beat-you-up buzzcut with the bone structure to carry it off, Mr Sung Jin Park is known for his streetwear-rockabilly style, and has appeared in major campaigns for Calvin Klein and Bottega Veneta as well as on the covers of W Korea and Dazed & Confused. Seldom seen in anything other than black sportswear and cap or rolled-up beanie, Mr Sung’s style might best be described as suburban burglar meets health goth 2.0, but it works. Although perennially po-faced, we do detect a sense of humour under Mr Sung’s broody exterior. His Instagram username is @teriyakipapi, for instance. As well as modelling, Mr Park raps under the pseudonym GORETEXX, almost like the waterproof streetwear fabric. What can we say? He wears it well.

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If there’s anyone who’s a household name outside South Korea, it is Mr Kwon Ji-yong, better known by his stage name, G-Dragon. Part of the K-Pop boyband BIGBANG, G-Dragon boasts more than 15 million Instagram followers and has made the international crossover as one of the most famous Koreans in the world, earning himself the moniker The King of K-Rap. Until recently, he was a frequent fixture on the front row and is known for his boundary-pushing androgynous aesthetic. But in a twist that conveys the cultural differences between Korea and the West, G-Dragon last month enlisted in the military for two years, as all male citizens aged 18 to 35 are required to do. After being there for just three weeks, the military camp where he is based had to issue a statement requesting people to desist from sending him fan mail. It had already run out of paper to print out the emails.

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Street-style photographers spend their time hunting down stylish people to snap, so it stands to reason they know how to dress themselves. Mr Youngjun Koo is a shining example. He is one of the industry’s premier street snappers. He recently held a gig taking style pictures for New York Magazine’s The Cut, and has a knack for capturing celebrities such as Ms Gigi Hadid and A$AP Rocky outside fashion shows. His penchant for tough-guy streetwear combined with his natty layering of mostly monochrome pieces with hip-hop and skate references means he finds himself in front of the camera fairly often, too.

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Mr Jun Her is not one of the better-known figures on our list, nor does he live in Korea (any more), but he caught our eye nonetheless. Known online as The Korean Barber, Mr Jun is a street-style photographer whose style is best described as tailored and contemporary (inspired, he says, by Messrs Thom Browne and Nick Wooster according to Mr Jun). He has had his outfits snapped for GQ and The New York Times. Mr Jun moved to Toronto in his youth and has been snapping the city’s style set there for his blog since 2011. He also frequently travels internationally to document other events of street-style note, such as the Pitti Uomo menswear shows in Florence.

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Mr Gong Yoo’s linoleum-like complexion belies his 38 years. The actor, best known for his starring roles in Korean TV series Guardian: The Lonely And Great God and The 1st Shop Of Coffee Prince (we haven’t seen them either, but they’re apparently huge in Korea), is a regular face on the front row at international fashion weeks, and was photographed last season at the Louis Vuitton show in Paris. His wardrobe is generally kept to a quiet palette of white, navy and grey, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. If anything, those open-collared shirts and tailored trousers the actor favours are a lesson in how to dress fantastically well by keeping it simple.

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