If there’s one thing the K-Pop wave has taught us, it’s that the American boy bands of the ’90s have nothing on their contemporary Korean counterparts. Especially where fan loyalty is concerned – if you thought you loved NSYNC then you haven’t met BTS’s die-hard fanbase. Without an ounce of shame or self-consciousness, they will make your teenage Justin Timberlake obsession look positively tame. In fact, some of them even manage to make Beyoncé stans look marginally less dedicated to their queen.
Kim Nam-joon, better known by his stage name Rap Monster, is BTS’s lead rapper and the object of more adolescent fantasies than any one person could probably feel comfortable about. In fact, his acolytes are so dedicated that we were asked to publish this piece only after he’d left New York out of concern that people might be able to identify the hotel’s interior and track him down.
Last week, the seven-member band stopped through the East Coast as part of a sold-out, two-show run at New Jersey’s Prudential Center. We caught up with Rap Monster before the show to see what he was wearing, and talk about how his sense of style has landed him on magazine covers and closed endorsement deals with brands like PUMA.
How would you describe your style?
Gothic and streetwear these days. My favorite brands are WTAPS and NEIGHBORHOOD from Japan.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Damir Doma, Alexander Wang and Yohji Yamamoto – he’s the grandfather. These days I’m also really into Japanese street style. They have brands like NEIGHBORHOOD and WTAPS which have styles like Carhartt in the U.S. I like the workwear look.
What about emerging designers?
There’s a guy who just did some shows in Milan. His brand is called D.gnak and he’s got some stuff that I like. There’s also a brand called 99%IS which is really hot these days in Korea.
What is the best accessory for any outfit?
For me it’s always a cap or a beanie. When I don’t wear a cap or beanie I feel like I haven’t completed my look. I have to put something on my head.
What’s your go-to look for being on the road?
When I’m traveling I always wear Supreme hoodies because they’re comfortable. I usually wear the wide pants from Levi’s too, you know the really old ones from the ’90s? So that’s what I usually wear: a hoodie, Levi’s and Timberlands.
Who or what are you currently most inspired by?
The big grandfather Yohji Yamamoto. I love his style. These days I’m also really inspired by – I don’t know their names – but the people on Japanese streets like in Harajuku. There are so many dope styles there and I usually search for street snaps because it really inspires me.
What’s the best sneaker out right now?
Right now? I have to pick the PUMA Suede because I’m in the middle of being an ambassador [laughs]. Also the Vans Old Skool, Converse’s Chuck Taylor and Timberlands. I do like the hype shoes like Y-3 or YEEZY, but I think classic shoes are always the best.
What about the best album out right now?
Drake’s More Life. It’s lit.
Also get familiar with some of the Korean designers killing the retail game right here.
- Photography: Thomas Welch
- Shirt:Haider Ackermann