James B. Steinberg
[Reports of state-mandated beauty standards in North Korea] have to be taken with much skepticism. There’s no evidence that their hairstyles must follow totalitarian regulation. Even if posters of styles and models says it’s the ‘rule,’ it could be that private citizens — barbers, beauticians, storekeepers — came up with ideas but put them under the safe umbrella of the state. People using the state to make money, rather than the other way around.
It’s hard to find evidence that ‘state-approved’ [hairstyles] were implemented [in North Korea. A rumor that students were told to copy Kim Jong-un's hairstyle] has been disputed by observers. Some say [the style was adopted by] all North Korean men, some say just students, and others says this was a myth.
Pyongyang residents tend to be the elite or privileged minority. They do follow fashion trends. Young women tended to follow the styles worn by the zippy and ‘sexy’ female instrumentalists and singers by the popular Moranbong [the girl band whose members were selected by Kim Jong Un]. When the performers wore longer hair, women copied those. When most of them got short ‘boy cuts,’ many women copied them too. Many North Korean women also imitate the fashion trends on South Korean TV shows that get smuggled into North Korea.