a guide to justin bieber’s style evolution

From baby-faced busker to scumbro Coachella chic, these are the key points in JB’s fashion glow-up that you need to know about.

by Douglas Greenwood
01 February 2019, 2:41pm

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Remember the days when teenage lads would take the piss out of Justin Bieber’s style? When his endearing moppy haircut and penchant for drop crotch pants would draw ridicule from the boys who thought they knew better?

If only they had a time machine, so they could fast forward to the year 2016 and eat their words. In that year, as Bieber transformed from a teeny bopper to a fully fledged pop superstar, the same boy they had once teased became a generation’s style icon: embraced by big fashion houses and spawning a collection of tour merch that stuck a middle finger to the overpriced and ugly tat most popstars were trying to peddle.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of JB’s stronghold on pop’s fashion conversation, and what a bloody decade it’s been! From his purple hoodie breakout to his wild hillbilly moment last summer, we’ve basked in the beauty of his style choices for a while; it only felt natural for the 24-year-old to segue into the fashion business fully.

Enter ‘Drew House’: a genderless collection of chilled out (and primarily beige) staples, designed by the Biebs, that his fans have already gone wild for. The first collection, which dropped last month, was snapped up in a matter of hours, so maybe it’s time to get clued up on Bieber’s fashion evolution before the next opportunity to cop swings around? So from his baby busker beginnings up to the current day, these are they key fashion moments in Justin Bieber’s career you need to take note of.

Baby Busker Bieber
This shot of the Biebz is roughly 13 years old, but in his first public appearance on the streets of his home city, the future pop wunderkind is rocking a look that hype bros and skater kids alike would kill to replicate in 2019. The matching DC cap and skate shoe combo? The Gen Z yellow tee? The stonewash denim? The (naturally) peroxide blonde hair that he’d return to some 10 years later? What we can take from this outfit is that Bieber has always gravitated to a low-key and effortlessly stylish look. In our opinion, this humble outfit is begging to be brought into 2019 Bieber’s wardrobe, only in some luxurious new context. Come to think of it, don’t Balenciaga do some nice stonewash denim?

The Mini Mosher
Some eight years before Demna resurrected the mosher look, helping it assimilate into pop culture, our own Justin Bieber was making fleeting appearances on Christian television channelling the music industry outsiders in his own wardrobe. Here, on the now defunct chat show Full Circle, Bieber’s mum was interviewed about her son’s impending rise to fame and the possibility of being mentored by Justin Timberlake or Usher (!) as the boy himself sat silently beside her, rocking this almost comically oversized skater hoodie and some baggy jeans to boot. The swooping haircut -- the very thing that would become his trademark -- completes the entire look. Rock on, our dude!

The Invention of the Purple Sweater
Just as Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone, so too was Justin Bieber an innovator in his own right. The purple sweater, once relegated to sale rails in Topman stores around the world, was transformed from a piece of Barney the Dinosaur cosplay into a teen menswear staple the moment the star put one on his back. Back in his formative years in the spotlight, JB could be spotted turning up to red carpet events, on stage and in press shots donning variations of his mauve masterpiece. And if you wanted to emulate it? You simply had to head down to American Apparel. He might have been raking in the big bucks, but at this stage Bieber was happy spending just $60 on the several iterations of the same item. We stan a sensible, economical pop heartthrob!

The Grown-Up Glow Up
As 2011 rolled around and Bieber’s burgeoning success translated into a documentary film about his life on the road ( Never Say Never, an underrated music movie -- watch it), his style choices grew somewhat. After years of being an adorable kid who other young teens could relate to, dressing exclusively in hoodies, jeans and Supra sneakers, Bieber decided to go through his first fashion glow up. In a move that Justin Timberlake also made when he segued from band life into a solo career, JB binned his casual wear for some more sartorial pieces, like this Daz! white D&G blazer that he layered over a $30 Saved By the Bell tee at the Much Music Video Awards. It was also around this time that he inevitably discovered the trilby -- something he rocked on red carpets and at live events. Thankfully, that period was short lived.

It was in 2012, as Bieber finally turned 18, that the fashion world started to take note of his style. After years of looking like a finely dressed kid who still shopped high street (humble as hell, we know), he gravitated to a new level, and took things a little more seriously. Like at the 13th Annual NRJ Awards in France, as JB walked the red carpet in a familiar and modest ensemble (white shirt and skinny black tie, untucked with black jeans) given a new dimension courtesy of the light blue leather MCM jacket layered on top and the Balenciaga sneaks on his feet. At this point, he was attempting to steer clear of the teeny bopper look -- eager to become more of a gentleman. This transitional, more luxury look proved he was well on his way.

Drop Crotch King
Do you remember the moment the world fully turned their backs on Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent skin-tight jeans fantasy and embraced the saggy drop crotch pant instead? Everybody from Gwyneth Paltrow to will.i.am was jumping on the short lived trend in 2013, and Bieber was keen to unveil his iteration of it too. On a sold-out stop of his Believe tour, he took to the stage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas donning this head-to-toe white outfit, accented by a gold chain necklace and some wild, glittery fingerless gloves. It was a look that carried a part-angel, part-Pokemon trainer kind of chaotic energy, and while the colour scheme might have been timeless, that nappy silhouette was a fashion moment that simply had to stay in the past. Next!

Balmain Boy
Now we’re talking! Just as the haughty fashion cognoscenti started to treat this popstar seriously, so too did endorsement deals and link ups start to pour in. First came a fairly lucrative deal as the face of Calvin Klein underwear, followed by this star-making moment. On the red carpet of the Met Gala in 2015, Biebz rocked up as the right hand man of Olivier Rousteing wearing, of course, head to toe Balmain. Tied to the the night’s theme: ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’, Bieber’s sharp black velvet suit had a jacket embroidered with a jaw-dropping dragon motif. Paired with Rihanna’s canary yellow Guo Pei moment, it was the stand-out fashion story of the night, and it helped solidify JB as a man that other men should be looking to for style references.

Grunge God
Okay, so no one’s trying to say that One Time and Baby weren’t bops, but as Bieber came through a rough patch and transformed into a redemptive artist indebted to God, he returned bearing bangers! Sorry and Where Are U Now?, from his monumental fourth record, Purpose, proved he was desperately seeking reinvention, and that seeped into his style too. Gone were the clean-cut elements of his wardrobe: enter ripped denim, skate sneakers, vintage band tees and a hell of a lot of check shirts courtesy of Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo. In fact, Lorenzo and Bieber got on so well that the esteemed American designer was asked to design the merchandise for the Purpose tour. As Justin’s work assimilated into the streetwear circle, a whole new group of arsey twenty-somethings who once ridiculed him (this author included!) fell for him too.

The Scumbro of Coachella
And so, this lead us on to the ultimate conversation-spawning look of Bieber’s entire career. Taking a breather after the game-changing Purpose era, the popstar decided to truly not give a fuck and create a new chapter in his fashion wardrobe, following the likes of Post Malone, and helping make a low maintenance look the ultimate symbol of luxury fashion. Enter, the scumbro. The trend manifested most clearly in this beach bum look he wore to Coachella last summer. Under a head of shaggy hair tied back with a paisley bandana, Biebz donned a Hawaiian print co-ord from New York brand YOU-AS, pairing it with some uber expensive Vetements socks and Louis Vuitton sliders. It might have felt in keeping with the trashy festival vibe, but trust us: this was scumbro luxe at its finest.

His cosy and loved up look
After a whirlwind decade, it’s no surprise JB is opting to take a backseat from music at the moment, cosying up to his new beau Hailey Baldwin/Bieber instead. As the cold snap arrived in New York late last year, the duo decided to match in clashing coloured oversized puffers. Hailey decided to don a royal blue Balenciaga number, while Justin went for a crimson and black Perry Ellis ski-style, pairing it with Adidas trackpants and Fear of God sneakers. It’s strange to think that just 13 years ago Justin Bieber was a busking kid in uncool streetwear, his sights set on a career in music that would come to fruition: making him a legend, chewing him up and spitting him out before allowing him to re-enter as one of the industry’s most respected -- and fashionable -- young men. But look at him now: enviably fashionable, working with one of the coolest stylists in the game Karla Welch, and informing the wardrobes of every young hypebeast the world over.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Justin Bieber
Style Evolution
fashion evolution