Decoding Jeon Jungkook’s Style And What The BTS Maknae Can Teach Us About Masculinity

Decoding Jeon Jungkook's Style And What The BTS Maknae Can Teach Us About Masculinity

We’re living in an era of TikTok stars and Instagram influencers. Jeon Jungkook is a person who, despite not really being on either platforms, is ruling both. 

A global superstar adored across all age groups, the youngest member of BTS has worked his way towards defining himself that renders him both the Sexiest International Man Alive 2020 (by People Magazine) and an inspiration for many with his hard work and persistence. A trendsetter both in his country and abroad, the ‘sold out king’ has emerged as one of the biggest Gen Z icons

Jeon Jungkook style starter pack

It’s a running joke in the fandom that despite being a black card holder, Jungkook acts in a manner that makes him utterly relatable to broke college students. His incredibly versatile outfits, with a good mix of color and monochrome, casual and experimental and oversized and tight fits reflects a youthful range of moods while still managing to create a style that is distinctly his own. 

Jeon Jungkook fashion essentials

Jungkook’s wardrobe basics combine bucket hats, co-ords, joggers in a variety of fabrics, snug-fitting ripped jeans, comfy t-shirts, flannel shirts for skillful layering, large bags, heeled boots and silver jewelry to adorn his many piercings and hands. His earlier style was a narrower mix of white shirts and tees, Timbs and skinny denims

BTS have modelled for PUMA and FILA, providing us clearer glimpses of Jungkook’s take on athleisure that is certainly more laidback and also looks effortless. We often see his dailywear choices coinciding with what he’s worn on official schedules, carefully weaving in bits and pieces from stages and photo shoots into his routine outfits, such as the shirt worn by Suga that he donned in a look we surely won’t forget. 

Jeon Jungkook: on the go

Jeon Jungkook casual airport fashion

From just these few photos, it’s clear that Jeon Jungkook can make any place his runway. His airport fashion is loved and imitated by many and has almost become a category of its own. In recent years, he’s taken more to layering and even exudes a mysterious aura. A faithful companion to all of Jungkook’s excursions, however, remains a roomy bag to fit all his essentials and his beloved camera.

Beautiful in black

Jungkook black on black

Most fans would know Jeon Jungkook has had a phase of white tees. But over the years, an all-black look was what we became more familiar with as he began finding his style. Variously described as emo eBoy and citycore-meets-goth, the color is certainly an integral part of the superstar’s wardrobe and has given us some of his most memorable looks. 

Turtlenecks, blazers, denim jackets, leather jackets and pants, overcoats, joggers- Jungkook has frequently donned them all in black to give off different vibes, soft and easygoing or bold and hit-the-club type. Some that left lasting impressions were the striped black Balenciaga cardigan he wore on I-LAND with permed hair, the belted cardigan over an animal print shirt accompanied by a brooch for the Season’s Greetings 2021 and the see-through shirt he opted for while performing Black Swan

The ‘Rockstar Jungkook’ phenomenon

In 2020, we saw the rise of a Jeon Jungkook becoming more emphatically and unapologetically himself. The tattoos, the experimentation with his hair and wardrobe have the ‘Rockstar Jungkook’ agenda flourishing. More form-fitting clothes, with an abundance of low necklines and leather jackets, a plethora of heeled boots, an undercut and glinting earrings summarise this look. Of late, he’s also begun experimenting with animal prints.

Gender doesn’t define you, you define gender

Great style is “wearing anything you like, regardless of gender.”

Jeon Jungkook to Vanity Fair
BTS Jeon Jungkook eye makeup

Kpop idol fashion has generally portrayed a more fluid and liberal understanding of gender, and the members of BTS have often taken to adding verbal assent to it. Jungkook has been seen frequently donning pieces from genderless brands, particularly A NOTHING, whose Instagram following took a steep rise as fans began noticing. He has also worn plenty of branded clothing for official photoshoots and performances designed for women. He also made quite a style statement flaunting the shirt Whoopi Goldberg gave to BTS for bringing joy to the world. 

Jeon Jungkook: a life of passion

A theme that links his little teaser of Decalcomania and his solo song My Time from Map of the Soul: 7 is the displacement between the Jeon Jungkook who has grown up under the spotlight and the Jungkook who is able to step back, sometimes a shadow darkened by FOMO, other times a bundle of joy who’d challenge you to a ramen-eating competition. As he told Buzzfeed Celeb, ‘passion’ is a keyword that he lives by. And seeing the immense hard work and revision he puts in each of his projects, always evaluates his performances with the aim of doing better, it’s no surprise that to Jungkook, this means packing in bits of yourself in the work you do, so that they are essentially inseparable.

Finding comfort in your own skin and working on yourself are sure-shot ways to confidence and success and a route to self-love. As much as the fans fall for the eyes that hold the stars and a smile that lights up the room, Jungkook’s remarkable self-discipline and blazing dedication draw in just as many.

Redefining masculinity

Celebrities across the globe, including the fictional roles they might play, have become significant models of masculinity, in fact significantly contributing to a move away from a binary conception towards one that is pluralistic. From Harrison Ford, once the paragon of American masculinity to contemporary role models like Bad Bunny, Harry Styles, Jaden Smith and Newt Scamander, the shift is a clear reflection of broadening understandings of masculinities. 

In Jeon Jungkook, we certainly see a man hardened (quite literally) by practice and an indefatigable spirit. But hardness does not solidify into impermeability. The fact that he’s stacking muscles and can easily lift any of his bandmates (or even move an entire Viking ship) does not stand as a bulwark against introspection and sensitivity. Despite having grown up under the spotlight, away from home, Jungkook wonderfully grew from a boy who believed “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is also mine” to a reliable bandmate who comforts and supports the other members, takes heart in times of trials and feels the most distressed when they’re sad and he can’t make it better. 

BTS Jeon Jungkook cute

‘Boy’ and ‘man’ are terms often held as mutually exclusive, one must give way, utterly and completely, to the other. “From boys to men” is the rite of passage marked as compulsory, in a manner that all things ‘boy’ are consistently othered and negativized in the formulation of a ‘real man.’ The two must remain eternally separated and estranged.

BTS, in Boy with Luv, titled 작은 것들을 위한 시 in Korean (literally meaning, ‘a poem for small things’), revisit their 2014 track, Boy in Luv. it is important how the change in preposition was not accompanied by a change of subject as many would deem is better suited to the members, considering their present ages. Dressed in fabulous pinks and performing against vibrant backdrops, they sang about cradling love in little things and that it isn’t just a state to be in but a force actively generated and possessed. 

The vitality of a boy shines forth in Jeon Jungkook who, like the rest of BTS, have found a careful balance between vulnerability and maturity. Emotional vulnerability is dangerous territory, one BTS has thoroughly explored in their oeuvre, be it grappling with mental health or loss of passion at the height of stardom or acknowledging the shadows that mark human existence. bell hooks acknowledges in The Will To Change how it isn’t simply that men don’t express their feelings but also that many of us don’t really want to listen to their hurt and weaknesses, because it terrifies us, the shattering of men’s images of stability, reliance, control and endurance that have been historically consolidated. 

In such a light, the admirable emotional intelligence displayed by the biggest boyband and their continuous reaching out to their selves boosts courage, leads us to question why should there be such rigid scripts. Masculinity needn’t be a steel cage, it can be a playhouse where anything is possible.