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What led to the popularity of streetwear in Korea?

What led to the popularity of streetwear in Korea?

If there is anyone taking over the street fashion by a storm, they are the hypebeasts. Hype beasts are avid fans of streetwear culture and they obsess over particular streetwear brands that are unique to them.

What is Hypebeast?

It is a newly coined term in the last century and refers to people who want to express themselves through fashion. All thanks to a college student, Kevin Ma, the founder of the HYPEBEAST fashion blog in 2005. In it, he expressed his fashion interest in branded sneakers. The blog has now become a leading shopping platform which feature over 500 streetwear brands for men and women. Some famous high-end streetwear brands in the world are Supreme, Nike and Off-White.

A list of streetwear brands 

The hypebeast trend is aided by the interest and popularity of social media, where some influencers share their love for the hypebeast style online. But, hypebeast is essentially the bringing together of different streetwear fashion brands onto a single platform. It is the place for streetwear fans to learn more about streetwear and to share fashion style tips.

What is streetwear fashion?

Streetwear is a type of fashion style that is defined by its casual comfortable outfits. It differentiates by being minimalistic. The streetwear style usually comprises of loose fit T-shirts with graphic or big brand logo prints, hoodies, cargo pants, sneakers, and accessories like caps, high ankle socks and backpacks.

It gained much influence from the skateboarder’s scene, which emphasized function over form. For example, skinny jeans or is never practical for skaters as it restricts their movement. As skaters usually have to squat or sit at the concrete skating rink, slight baggy cargo pants or twill trousers with cutting that stops around the ankles make their movements much easier. Likewise, loose fit Tshirts are more practical and less restrictive when they do their skater turns. It is noted that the oversized Tshirts is also adopted from the hip hop fashion style which was popular in the 1980-90s era. They also prefer hoodies which help to cover their faces when riding across prohibited neighborhoods. For a better grip between their shoes and skateboards, they prefer flat sole sneakers with durable soles. That’s why Vans sneakers is especially popular among the skaters – the Vans sneakers rubber sole provides a good grip with the skateboard and it is affordable for the skaters who are mostly non-working adults.

How did streetwear start?

Long even before the hypebeast trend began, there was already a growing streetwear community in the Western countries. It is said that the first streetwear brand is Stussy. Its owner, Shawn Stussy, started by adding his signature to his handcrafted surfboards. Afterwhich, he added the Stussy logo to Tshirts, caps and other apparel, and that was how it evolved from a surfboard manufacturer into a streetwear clothing brand. Stussy brand started in the early 1980s, a time when the hip hop scene was booming. It thus adopts influence from the oversized hip hop fashion style. Being a surfboard manufacturer located at California, it also adopts influence from the surfwear culture which prefers more casual clothing.

Although streetwear was initially made for the minority skater community, it slowly began to appeal to the public. In the 1990s, streetwear fashion started becoming a global fashion statement. More streetwear brands emerged, such as Supreme and The Bathing Ape. Streetwear also starts to deviate from just serving the skater community to becoming a fashion style with mass appeal. People start to wear streetwear because their friends are wearing it and it looks cool. It also helps that the streetwear clothing are so comfortable yet fashionable at the same time. It takes much lesser time to prepare to go out with streetwear than with other fashion styles.

Collaborations of streetwear with high end fashion brands

Supreme x LV collaboration

The popularity of streetwear is also aided by collaborations with high end fashion brands. The most well known streetwear and highend fashion brand is the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration in 2017. Louis Vuitton released a series of bags and apparel in their iconic LV bag shapes but coated with Supreme bright red color and logo. Such collaborations with streetwear brought streetwear into the attention of the real fashion scene. As the minority streetwear fashion style grew in favor and popularity, people started to pay close attention to streetwear trends from mid 2010s onwards.

Collaborations of streetwear with celebrities

Not only did streetwear brands start to collaborate with highend fashion brands, they also start to partner with celebrities. One of the most notable streetwear x celebrity collaborations is the Adidas Yeezy shoes. It is a collaboration line of sneakers of Adidas with American rapper Kayne West. This collaboration revived the mainstream sports apparel brand and make this line of Adidas sneakers into a premium fashion brand. Even non streetwear lovers would hype over getting a pair of Adidas Yeezy, which are limited edition. They love it for its status symbol, comfort and how it easily matches with their outfits.

Difference between American streetwear and European streetwear


Kanye West in streetwear
Travis Scott x nike from r/streetwear
Travis Scott in streetwear

Streetwear in the US mainly thrives on hype and influence. Rappers “hype” a luxury brand and it becomes popular among the streetwear enthusiasts. Common fashion features are denim, big brand logos and sneakers from Adidas or Jordan. Streetwear in the US imitates the fashion style of pop culture idols like Kanye West or Travis Scott.


ADYN streetwear clothing

Meanwhile, in Europe, you will see that the streetwear style is a little formal. European streetwear brands tend to include more refined designs and fits of a more regular cutting. Some famous European streetwear brands are Adyn and Wood Wood. They are valued for their design detailing, high-quality fabrics and long cuts.



Of course, there are brands in the middle such as “Off-White’, which is a European streetwear brand but has an American designer. It gained its popularity as the brand with everything in quotations. 

Streetwear has become the mainstream fashion trend in Korea

Many tourists visit Korea to shop for Korean fashion. However, up until 2018 or so, overseas visitors only shopped for mainly Korean clothing at Myeongdong, Dongdaemun or Express Bus Terminal. The Dongdaemun Fashion style used to be the mainstream Korean fashion style known overseas.

However, another fashion trend is brewing locally in South Korea. And that is Korean streetwear boom. Over the past few years, streetwear has become the most popular fashion trend in Korea. Both males and females love the casual streetwear look and couple tees have moved from the cheesy cutesy style in the early 2000s to matching streetwear style. The collaboration of the fashion brands with Korean celebrities aided much in their success.

suzy bae guess styleupk

Suzy Bae is the model for Guess Korea. Check out Guess Korea collection at styleupk!

For example, Guess Korea collaborates with Suzy Bae, Fila Korea with BTS Bangtan Boys and ADLV Korea with Twice, to name a few. You can also see celebrities wearing the streetwear brands in Korean variety shows, like how Running Man team wear Covernat and Mahagrid t-shirts.

Why did streetwear become so popular in Korea?

A huge cultural shift has influenced South Korea over the last few decades. Korea has always managed a close relationship with USA, and locals have been greatly influenced by the American culture.


When streetwear fashion style became popular in the USA in the 1990s, demand for foreign streetwear brands like Supreme and Stussy grew in Korea. But streetwear imports were previously banned due to Korea’s restrictive policy to protect local clothing brands. Thus, counterfeit products of these well known streetwear brands were created. Cheaper knock-offs of popular streetwear apparel began to appear in the market. This helped make streetwear style accessible to Korean youth. 

jennie aqo

Blackpink Jennie wearing AQO Studiospace Knit Vest retailing at SGD 68 at styleupk

Soon after, independent Korean streetwear brands like Acme de la vie, Mahagrid and thisisneverthat emerged. It was a response to the growing demand for global streetwear in Korea. The local designers take their inspiration from streetwear brands from the States and turn them into their own creation.

 adlv dahyun styleupk

Twice Dahyun wears ADLV Africa Logo T-shirt, retailing at SGD 70 at styleupk.

As compared to overseas streetwear brands, Korean brands incorporate local design preference and also suit the Asian fit better. As Korea also houses a strong local manufacturing industry, it also means the quality of their clothing is superior at affordable prices.

K-Pop and K-Drama Huge Influence on Korean Streetwear

Hallyu wave is the main reason Korean streetwear started to gain so much attention. K-Pop and K-Dramas first got global recognition, which led to the side popularity of K-beauty and K-fashion. K-Pop idols not only impress on stage, Kpop outfits are also a source of inspiration even at airports and on the streets. More and more people go for brands or outfits that these idols wear, which led to the popularity of the hypebeast trend in Korea.


Many Korean clothing brands also collaborate with kpop idols. For example, BTS’ brand deal with Fila has skyrocketed the brand’s popularity both locally and overseas. Twice is also known to be the model of Acme de la vie, and Suzy Bae is the model for Guess Korea.


Oh My Girl streetwear style at the Airport

K-dramas also play an important part in promoting Korean culture and fashion. As with the popularity of K-pop, K-dramas have also become influential on an international level. K-drama actors like Lee Min-ho and Park Shin-hye have huge fan base internationally.


covernat popup bar styleupk

Covernat C logo hoodie worn in Mystic Pop up Bar interview

The clothing featured in K-dramas further propelled the popularity of Korean streetwear culture. For example, Covernat hoodie was worn by the k-drama Mystic Pop up Bar actor. Running Man team members also wear brands like Mahagrid during the filming of the popular Korean variety show.



Korea has taken its own take on Western streetwear. Hypebeasts brands like Ambler, Fila nd make designs that are unique. The Korean street style will certainly inspire you to take it on. Choose from a loose fit t-shirt or a graphic tee, you get the choice to style it up as you like. Add your personal touch to it for the ultimate hypebeast look. Shop for these Korean streetwear brands at StyleupK.


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