The Squid Game effect is real.
The South Korean dystopian drama has sprouted a certain dessert frenzy, spurred interest in learning Korean, and has been crowned Netflix’s biggest launch yet. But the domination of the series doesn’t end there, entering our collective cultural consciousness from multiple angles. The latest takeover? Fashion.
The popularity of Squid Game has resulted in a surge of interest in anything to do with the minimalist retro fashion displayed in the series: tracksuits, boiler suits, and white slip-ons. Add to this an influx of merchandise and significant interest from major luxury brands in the show’s stars, and the influence is undeniable.
The show’s art director, Chae Kyung-sung, spoke about the intentional nostalgia of the ’70s jumpsuit aesthetic, cultivated by referring to old children’s books and vintage publications. In an interview, she revealed that the two main colours used — green and pink — were amongst the first artistic decisions made on the show, with the intention being to amplify the contrast between the contestants and the guards. “…we wanted to use pink to imply doing something unusual. That way we could symbolize pink as a double-sided element that could deliver a twist to depict the cruel world [of Squid Game]”, she said.
The style choices made by the director and the production team clearly paid off.
You would think this would merely mean a bunch of costume ideas, considering the show was well-timed to be a Halloween hit. This is certainly the case: the Wall Street Journal reported that a waterfall of Squid Game costumes has descended onto Amazon. Think exact replicas of the show’s boiler suits, complete with the soldiers’ eerie black masks. A green tracksuit like those worn by the players in the show is currently the top seller in men’s costumes on Amazon. No surprise there.
But the show’s aesthetic influence isn’t just confined to a holiday known for make-believe and fantasy. Sartorial choices from the show are moving beyond it, and not necessarily just as costumes. Take the white Vans slip-on sneakers, which all 456 contestants partaking in the games wore. Searches for that exact pair have increased by a mammoth 7,800 percent since the show’s release, according to British retailer Sole Supplier. Apart from Vans, searches for white slip-ons in general have spiked by 97 percent globally. Sure, the shoes are pretty versatile, but it’s hard to believe that jump in interest could be caused by anything other than the Netflix hit.
The same goes for the tracksuits. According to global fashion search platform Lyst, searches for retro-inspired tracksuits jumped by 97 percent, while searches for red boiler suits hiked up by 62 percent.
There’s nothing particularly novel or avant-garde about these cozy outfits, but something about it just works outside the show. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the whole thing.
Naturally, a bunch of merchandise has popped up. Netflix created a line of T-shirts and hoodies inspired by the show, including important references (player 456!) and symbols that are easily recognisable to anyone who’s watched Squid Game. You can even design your own shirt, choosing graphics and words (English or Korean) that most resonate with you.
Walmart, too, has jumped onto the merch train, working with Netflix to sell exclusive pieces inspired by their most popular originals — the Squid Game collection will soon hit stores around the U.S. These kinds of commercial partnerships indicate the extent of interest given not just to Squid Game‘s distinctive aesthetics, but to the show as a cultural entity — there’s money to be made.
On a similar (but more luxe) note, Louis Vuitton secured one of the stars of Squid Game, Jung Ho-Yeon, as their new global house ambassador. Jung is now the most followed South Korean actress on Instagram, catapulted by the show’s success and gaining millions of fans almost overnight. While the collection isn’t Squid Game-themed, the series’ influence here is something retailers are picking up on.
Whether merchandise, costumes, or major retailers coming to play, the Squid Game effect is slowly solidifying dominance over both our streaming devices and our closets.
If you’re playing along, you have your Halloween candy sorted too.