We hadn’t heard the term until South Korean TV personality Jun Hyun Moo used it to describe himself. At a recent news conference for his upcoming variety show Omniscient, Jun said that he’s been labeled a “fashion terrorist,” and that his girlfriend Han Hye Jin got a kick out of it and has tried to steer him in the right direction.
“She changed my stylist to her own stylist,” Jun said. “The stylist now works for me and Hye Jin. These days, I send her a picture of my outfit every day. She coaches me by telling me to roll up my sleeves, take my socks off, pull my pants down, and more. She told me to take off my socks today, so I did. I’m doing exactly as she says.”
Jun’s manager thinks this change has paid off. “His style got better, and I think he’s dressing well,” he said.
But can a fashion terrorist ever really change their stripes? With professional help, yes, says Kelly Johnson, stylist to stars like Catherine Zeta Jones.
“With the rise of social media, so comes the fashion terrorists looking to make a big splash and a statement; to get more followers, recognition, and more attention,” Johnson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I would define a “fashion terrorist” as someone who breaks and bends the rules of fashion as they are laid out for us, which can end up being a new groundbreaking idea or a total disaster.”
They don’t always fail, notes Johnson, “it’s rare, but they do get it right every once in a while.”
But more often than not, it’s a nightmare, because fashion rules were set for a reason — they’re not easy to break successfully. “You can mix plaids and prints all day long, but it has to be the right plaid, the right print, the right balance of colors, and it takes a keen eye to really understand that,” Johnson explains. “Stick with the experts, we won’t lead you astray!”
Considering that definition, Jun doesn’t seem like such a fashion disaster. Even in old photos, he’s dressed simply, in suits. “It seems like he’s just wearing a lot of suits and tuxedos, maybe one or two looks could qualify him as a ‘fashion terrorist’ but it doesn’t seem that extreme,” Johnson agrees.
Korean star Jieqiong was also once labeled a ‘fashion terrorist’ for wearing a baggy outfit consisting of a striped shirt, ripped jeans, and a leather jacket. The K-Pop singer said it was a styling mishap. “I wore my own clothes at an event, and I didn’t have time, so I just put on whatever I saw,” she explained. “Those items were OK if you wear them separately, but together they must have looked weird and I became a fashion terrorist after that.”
Johnson doesn’t see it. “I wouldn’t necessarily consider that fashion terrorism, but it’s also an ambiguous term, so to some people’s eyes it could be.”
But it could also be because Jun and Jieqiong don’t really understand the meaning of fashion terrorism. To Robert Verdi, celebrity stylist and tastemaker known for his brutal honesty, fashion terrorists come in many forms. “If you’re a style intern, your boss is probably a fashion terrorist,” he told Yahoo Lifestyle. “The Anna Wintours, people who are high up in the fashion world but terrorize others and put people down constantly,” he explained. “Then there are the self-proclaimed fashion experts and critics who have no experience to back it up. Someone who tears looks apart but doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Like Perez Hilton,” he adds.
There are “visual fashion terrorists” as well, according to Verdi. “They have no style of their own and just hijack others,” he says. “The ones who rip pages out of magazines and go and get the exact look. The ones who wear the looks right off the runway and don’t make it their own at all. They are hijackers and they try too hard.”
Not many people have earned the title “fashion terrorist,” though. In fact, it’s mostly Korean stars who commit the crime, apparently. Why is that? Johnson has a thought: “Some of these K-pop groups seem to be pretty out there stylewise.”
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