On June 13, 2013, Bangtan Sonyeondan—or better known as BTS—emerged fresh-faced onto the K-pop scene. Born as a hip hop group, the seven members (leader and rapper RM, or then known as Rap Monster, rappers Suga and j-hope, and vocalists Jin, V, Jimin, and Jungkook) debuted with the mini album 2 Cool 4 Skool. The concept photos from this era reflected the hip hop inspiration and sound that originally drove the group’s roots. Loose jerseys, long shorts, and sneakers were given an extra edge with the addition of bold chains hanging around their necks. At ripe young ages ranging from 15 to 21, they would only have more opportunities to grow—musically, personally, and as BTS the band.
But, as we know in hindsight, the seven would grow into the large shoes they prepared from 2 Cool 4 Skool and establish themselves as an unforgettable band. In preparation for BTS’ upcoming anthology album, EnVi dives into their new group concept photos and reflects on the past album images from 2013 and their connections to Proof.
Reintroducing the Bulletproof Boy Scouts
BigHit released the first concept photos of Proof on May 27, 2022. BTS ushered in their newest era with cool confidence, as evident in the “Proof” group shot. The seven members rest evenly in their stances, tilt their heads in a measured way, and show their full bodies in the frame. These “Proof” photographs feature a blue tint over them, casting an icy feel on the image. Adding to this intimidation is the metal door riddled with bullet holes behind BTS, as if they are protecting a highly coveted safe. The “Proof” images are a nod to BTS’ original concept and the translation of their Korean name—the “Bulletproof” Boy Scouts. Meanwhile, the bullets that could not break the door are piled up in front of the members’ thick black boots, now discarded and harmless.
BTS’ shiny accessories and the various textures of their clothing draw viewers’ eyes towards them, pulling the shine from the bullets and metal door into the middle of the photograph. Leather and faux fur also make the most frequent appearance, but each outfit choice is clearly tailored to the distinct style of the members. Although each BTS member can be considered a style icon, V possesses a special affinity for the title. True to his personality and his love of the retro aesthetic, the warm-toned vocalist cooly evaluates viewers in a thick faux fur coat. Underneath, V dons a black suit with a decorated clasp and a generous V neckline. On the other side of the texture spectrum, V’s self-proclaimed soulmate, Jimin, is a picture of grace and fierceness with his leather jacket and pants set. The more erratic creases are juxtaposed with the consistency of the black crisscrossed cut-out pattern underneath his coat.
BTS have made it crystal clear with these “Proof” images: the seven are no longer the doe-eyed boys from 2013. They are men with their own ideas, their own styles, and their own certainty in who they are.
The Elegant Duality of BTS
Four days after the “Proof” images were revealed, BigHit followed up with the ethereal “Door” concept photos. In contrast to the “Proof” group shot, “Door” showcases gentle confidence, an internal strength that does not have to rely on visual intimidation. Rather, BTS are now pictures of softness and serenity, the desaturated editing allowing for the light colors to grab viewers’ focus. A bright white set creates an otherworldly vibe, while the blurry shadows of the members provide the firmest grounding in the photo.
A theme revolving around a “door” comes as no surprise for those who are familiar with BTS’ story. Their logo represents a door being pushed open, while the symbol of their fans, called ARMY, was formed as if they were on the other side of BTS’ door. The group also has frequently returned to this imagery in music video lore (“Spring Day,” “Fake Love,” and “On,” to mention a few) and their concerts, including their fan club Muster celebrations like “Magic Shop” in 2019.
This emotional association with doors and stepping into an unknown place persists in the photo concept of the same name. Dressed in loose-fitting slacks and flowing shirts, fluidity and freedom underlie the “Door” images. While “Proof” demonstrates BTS’ unbreakable unity, indicated partially through their fashion choices, “Door” leans into small details to exhibit each member’s individuality. Rather than all-black looks, their new outfits opt for pastel from head to toe. Jimin dons a lavender and lilac combination, the silk working well with the stiffer material of his short, marble-patterned jacket. From a quick glance, not much is different in RM’s outfit. However, the silk shirt is swapped out for a cotton button-up—although one button is undone to relax the look—and the leader’s sheer jacket adds a new texture to his otherwise laidback business feel. The rest of the members fill in the rest of the color spectrum, ranging from Jungkook’s white to V’s light blue with purple undertones. These calmer, cooler colors, and the lightness of each piece, especially BTS’ lightweight jackets, reflect the palette dedicated to their upcoming title track, “Yet to Come.”
We Are Bangtan Sonyeondan
Not only do BTS emphasize their duality through the “Proof” and “Door” photo concepts, but they also harken back to their No More Dream and O!RUL8,2? days. ARMY’s sharp eyes caught these visual references:
Directly tying Proof to their first two EPs and the aesthetic that drove these eras furthers the message of the upcoming anthology album. The seven acknowledge their past and look back on these memories to help carve a different future. When viewed side-by-side—“Proof” and No More Dream, and “Door” and O!RUL8,2?—BTS’ growth is staggering. Regardless of their physical changes, the body language of the seven is vastly different from their first years as a group. They stand with certainty, with greater clarity and insight into each other and themselves. In the past nine years, BTS have had their fair share of “bullets.” These challenges, however, have only forged unshakeable confidence.
The Most Beautiful Moments
Proof also builds on the “most beautiful moment in life” thread from BTS’ Youth Trilogy (known as HYYH, which is short for Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa). Notably, the group’s upcoming 2022 comeback bypasses “in life,” denoting that what is to come has no time limit. Initially, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Forever Young concept photos appear to be cut from a different fabric. However, despite the overwhelming sense of youth and carefreeness coloring the HYYH era, the seven’s obvious togetherness and independence carry through in Proof, albeit in a more contained manner.
The choice to draw inspiration from HYYH, in particular, is purposeful. Beginning with The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1 in 2015, BTS received their first music show win with the title track “I Need U” on SBS’ The Show. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life era pivoted towards an electro-pop sound and framed their BTS Universe, a complex storyline spanning multiple albums. BTS’ roots were still in hip hop, but just as their music genres shifted, so did their fashion aesthetic. The seven leaned into sentimental moodiness, exchanging their sports jerseys for plaid shirts, tight dark washed jeans, and sturdy work boots. HYYH was a time overflowing with youth and change, and as BTS turn into their ninth year, it comes as no surprise that they look back to this period of their career to ground themselves again.
Moving On Ahead
If HYYH was about breaking out to forge a new identity, the group’s Love Yourself: Answer, Map of the Soul: Persona, and BE eras (and their corresponding photo concepts) explore how one might grow when boxed in. These three concepts and the recent “Proof” images find the BTS members situated in rooms. In Love Yourself: Answer concept E (the last of the L-O-V-E series), BTS are trapped. Each member is held back by something physical like the ribbon tied around their wrists and the predetermined spaces they are crammed into or something internal like their struggle to understand they are worthy of love, too.
BE and Map of the Soul: Persona are more relaxed. The lifelessness in concept E does not exist. Instead, Map of the Soul breaks down the barriers between each member in Love Yourself: Answer and joins the seven together. Wearing cozy pajamas and bathrobes, BTS poses for a selfie in front of the bathroom mirror, a comforting ordinary scene. The seven of them are at home together, and that within itself is enough.
On the other hand, BE takes a moment to spotlight the personalities of the members. Calm earth tones dominate RM’s space, for example, and an abstract painting hangs on the wall behind him. A small bonsai tree even makes an appearance in the right corner. Fellow ‘94 liner j-hope brings the sunshine with the blues and pinks of his space, his sneaker collection lining the chest on the other side of his hot pink blown-up couch. Although the seven are positioned on their couches in a similar way (squarely facing the camera) and the photos capture the same amount of space, the member inside and the elements around them drive the uniqueness of each image. “Proof” and “Door” may forgo the elaborate sets of BE, but they do demonstrate the maturity and individuality of BTS. These new photo concepts also do this, while pulling inspiration from BTS’ past album concepts and drawing direct connections to them.
The Best Is Yet to Come
Besides the two Proof photo versions, BigHit has rolled out short “Proof of Inspiration” videos from the seven members, a photo concept behind the scenes clip, and, now, the “Yet to Come” music video teaser. In it, viewers see brief shots of each member as they look around the desert scene. Synths reminiscent of the ‘80s play in the background until Jungkook sings the hook to close out the 35-second video. As the title track of Proof, and the first full-length BTS comeback since BE in 2020, “Yet to Come” is highly anticipated. June 10 is drawing near, and Proof is almost here. The main question now is… are we ready for it?
Looking for more BTS content? Check out EnVi’s coverage of Proof’s logo trailer here!