For K-pop Stans, Style Is Liberation

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Meaghan got into K-pop during her first semester of law school in 2017 to alleviate a notoriously difficult curriculum. “BTS, and K-pop in general, were a huge godsend to get through law school,” she says. Unbeknownst to her at the time, they also radicalized her perception of herself. 

Growing up as a dancer, Meaghan rejected the ultra-glam and femininity of that life. “I didn’t wear makeup,” she says. “I was a tomboy.” But after a “very fem-presenting” phase during her undergrad years, during which she bought “a million palettes and foundations” because she thought it was something that she was supposed to be doing as a young twentysomething, she found K-pop. “That was when I really started to self-actualize with my fashion expression,” she says. “I’m bisexual, and that was a huge journey of discovery. My gender expression [also] relates to that. Once I got into K-pop, I finally felt like I was able to live my full truth, the full expression of both my sexuality and my gender and [be] who I am.” 

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Courtesy of Meaghan.

Hair played a big part in that realization. Inspired by BTS member Jimin‘s short, grey hairstyle in the “Blood Sweat & Tears” music video from 2016, Meaghan got “the big chop” after her first semester in law school. It was the most drastic haircut of her life, made even more transformative because it marked the first time she had ever dyed her hair. For her, it was a way to exercise control. “I had to have a say in what my life is because law school was taking over in every other way,” she says. Despite her initial anxiety, the end result put her mind at ease for the first time in a long time. “I felt very myself,” she recalls. “It felt like ‘this is how my hair should have always been. I feel complete.’” 

Since then, Meaghan has dyed it every color imaginable – much like idols usually do. With each new concept comes its own unique palette. She’s tried pink, purple, blue, and now, a bright, almost-white shade of silver. “Outside of the K-pop world, this is read as very ‘not straight’ and I fully enjoy that,” she says, pointing to her hair. No, she reconsiders, “I love that.” 

In the K-pop world, playing with gender presentation is a form of self-expression, one that’s not tied to sexuality like it so often is in Western cultures. Artists flaunt their flawless skin and colorful hair. They wear coordinated outfits and sport shimmer on their eyelids and red tint on their lips proudly. “[I feel] clothes are genderless in K-pop, and it shows me that I can dress any way that I want to,” Kayla says. “I’m not restricted. You can wear whatever you want.” 

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