By Style Up K

Korean Fashion is dynamic, changing and evolving with the times.

The time when every country had its distinct fashion has largely gone. Thanks to advancements in technology, which are making it easier for cultural exchanges, Korean fashion has turned into an international phenomenon.

While it is true that fashion trends change over time, these changes also tend to be cyclical. Some trends may go out of fashion for a while, only to come back into fashion a few decades later. A lot of today’s most commonly seen fashion trends were once popular in the past.

Let’s take a look at some Korean fashion trends in 2021.

If you want to find the best place to shop for Korean clothes online, make sure you check out our latest article that includes some of the best websites to purchase Korean fashion in 2022.

Korean Fashion in 2021

Puff sleeves

Jisoo looks as sweet as a princess in this puff sleeve top / Image: Twitter

Puff sleeves have cropped multiple times over the course of history, and are now making a resurgence in Korea.

There was a specific type of puff sleeve that was especially popular, and it was named the Juliet sleeve, after the tragic heroine of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Because of this association, puff sleeves became something of a romantic icon. Even now, tops and dresses that feature puff sleeves tend to have a more feminine and lovely vibe.

Near & Dear Shirring Blouse in White, retailing at SGD115.90 at StyleupK

Tie dye

NCT Dream rock the tie dye aesthetic in teasers for their upcoming comeback / Image: Twitter

Like puff sleeves, tie dye patterns are making a big splash in the Koreas fashion scene. The brightly colored patterns that we commonly associate with tie dye first became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are making a return in 2022.

Haechan is no stranger to tie dye, and has also worn the AQO Studiospace Sarrr Tie Dye Oversized T-shirt in Purple, retailing at SGD55 at StyleupK


Dahyun gives off preppy vibes in her plaid skirt / Image: Pinterest

Even if you were previously unaware of this fact, it is unsurprising to learn that plaid is derived from Scottish tartan. However, while Scottish tartan patterns were associated with clans, plaid can be worn by anyone. The origin of plaid likely links back to Scottish immigrants in America, who might have traded using tartan kilts.

Over the years, plaid has evolved to become a quintessential aspect of many subcultures, from hipsters to grunge. Plaid shirts in particular are a very versatile item, and can be styled in different ways to suit various different aesthetics.

Ames Pleats Check Wrap Skirt, retailing at SGD89.50 at StyleupK

Sweater vests

Ryujin has worn sweater vests on more than one occasion / Image: StyleupK

Like the name implies, sweater vests are vests that are usually made of knitted material, and resemble a sweater without sleeves. Sweater vests are practical during cool weather, when it may be too warm to wear a knitted sweater, but cool enough to need to keep you warm.

However, despite their practical use, sweater vests have become more of an aesthetic item in Korea, and are becoming a must have item in 2022. The popularity of sweater vests as a fashion trend peaked in the UK in the 1970s. But it has been brought back into style due to the popularity of various aesthetics, such as prep, dark academia, and high teen.

Romantic Crown Knit Vest in Navy, retailing at SGD79 at StyleupK


Jennie is the first idol who comes to mind when discussing cardigans / Image: Instagram

While cardigans may have been considered frumpy when they were out of style, they have now regained their status as a luxury item in Korea. Trendy cardigans are becoming an essential aspect of the luxurious and youthful high teen aesthetic.

Opwee Plain Knitted Cardigan in Cream, retailing at SGD79.50 at StyleupK


Winwin showed fans his love for this ADLV hoodie during a video call fansign / Image: Twitter

Hoodies, also known as hooded sweatshirts, were first produced in the 1930s to keep workers in New York warehouses warm. In fact, Champion was the first brand to manufacture hoodies, and hoodies are still one of their best-selling items today.

Although they were intended to be practical wear, they were popularised as casual wear in the 1970s due to the rise of hip hop culture, which also led to high fashion brands embracing the hoodie. In the 1990s, hoodies became more diverse, worn by many different sub-cultures, from academics to skaters. While hoodies are mostly worn streetwear-style in Korean fashion, different hoodie designs may be suited for different styles.

ADLV x Buried Alive Hoodie Headphone 2 Black, retailing at SGD148 at StyleupK


Lia styles her sweatpants with a cropped for for a stylish but comfortable look / Image: Twitter

Unsurprisingly, sweatpants were first intended to be sportswear. Introduced in the 1920s, sweatpants were simply pants that allowed athletes freedom of movement while also absorbing their sweat.

The 1980s was an era during which health and fitness was especially popular. While still associated with athleticism, this marked the point where it started to become acceptable to wear sweatpants for leisure. Sweatpants in Korea are one of the staples of athleisure wear; a style that blurs the line between fashion and comfort.

For a Lia inspired look, try styling your grey sweatpants with Ames Rimple Crop Cardigan in Blue, retailing at SGD55.90 at StyleupK

Bucket hats

Baekhyun rocking a monochromatic outfit with his black bucket hat / Image: Pinterest

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the bucket hat was adapted by rappers as streetwear, and this streetwear trend continued to be popular through the 1990s. While they were not as trendy in the 2000s, bucket hats became popular again in streetwear fashion in the 2010s. More celebrities are seen sporting bucket hats. Combined with the growing mainstream popularity of streetwear fashion; bucket hats can now be seen almost everywhere, from the streets to fashion runways.

Fila BTS Project 7 Back To Nature Bucket Hat in Black, retailing at SGD at StyleupK

Fanny packs

Taeyong’s fanny pack is both practical and stylish /  Image: Twitter

The modern fanny pack only came around in the 1980s, and hit peak popularity in the 1990s before falling out of fashion. For a good number of years, fanny packs were considered uncool and often associated with tacky tourists.

However, thanks to the rise in popularity of music festivals such as Coachella, fanny packs have become fashionable again. Worn around the waist, fanny packs were perfect for festivals as they did not impede the wearer’s movements, and as demand for fanny packs grew, big fashion brands started producing them as well.

Veteze Studio Heart Logo Hipsack in Black, retailing at SGD69.90 at StyleupK

Chunky sneakers

Sunmi proves that tall girls can wear chunky sneakers too / Image: Instagram

Also known as dad shoes or ugly shoes, chunky sneakers have always drawn divided opinions on the aestheticism of their design. However, they are undeniably popular. They are now worn not just by young Gen Z-ers, but also by millennials who want to relive the nostalgia of the chunky sneakers trend in the 1990s.

Fila is one of the brands that comes to mind when discussing the chunky sneaker. But did you know that the original Fila Disruptor design was first released in 1996? With international superstars such as the Spice Girls sporting chunky sneakers, it’s no wonder that they became so popular amongst teenage girls. And now, as 90s and other retro fashion come back into trend, chunky sneakers have become cool again.

Fila Korea Disruptor 2 Tapey Tape White Shoes, retailing at SGD140 at StyleupK

Fashion trends are dynamic and ever-changing, but these changes are often cyclical. Trends that were once in fashion might go out of fashion for a while, but eventually they come back into fashion for various different reasons. A lot of the fashion trends that we know and love today are also repeated trends from past decades.