Upon debuting at the top of 2015, GFriend brought a refreshing change to the K-pop scene, not only with their throwback sonic style but also a visual one. Among the sexy girl groups concepts that were the trend of the moment, the sextet came out with an innocent, school uniform-inspired look that signaled a fresh new group was ready to take over. Despite not coming from a well-known Korean agency — Source Music was largely unknown until GFriend began racking up hits — the girl group has snagged a remarkable run of hits, coinciding with their latest EP, The Awakening, scoring the act their best showing on the Billboard charts yet.
With their new single “Fingertip” showcasing another step in their evolution, Billboard investigates not only GFriend’s musical evolution but also how their style tells an additional story.
January 15, 2015: “Glass Bead”
With their debut single, GFriend was introduced with their matching schoolgirl uniforms — the norm in their native South Korea. The looks are very simple with matching monochrome shirts and skirts, along with many scenes where the group wears very simple gym clothes. The color scheme is very safe with the girls typically wearing white T-shirts or blouses with simple blue or yellow skirts, or their red gym shorts. The feel is very young and innocent, as if these girls are literally being plucked from gym class — arguably, the school class where kids can truly be kids. For their introduction to the world, GFriend was about showing a unified, adolescent feel.
July 23, 2015: “Me Gustas Tu”
GFriend dropped “Me Gustas Tu” in the middle of July to show a uniformed take on summer style. There aren’t school uniforms during summer vacation, but the girls’ most impactful looks are very consistent, wearing the same mint-green dresses and sailor-girl getups for group choreography scenes. There are moments the girls wear individual outfits, but they are in garb that mostly all stay in the same color family and don’t tell much about the person inside them. While some members wear rompers and some wear sun dresses, and the colors vary a bit at times, but ultimately there is still a collective, uniform feel despite it being the summertime.
January 25, 2016: “Rough”
It was once again school time for GFriend and they’re back in their school uniforms but with a few twists. Their clothes are much more intricate this time with the ladies’ uniforms boasting dressy ties, monogrammed blouses and formal socks — a stark difference from their white tees in “Glass Bead.” While most of the looks are identical, the video does open with the girls rocking school uniforms where we see a handful of unique touches, like Yerin wearing a polka-dotted cardigan over her outfit while youngest member Umji is wrapped in a simple gray jacket. “Rough” is mostly still all about the uniform with the song itself not straying too far from the sound of “Glass Bead” or “Me Gustas Tu,” but we are starting to see more obvious touches of GFriend’s individual style here.
July 11, 2016: “Navillera”
Like clockwork, GFriend was back for another July single but 2016’s “Navillera” was a style and sonic breakthrough. Finally, each girl was given an individual look. All the members’ skirts were different colors and their tops varied from three quarter-length tees to traditional T-shirts. We even saw GFriend experimenting with their hairstyles with fun side ponytails and bob cuts. There were focal, fashion points that tied their attire together — similar shoes, blue jean shorts, and one uniformed baby-blue dress — but ultimately each girl shined on her own with the same youthful energy of their past visuals. Appropriately, “Navillera” was also the band’s most experimental single to date with high-energy blasts of electronica incorporated into their signature, synth-y production.
March 6, 2017: “Fingertip”
For their boldest single yet, GFriend showcased just how far they can take their uniform concept. The main outfits of the visual see the band rocking chic, military-inspired ensembles and stylish camouflaged skirts that remains uniform in look, but speak to being much more grown-up — the army isn’t a place for little girls. For the first time, each girl has a unique storyline in the video with all boasting a cosmic theme to tie her story together. We also see GFriend experimenting even more with their hairdos via fun extensions and honey-blonde dyes. Like “Navillera,” the “Fingertip” comeback was an even punchier and intense sound for the girl group, incorporating some ’80s funk into the mix, but still keeping to their nostalgic sound.
Similar to how the beloved Wonder Girls always boasted a “throwback” concept — which saw them try out everything from Motown vibes to ’80s styling — using GFriend’s uniformed concept a base has loads of potential to successfully inspire and influence the group’s future work. While GFriend’s uniformity is undoubtedly strong, how the group is playing with this concept to showcase its members personalities and help inform the music warrants, and should continue to warrant, a closer a look in the contnuing evolution of a K-pop act with a purpose and ongoing story.
By Jeff Benjamin
Courtesy of Billboard