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The Resurgence of Y2K Beauty in K-Pop Music Videos

The beauty trend that took the world by storm in the year 2000—and western pop culture during the pandemic—has piqued the interest of Korean idol groups

It’s amusing how something that was once touted as an end-of-days type of phenomenon—though it was definitely a cause for worry back then given how tenuous our grasp of technology was—is now remembered as a rather comical glitch in the Matrix. Simply put, Y2K is a term coined to refer to a programming shortcut that was expected to upend the tech world at the dawn of the new millennium. Because most computer programs only allowed two digits, the thought that machines would be inoperable when the date descended from 99 to 00 incited panic on a global scale. Save for a few minor glitches, none of that happened, and we’ve been incessantly glued to our little rectangular besties ever since. Wellness tip: find ways to reduce your screen time and enjoy some offline activities!


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Alongside the millennium bug that never was came a new era of fashion and beauty. Bell bottoms, tank tops, and butterfly clips were all the rage, and pencil thin brows, frosted eyeshadow, strobe highlighter, and glossy lips courtesy of drugstore makeup finds were everywhere—until they weren’t.


And then they made a surprisingly strong comeback during the pandemic when shows like Euphoria dominated the streaming platforms and albums like Dua Lipa’s 'Future Nostalgia' and Olivia Rodrigo’s 'Sour' hit the airwaves. A resurgence of old-school excess in response to present-day lack, to be frank.

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In the realm of K-Pop, things played out a little differently.


The Y2K icon that comes to mind is the one and only Lee Hyori, who ushered in a different era of beauty in 2003, breaking boundaries with the MV for her debut single, the hip-hop meets R&B track “10 Minutes.”




In an industry where porcelain skin and doll-like features were considered the pinnacle of beauty standards, the singer confidently flaunted her golden tan, smokey eyes, and glossy lips. Because she was K-Pop’s It Girl at the time, the public’s fascination with her looks, style and personality paved the way for what would become the Hyori Syndrome. The song has enjoyed a new wave of popularity, too, having been performed by Hyori at several music festivals in 2023, and by girl group TWICE and even Cha Eun-woo. Groups such as Itzy, XG, NCT 127, (G)I-DLE, and artists like Jennie of BLACKPINK and Joy of Red Velvet have often leaned towards the Y2K aesthetic, too.


The much loved 4th gen act NewJeans is perhaps the top contributor to the presence of Y2K in present-day K-Pop. They debuted with a concept that easily calls to mind the early aughts, starting with their debut number “Attention” and continuing all the way to their latest entry, new jack swing song “Supernatural”. 



The MV itself plays out like a 90s sitcom, complete with opening credits and a grainy VHS type filter on occasion. The baggy shirts and jeans, low-rise cargos and varsity-inspired attire, and bandanas and hoop earrings are all very Y2K. The baby braids, voluminous curls, and barely there make-up are qualifiers, too. With singer, songwriter, producer, and Louis Vuitton Men’s Creative Director Pharrell Williams as a close collaborator on this new output, it’s easy to connect the dots here. 


What other beauty trends would you like to see your favorite groups rock this year? 



Banner photos via @lee__hyori and @newjeans_official


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