The varsity fashion trend has recently experienced an incredible boom, not only in K-pop but among young people worldwide. Why has this sport-inspired look taken off so well? And which K-pop groups have pioneered the style and made it their own?
EXO infamously wore their varsity look for ‘Wolf’ promotions, week in, week out. What made this look so special was partly the sense of unity and team work that was presented, on account of all 12 members wearing the similar clothing and looking just like a sports team. The personalisation of the items of clothing was also very impressive, with many of the items featuring the ‘WOLF’, ‘XOXO’ and ‘88’ stamps. These items were also available to buy in SM’s pop-up store – a sneaky way of encouraging fans to wear and promote the comeback. On top of that, the simple designs of the items meant that they were very easily imitated and cheap copies were sold to K-pop fans all over the internet. Another clever marketing technique used on the official (and unofficial) clothing was the inclusion of a member’s name on the items, giving fans the option to buy the hoodie or hat that correlated to their bias. Because of this, it is likely that even more fans bought the clothing to show their loyalty to a certain member as well as the group. This was a very clever tactic from SM Entertainment, using simple, recognisable symbols and words to release marketing Armageddon for ‘Wolf’ promotions (and by wearing the merchandise, the fans did all the work for them!).
While EXO certainly were not the first group to have ever worn varsity style clothing, the success of the ‘Wolf’ promotions certainly produced an influx of varsity concepts in K-pop and also varsity style among young fans. We’ve seen an increase in the number of sports-themed products available to buy and the number of people wearing them. Sportswear is no longer gym-only territory, the fashion industry having revamped and restyled it into a luxe product.
K-pop groups when wearing such clothing items resemble sports teams and in turn, the fans of the group take on the role of the sports fans. This situation has the potential to encourage and create a team spirit and stronger bond between groups and fans! Even if this bond is only a mental illusion, the group are likely to receive more love and support from fans. It’s possible that other young people may be influenced by such a movement and feel like they want to be a part the ‘team’ too. It comes down to a feeling of belonging. The idea of a fandom is taken one step further, by fandoms now having the ability to wear similar clothing and have the same merchandise (like a football fan might own a football shirt) which unites them under the same theme. This case is specific to the EXO fandom but fans have always worn clothing to imitate their favourite groups or showcase their support for a certain group. The trend can only continue!