Over the past few years, K-pop group BTS has staged a steady takeover of the music scene, introducing Americans to a world of vibrant, ever-changing, sometimes blinding array of color. The ascendance has accelerated in recent months with an appearance on the Grammys and an Entertainment Weekly cover, and will reach a peak this weekend with the group’s appearance on Saturday Night Live and the release of their new album, Map of the Soul: Persona. With all this new music and various public appearances comes a new look for BTS, highlighted by pink suits, pastel filters, and, as has become their calling card, brightly colored hair.
Now marks the perfect time to “map” out the group’s stylistic evolution in the years since their debut. Rainbow hair wasn’t always BTS’s signature style—they used to lean more toward a Hot Topic aesthetic, with jet-black pompadours and too much eyeliner. Thankfully, we’ve moved on to sunnier, more colorful pastures. And in an attempt to make sense of BTS’s most memorable hairstyles, I now present the official BTS Hair Matrix:
Arranged from Iconic to Regrettable and Natural to Rainbow, I’ve tried to memorialize BTS’s best of the best (and, yes, the worst of the worst). But one graphic is not enough to fully overanalyze each member’s most legendary looks throughout the years. So without further ado, let’s run through BTS’s most iconic and regrettable eras—or rather, “hair-as” (I’m sorry)—arranged on a loose spectrum of least to most follicularly adventurous.
Healthiest Hair: Jungkook
BTS’s youngest member hasn’t gone through nearly as rigorous a hair-dying marathon as many of his bandmates, and, despite a few adventurous phases through the years, he tends to stick with his natural black.
Best Hair Era: “Fake Love” Black
Even as someone who clearly appreciates an outside-the-box dye job, it’s hard to feel bored by Jungkook’s black hair when it works this well. Everyone in the group had dark hair for at least a portion of the “Fake Love” era, which is nice; you can practically feel their split ends breathing a sigh of relief. This was also the period when BTS started to take over the United States, and Jungkook’s unofficial status as the “Fake Love” frontman really put this look in the history books. The zebra print! The forehead! And yeah, OK, the abs! Jungkook was out here thriving, and what a time it was.
Worst Hair Era: “Just One Day” Maroon
Jungkook gets an automatic pass for any of his unfortunate looks in the band’s debut era by virtue of being an actual child. None of us want to be reminded of any misguided high school phases, so it seems wildly unfair to hold Jungkook to a higher standard. That said, we’re about to explore just how tough everyone had it in the early days of BTS’s hair adventures, so we have to acknowledge the years that Jungkook’s look was “skinny emo danger teen.” Thankfully, his hair has bounced back, but send up a prayer for his ears—those gauges were a mistake on multiple levels.
Honorable Mention: The “Love Yourself” Tour Pink
Jungkook’s pink period was the most adventurous he’d ever been, and as much as I appreciate his current follicular health, we’ve gotta bring this back. His pink hair is immortalized in two BTS music videos, “Idol” and “Airplane Pt. 2,” and thank god for that. But the look really peaked on the recent “Love Yourself” tour, when Jungkook performed his solo “Euphoria” while matching the pink hair with an extremely dope white suit that also had a floaty cape. I’m not saying he should reach for the bleach again today, but that’s not not what I’m saying.
Class Clown: J-Hope
BTS’s lead dancer and resident ray of sunshine tends toward the warmer, safer end of the hair color spectrum. It’s easy to overlook J-Hope in the rich and varied history of BTS hairstyles, but his ability to pull off some especially wild looks earns him a special spot on the matrix.
Best Hair Era: “DNA” Red
J-Hope is adorable, goofy, and obnoxious in the best way, and so obviously the technicolor direction of “DNA” suited him to a tee. They gave our man fire-engine red hair and a rainbow tiger sweater and then let him hop around singing, “La la la la la,” for four minutes. Nothing has ever felt more right.
Worst Hair Era: The “Mic Drop” Braids
Like the rest of BTS’s rap line, J-Hope was wronged over the years as the group’s styling veered into regrettable cultural appropriation territory. We’ll dive deeper into this later (with RM, obviously) but for now, let’s acknowledge that these braids were a mistake and move on.
Honorable Mention: “Mic Drop: Remix” Black
Not all of J-Hope’s “Mic Drop” looks were misguided, and this one from late 2018 took everyone by surprise. The forehead jumped out, and we weren’t ready. That’s all I have to say.
Most Consistent: Jin
BTS’s self-designated “Mr. Worldwide Handsome” tends to stick with more natural hair colors, but can we briefly acknowledge the feat of matching this brown-green hair, seen above, to the shirt he’s wearing in this “Persona” photo shoot? Give that stylist a raise.
Best Hair Era: “Idol” Blond
Blond Jin is perhaps the most powerful force on this list. Blond Jin looked at Emo Jin, made the sign of the cross, and forgave his sins. Blond Jin single-handedly healed Jungkook’s gauge-riddled earlobes. Blond Jin was the one who told the stylists to stop it with the braids, dammit. Blond Jin took one look at RM’s mohawk phase and said, “It’s not your fault.” Blond Jin is the only force keeping Jimin and Taehyung’s fried hair connected to their actual scalps. We owe Blond Jin our lives, probably. (Don’t fact-check anything in this paragraph.)
Worst Hair Era: The “Boy in Luv” Emo Pompadour
It feels lazy to accuse the “Skool Luv Affair” era of being Jin’s worst, because the truth is that he pulled off 99 percent of the bad emo looks that were forced on him during this time. The pompadour happening in “Boy in Luv,” however, may have been beyond even his control. It’s the asymmetry of it that I find particularly offensive. It looks like they teased it on only one side of his head, and then arranged one tufty cowlick over his forehead. Horrifying!
Honorable Mention: “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” Pink
Obviously, Pink Jin is no Blond Jin, but the cherry-blossom hair from the beginning of the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” music video is a millennial pink vision board come to life.
Underrated Icon: Suga (Min Yoongi)
Now we’re getting into the true color pioneers of the group, and Suga—or Yoongi, as many fans prefer to use his real name—was one of the first members to explore the full rainbow spectrum.
Best Hair Era: “Run” Mint
I like to think that “Mint Yoongi” would have been considered an all-time great BTS hairstyle even without the play on his last name. “Run” was a colorful time for many of the members (we’ll get into Jimin’s pumpkin hair in a minute), but Mint Yoongi stood out. When Taehyung showed up at this year’s Grammys with a similar mint-green style, the internet promptly lost it. But if you know, you know: Mint Yoongi ran so that Mint Taehyung could fly, and that’s that about that.
Worst Hair Era: The “Boy in Luv” Braids
Ah yes, the unofficial motto of the BTS rap line: “With regrettable stage names come regrettable hairstyles.” In the early days of the group, Yoongi fell into the same unfortunate stylistic choices as J-Hope and RM. Yoongi’s braids phase didn’t last long, but boy, were they misguided. Thankfully, BTS’s new concept is all about leaving certain “personas” in the past, which is exactly what I would like to do with this haircut.
Honorable Mention: The “Love Yourself” Tour Dark Brown
If you’re at all aware of the BTS Army Twitter—and if you’ve made it this far, you probably are—you’ve seen the “Seesaw” fancam, which is now at nearly 50 million views on Twitter. Mint Yoongi was an iconic phase, but his dark-brown hair in this video, combined with a glittery red jacket, is a close second. The internet’s ongoing fascination with that 10-second clip speaks for itself, but it also speaks to Yoongi’s understated appeal. Sometimes it’s not the brightest colors or flashiest dance moves that do the job: Yoongi soft-smiled and finger-wagged his way into a viral moment, and I hope that clip circulates throughout the internet for all of eternity.
Rainbow Risk-taker: Jimin
Jimin’s original debut look was based around flatbills, bandanas, and abs. Seriously, that was his whole thing. Thankfully, someone seems to have come to the realization along the way that the whole “pastel fairy prince” aesthetic works a lot better for him, and lo: A hair color chameleon was born.
Best Hair Era: “Run” Orange
Choosing a most iconic hair color for Jimin was the hardest decision I’ve ever made (until I had to do it for Taehyung 10 minutes later.) The obvious answer was pink, and in that category there are several subsections: the Grammys fuschia, the “Not Today” cotton candy, the “Persona” blond-peach fade (which is, admittedly, exceptional). But every idol and their mother has had pink hair. We can do better! Jimin has done better! Jimin has done pumpkin orange. He’s not the first idol to do it, but the degree of difficulty here is so high that few have tried, and even fewer have succeeded. Jimin did though, as seen in the “Run” music video and the above fan-favorite cover of Shinhwa’s “Perfect Man.” Watch that video and tell me it isn’t his best look. You can’t! It is! I’m sorry!
Worst Hair Era: The “N.O.” Bowl Cut
This video is a hate crime against Jimin and Jungkook, and I refuse to give it any more of my time.
Honorable Mention: “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” Silver
I added the Honorable Mentions segment to this piece just so I could talk about Jimin’s silver hair, and that’s all I need to say about it. He owned this.
Most Improved: RM (Kim Namjoon)
No one in BTS has been more wronged by stylists than our dear, sweet Kim Namjoon. Before we delve into his worst looks (and there are many), let’s pour one out for our fearless leader, send up a prayer for his hair evolution, and celebrate how far he’s come.
Best Hair Era: “Not Today” Purple
The RM of recent years is nearly unrecognizable from the “Rap Monster” of BTS’s debut. He’s trotted out a number of great looks recently, including a dark-gray undercut and glasses at the 2019 Grammys, and a brand new platinum ’do in the first “Persona” music video teaser. But my personal favorite look remains the tufty, gray-purple hair from the “Not Today” era. Something about the color just really sets off the dimples, you know?
Worst Hair Era: The “No More Dream” Afro-hawk
Everyone, take a deep breath.
As mentioned in reference to Yoongi and J-Hope’s braids, many K-pop groups with hip-hop influences dabble in cultural appropriation in their early (and in some cases, recent) style, a trend that’s still happening regularly. And unfortunately, though BTS seem to have left the dreads in the past, they have made similar mistakes over the years. Most of these stylistic errors were foisted onto RM, by virtue of his status as the group’s main rapper and early frontman. The debut-era afro-hawk is arguably the worst of the bunch, but his brief dreadlocks phase was also really, really bad. Those two choices blow the rest of RM’s worst looks out of the water—though it must be said that the blond mohawk was also a huge misfire, if only on an aesthetic level. (Also tough: His own personal mint phase.) But the “Persona” era is all about acknowledging past mistakes and learning from them, and while RM probably didn’t come up with that concept while thinking about his hair, it applies nonetheless.
Honorable Mention: The “Lady Gaga” Blue-Blond
Another personal favorite: RM showed up at the Golden Disc Awards on January 5 and 6 with a blond and periwinkle color fade. This wouldn’t normally be particularly noteworthy, but the color accidentally matched Lady Gaga, who debuted a similar look on January 6 at the Golden Globes. Who copied whom? We may never know—although I did just look at a calendar, and January 5 does come before January 6.
MVP: V (Kim Taehyung)
Where to even begin? BTS’s resident fashion plate, V (a.k.a. Kim Taehyung) loves a bright hair color nearly as much as he loves a statement earring, and I’m thankful for him every day. Just look at all the times he’s matched his hair to his outfit. We stan a color-coordinated king.
Best Hair Era: “Persona” Blue
This was an impossible decision, but I know mine is the right one. We’ve barely seen Taehyung’s blue hair in an official capacity, and it’s already the best he’s ever had. He’s carrying the team on his cerulean back right now, through teasers, posters, fancams, and photo shoots. Yes, I too loved the mint hair, the red hair, the half-pink-half-orange hair … but he’s outdone himself this time around.
Worst Hair Era: 404 Not Found
For the sake of consistency, I’m told that I have to include a worst look for every member of BTS. But in the case of Fashion Icon Kim Taehyung, what exactly does that mean? I don’t think such a thing exists. For the sake of sticking to the format, though, I’m choosing to interpret it as “Worst Look on Everyone Else That Taehyung Still Managed to Pull Off,” which in this case leads me to his “Fake Love” mullet.
The K-pop mullet is a mysterious phenomenon, a shockingly popular trend that serves as a fashion heat check. As far as I can tell, stylists turn to the K-pop mullet when one particular idol has proved an ability to pull off everything else—see G-Dragon, Baekhyun and Kai from Exo, Key from Shinee, Taeyong from NCT, and many, many more. It was inevitable that the mullet would find its way to Taehyung, and he rose to the challenge. And in case you were wondering, it looks good in blond, too.
Honorable Mention: Headbands, Bandanas, or Really Headwear of Any Kind
I was wrong. The only force more powerful than Blond Jin is Headband Tae. Headband Tae is the Mean Girls “your hair looks sexy pushed back” line in human form. Headband Tae is like when any girl in a teen rom-com takes off her glasses and goes from nerdy to sexy, except he was never nerdy to begin with. (Shout-out to “No More Dream” for giving us a literal interpretation of this comparison.) I should note that when I say “Headband Tae,” I’m also referring to subsections that include Bandana Tae, Headscarf Tae, Middle-Part Tae, and arguably the most chaotic and unpredictable of all, BERET TAE.
We reached peak Taehyung recently on the “Love Yourself” tour in March, when he combined the blue hair with a red beret and a bandana around his neck. I still haven’t recovered, and it’s possible that I never will.