Both nonfans and newcomers to the Kpop fandom have probably pondered this question: What makes Kpop so popular? We can’t deny that there are certain characteristics special to Kpop, setting them apart from Western music. From catchy melodies to intense choreography, there’s no one answer to what makes Kpop so attractive and worth fangirling over. However, one of the highlights of the industry is the unique Kpop concepts and their fashion.

Fans would know best that the most popular Kpop concepts are broad-ranging and require much dedication. Aside from aesthetic backdrops, idols’ iconic wardrobes make them shine and give them a powerful impression to fans. Their costumes definitely amplify their stage presence and striking performances.

If you want to know what’s the formula behind the most successful concepts in Kpop, we’ll now cover the most popular ones you’d love to follow! Also, get to know the ins and outs of what exactly concepts or themes are in the context of Kpop.

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What are Kpop Concepts?

Concepts are the specific themes Kpop idols follow for a comeback or as a consistent group identity. These themes are displayed through their songs’ genre and lyrics, their music videos’ settings and mood, and most especially, their costumes’ experimental style. What makes these concepts distinctive from Western pop culture is that the Kpop industry usually goes the extra mile in exhibiting these chosen themes. Some Kpop groups even employ storylines that use futuristic, horror, or fantasy elements just to provide an intense impression.

Most of the time, the staff of entertainment agencies themselves are the ones who come up with concepts for Kpop idols to follow. However, idols themselves can somewhat choose their concepts especially when they also get to produce and write their songs (Take BTS, for example). Depending on their objectives, they may pick trendy concepts that surely appeal to fans or unique themes for a fresh and possibly iconic take.

Kpop groups can either stick to their original concept or have more than one concept. One example of Kpop idols following a consistent concept is Dreamcatcher. Since their debut with ‘Chase Me‘ to their recent music video ‘BEcause,’ Dreamcatcher has never failed to give an intimidating and haunted vibe with their music style.

Dreamcatcher - Chase Me
c. Happyface Entertainment
Dreamcatcher - BEcause
c. Happyface Entertainment

On the other hand, Red Velvet is one of the trendsetters of contrasting concepts for every comeback. They manage to pull off an eerie and mature theme like in ‘Peek A Boo‘ and a cutesy and vibrant concept like in ‘Red Flavor.’

Red Velvet - Peek A Boo
c. SMTOWN
Red Velvet - Red Flavor
c. SMTOWN

Given the diversity and creativity of Kpop group concepts, there is no exact number on how many themes are out there. Moreover, idols are continually debuting and they always have something fresh to offer to the audience. However, we’ll cite a few iconic concepts in Kpop that we’ve seen from many idols of various generations.

Most Popular Kpop Concepts

Techwear

Aespa - Black Mamba (Techwear Ver.)
c. aespa

Techwear is a prominent fashion trend in Kpop that combines comfort and streetwear style using the color black. While aesthetic comes first in the entertainment industry, you would see padded vests, combat boots, clasps, belts, and harnesses being the highlights of techwear fashion. You can see some of these on the techwear version of aespa’s ‘Black Mamba’ choreography video. All in all, this is the ideal outfit if you want to channel an edgy and dystopian future vibe. You can read more about this concept in our Kpop techwear article.

Elegant

TWICE - What is Love?
c. NAVER STAR CAST

Elegant fashion is a classic and foolproof concept that Kpop idols continually rely on.  Like in TWICE’s ‘What is Love?’ music video, this style gives a classy and even royal vibe that is sure to make idols stand out among the crowd. Despite looking fancy, the Kpop elegant concept is one of the easiest to mirror due to its traditional style. Heels and free-flowing dresses are its staples. Check out our article on Kpop elegant concept for more ideas.

Retro

TWICE - Signal
c. Soompi

The retro concept is a throwback to the previous fashion trends which are at least 20 years old. All the fun and vibrant notes of this concept are displayed in boldly patterned outfits and striking palettes, which can be seen on TWICE’s ‘Signal’ music video. With this iconic theme, idols revive old-fashioned prints and designs that prompt nostalgia. If you want to know more about this, you can read our article on Kpop retro concept.

Girl Crush

BLACKPINK - How You Like That
c. Soompi

The girl crush concept is a wide-ranging fashion that simply shows female empowerment, just like BLACKPINK‘s vibe in ‘How You Like That’. There are no specific items that narrow down the scope of the girl crush concept, but it can be identified as ‘badass.’ As long as these outfits make you feel confident and inspiring, your girl crush concept is on point! You can know more about this style here in our girl crush concept article.

Dark Concept

bLACKPINK - How You Like That (Intro)
c. @blackpinkofficial

The dark concept is an edgy and intimidating trend that may provoke a haunted, violent, or sexy impression. Again, black is the primary hue of this concept to bring mystery, power, and sophistication. This is another masterpiece displayed by BLACKPINK in ‘How You Like That‘. With such a timeless color, stylists rely on black for idols to exhibit a guaranteed allure. Know more about this concept through our Kpop dark concept post.

High School

STAYC - Stereotype
c. STAYC

The high school or school concept is a fan-favorite theme that delivers a youthful and lovely atmosphere. Just like the common East Asian school uniforms, short pleated skirts and white blouses for women are the staples of this concept. They are sometimes paired with blazers for a more formal look.  STAYC in their song ‘Stereotype‘ can be seen sporting cute high school uniforms.

Summer

TWICE - Dance the Night Away
c. allkpop

A summer concept will always be the norm at least once a year for most Kpop girl groups. For a fresh and more casual look by the seaside, idols show more skin with sleeveless tops, denim shorts, and flip-flops. Short airy dresses and flowers also make their wardrobe more fun under the sun. TWICE’s ‘Dance the Night Away’ music video is one of the best examples of this concept.

Signature Concepts of Popular Kpop Groups

BTS

BTS - Dynamite
c. @bts_bighit
BTS - Dope
c. @bts_bighit

As one of the most successful Kpop groups in history, BTS does not disappoint in showing ARMYs various concepts for every comeback. From their streetwear hip-hop fashion in 2013 to their elegant retro style in 2020, the seven-member boy group’s wardrobe has evolved over the years. While they may not have a consistent concept, one of the signature features of their comebacks is their versatility. With their outfits from ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Dope,’ BTS has proven that they can rock high school, boy crush, elegant, retro, dark, and other concepts perfectly.

BLACKPINK

BLACKPINK - Ddu Du Ddu Du
c. BLACKPINK
BLACKPINK - Boombayah
c. BLACKPINK

By the name itself, BLACKPINK’s signature concept is girl crush by combining the coolness of black and the femininity of pink. Despite the various experimental styles BLACKPINK has effortlessly pulled off, their style still boils down to ‘badass‘ fashion that makes them so intimidating and empowering at the same time. Borrowing the elements of techwear, high school, and elegant concepts, BLACKPINK gives the iconic girl crush concept several spins. BLINKs can see this in all of the girls’ music videos, especially in ‘Ddu Du Ddu Du‘ and ‘Boombayah.’

Red Velvet

Red Velvet - Zimzalabim
c. Soompi
Red Velvet - Russian Roulette
c. SMTOWN

Red Velvet’s concepts can be defined as odd with quirky outfits such as those from ‘Zimzalabim.’ Sometimes, they can even be dark with underlying murderous notions like in ‘Russian Roulette‘ and ‘Peek A Boo.’ Needless to say, their theme for almost all comebacks has a cute but creepy idea underneath. While elegant, dark, and retro concepts are also exhibited, the distinctive quality of their concepts over the years is timelessly eccentric. This works excellently in Red Velvet’s favor to represent their iconic identity.

TWICE

TWICE - Knock Knock
c. JYP Entertainment
TWICE - TT
c. JYP Entertainment

TWICE is one of the most successful Kpop girl groups that employ the classic cute or aegyo concept. Despite the Halloween or spooky storylines under their ‘Knock Knock‘ and ‘TT‘ music videos, it is clear that TWICE puts more emphasis on the cuteness of their music, choreography, and even outfits. While many would argue that TWICE is now slowly moving away from the cute and youthful concept, it’s important to note that their pretty and adorable characteristics mainly serve as their stardom’s foundation (Take ‘Cheer Up,’ for example.) Their cute concept is also an essential feature of their summer-themed comebacks like ‘Dance the Night Away.’

The Best Kpop Concept

With all those popular Kpop concepts mentioned, you might be thinking about which one stands out among the rest. Truly, there might be some concepts that are more prevalent than others. However, the definition of ‘best’ in Kpop is multifaceted.

To nonfans of Kpop, perhaps the best concept is what Kpop is most popularly known of. In this case, the general cute or aegyo theme that gets divided into the summer, high school, elegant, retro, and other concepts is the winner for girl groups like TWICE. However, with the international recognition of ‘badass‘ girl groups like BLACKPINK and 2NE1, some may think that the revolutionary girl crush concept is just what everybody needs. For boy groups like Stray Kids, we’d often see the angsty dark concept dominating the industry for a teenage bad boy vibe. Along with that, techwear is famous for many Kpop boy groups like MONSTA X and girl groups like aespa sporting an edgy and futuristic look.

As you can see, just like the answer to ‘What makes Kpop so popular?’ there is also no universal answer to the best concept among Kpop groups. We’ve witnessed many Kpop groups rise to stardom while offering multiple and varied concepts. With that, for the best Kpop concept to follow, it’s entirely up to you. After all, one of the features of Kpop fashion is the freedom it gives you to experiment with different styles, even if they may seem bizarre (Looking at you, Red Velvet‘s Zimzalabim).

We hope you got all the most popular Kpop concepts you’ll need to dress like an idol.  If you still want more options, be sure to check out our post on Korean grunge, street, and club outfits!

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!