A Kpop Fashion History Podcast
Did you know the tracksuits worn by the contestants in Squid Game are usually worn by Korean pre-school children? The irony of making adults wear this while playing children’s games is just another interesting layer of this great show.
From furry back jackets, helmets with capes and every variation of a mullet you can thing
of – the Kpop fashion industry has created some of the most iconic looks in the world.
here to dissect it.
Welcome to a Kpop Fashion History Podcast!
The color green. a color that conveys various emotions. To represent positivity one
thinks of nature, trees, growth, newness. But when used to convey a negative
connotation one might image selfishness, envy, materialism, greed and MONEY.
Money – the sole inspiration of the 456 people who struggle financially in life, all
invited to play a mysterious survival competition worth 45.6 billion won that’s
approx 37.8 million usd. They compete in a series of traditional children games with
a deadly twist: their life.
The hue (the color itself), saturation (intensity of the color) and brightness (how
light or dark it is) are 3 determining factors in creating a story with color. It tells us
the location, style and finances of a character. It can also show their transformation.
Lets take Sung Gi Hoon for example. We’re introduced to him in a faded green
jacket, brown crew neck T shirt, disheveled hair, wrinkled grey jeans, a navy blue
dad hat and new balances. With this information we can guess he doesn’t have
much style or maybe enough money to buy the things he likes so he probably
shops at places like H-Mart (basically a Korean Walmart) that have great discounts.
He looks like he spends a lot of nights out and about which suggests he is into a
sort of nightlife that keeps him in debt. All that we pick up from his clothing. We
soon find out he’s a gambling addict who lives with her mother and struggles to
financially support his daughter in Seoul.
After a few unfortunate events he’s approached by a nameless man in the subway
played by sexy Gong Yoo who approaches in a crisp single breasted grey
suit, white collar button up, black tie and a brief case. This look is intentional as
he’s clearly dressed as a businessman looking for the right person to sell something
too. After some back and forth banter, the suited man entices Ki Hun to play a game
of dakchi by choosing a red or green playing piece. If the man wins he gets to slap Ki Hun. If Ki Hun wins he gets $100. Now if Ki Hun was paying attention to this man
and how prepared he looked to sell something, he could have gotten out of the
situation. Why would this good looking, well dressed business man want to play a children’s game that is eventually revealed that he’s super good at in a subway?
Why is this man carrying a briefcase full of money through the subway? No private
driver? Red flags all over.
An interesting theory that been going around is if Ki Hun had picked the red square
in the game he might have become a guard instead of a player because the guards
seemed to be just as much trapped as the players. Hmm…interesting.
Importantly that square is our first introduction to the color red in this story which
later becomes an important part of the narrative.
After receiving a card to enter a game of literal life or death. Ji Jun and 465 other
players are thrown into their new world. When the players wake up they find
themselves dressed in bright green track suits numbered from 001 to 456. Again
this is the 2nd time green pops up to tell us a story about a character. After the
players realize was happening and quickly ask to be let go they are promptly shown
a massive piggy bank with piles of money flying in. You can literally smell the greed
and envy in the room (there goes that green symbolism again). The track suits take
on a different look with us quickly realizing those track suits were purposely made
green: to symbolize their greed. What risks are they willing to take to get it. Who
are they willing to risk. Where are they wiling to risk it and why are they risking it.
Cho Sang Woo #218, an Seoul National University graduate head of investment team currently wanted
for stealing clients money.
Kang Sae Byeok #67 – a North Korean defector who has to pay back a broker that can find
and retrieve her family. Every story nuanced.
Oh Ill Nam #1 – An elderly man with a brain tumor who prefers playing the Game to waiting to
die on the outside.
Another interesting fact is in the track suits themselves. Track suits are worn by
small Korean children during their first few years of preschool and kindergarten and
later as PE clothes when they’re older. They can range colors but are usually
yellow/grey or green and gray. The connection with the game makers to dress the
adults in children attire to play children’s games seems can’t be ignored.
Track suits were originally created in the 60’s as literal track and field suits. The
1970’s Bruce Lee and the six million dollar man worn them in TV dramas. Then by
the 80s Run DMC evolved it into the style we see today worn as high fashion or street wear.
Usually with tracksuits or any type of uniform , participants are given name tag but
in Squid Game they were only given a number. As if really we are just a number in
this world of over 7 billion people.
In comes Red again with the masked red jumpsuit watchers who seem to have a
power structure within their own ranks. Circles being workers, managers being
square and high up managers represented by triangles. Masks hid out selves and
allow us to live in a fantasy. By covering the face we can bear no responsibility or
The color red represents power, dominance, importance, passion. To the
contestants they hold all the power: the have guns and can drag them away at any
time. The red watchers seem to know whats going on but soon we learn that’s a
facade. They are just as much trapped in the game too having to eat, sleep and
wake up at a certain time. They aren’t even allowed to speak with each other, speak
before their superior does nor take off their masks or they are killed. They’re
wearing this powerful red color jumpsuit but actually have none. But only they and
the The Frontman know that. Could they previous winners or contestant who
decided to return too late so they were made a watcher?
If red mean power then why doesn’t the main game watcher wear it? The character
refers to sport an all black look with a structured mask. Well the color black
represents strength, authority, and power. Black lends an air of authority and
intelligence to those who wear it. It symbolizes prestige, formality, and importance.
Absolutely what the main watcher needs to convey.
Now arrives the VIPS.
That same lack of accountability shared earlier greatly comes into place with this
group. With so much power in their hands they feel nothing can stop them. The
VIPS take their masks a step further by wearing stone encrusted, animal inspired
face coverings. Their masks and way of dressing are greatly inspired by BDSM which
stands for Bondage and disciple, dominance and submission, sadism and
masochism. BDSM is normally done in a safe environment with consenting adult
parties but the VIPS distort this format by making the players act out the VIPS own
desires in an unsafe environment. As if they created their own S&M club like the
famous Pandora’s Box in New York. All while getting the chance to hide their own
faces. That same opportunity isnt given to the players.
Their innately adorned masks allow them channel their inner desires. It allows a
user to let go of their everyday personality and become a new carnal character
under a mask- letting go of their inhibitions holding back the fantasy. If these
masks were ripped from their faces, like seen in the scene with the creepy VIP and
undercover police officer Joon Ho in the VIP back room- once the mask is off reality
sets in. The vip was scared and ashamed knowing that his sick twisted fantasy
could be exposed. Its interesting that we have our entire bodies but just by
covering our face we can shield ourselves and create a new reality.
The VIPS are also adorned with the most luxurious suits, robes and accessories emulating designs from Dior, Alexander McQueen and Christopher Khan – all who’ve
used BDSM as inspiration for their collections.
BDSM actually dates all the way back to the beginning of writing in 3100 BC Ancient
Mesopotamia. The first stories written involved gods and goddesses which reflect
how the VIPS saw themselves and the power they held. Their thirst could be quenched by by the players suffer in the games – finding pleasure in the
contestants dying. Even the people painted in animal and furniture prints in the
main VIP room where a part of the game. Being used as actual furniture. Not being
able to breath, move, speak or even go to the bathroom. How easily people can
forget we’re human.
The way color and costume have been merged together to tell a rich story in Squid
Games is mesmerizing. The way the greens get brighter as the story goes, the reds
representing the facade of power and VIPS showing the greed and excessiveness of
the billionaires. All stories are explored. As the movie ends and Ki Jun receives his
millions- he is shown wearing only black. Unshaven face, disheveled hair. How can
one with 45 million in the bank be so down? Definitely the course of the games
gave him PTSD. Seeing his college friend gone, Sae Byeok pass away without being
able to help her family so many players whose families will never know what
happened to them. But it’s worth noting him wearing black. Just like the game
leader. Black the hue of authority, strength and power because he is in fact – the
winner of the games. After a final run in with Il Nam were shown a transformed Ki
Jun with bight red hair and a businessman suit quite similar to Gong Yoo’s
He went from wearing green to red.
Greed for money to power with
Red light green light.
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