Was a member of BTS wearing a Fetzer Gym T-shirt from UNC?
A member of the world's biggest K-Pop band is often spotted wearing a shirt with the letters "FG" on it. Is that a low-key reference to, of all things, a rec center in Chapel Hill? We investigated.
BTS! The world’s largest K-Pop band! They’re in the news this week because they visited the White House to meet with President Biden, although if you’re a BTS superfan, they’re never really not in the news. But their trip to Washington prompted this question I got from Rabbit Hole reader and New York Times Magazine writer Jason Zengerle: “Did the Fetzer Gym T-shirt make it to K-Pop?”
He’s talking about the “FG” shirt being worn in the GIF below.
It should be known that Jason is not the only person who has spotted this.
Some disclosures: I am married to a UNC graduate and have been to Chapel Hill many times. I am friendly with several Durham-based national political writers who make a lot of off-brand tweets about Duke and UNC-related ephemera (lookin’ at you, Jason and recent Bull City expatriate David Graham!). I worked at Our State magazine, which has pored over all things UNC like an archaeologist digs into an ancient civilization (Alexander Julian is basically their Indiana Jones). And yet Jason is out here talking about Fetzer Gym shirts LIKE I KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE. Folks, I do not.
(Spends 15 minutes on Google)
Okay, here’s everything there is to know about Fetzer Gym shirts.
You Can’t Spell Vigorous Conditioning Without ‘FG’
The shirts exist because they come from a bygone era when UNC was fixated on your grandfather’s version of physical fitness. You know, when you’d do 30 squat thrusts and then smoke a cigarette because that was how you got essential vitamins and minerals into your bloodstream. UNC, it should be mentioned here, required a swim test to graduate up until 2006 and is one of the last college basketball programs with a junior varsity team, although it hasn’t played a game since the pandemic began. So it should be no surprise that the university used to hand out workout sweatshirts before gym class at Fetzer Gym in much the same way that Bayside High School made its students change into school-issued apparel before P.E. class.
And because UNC students have always been rule-following law abiders, they dutifully returned the shirts after every worko— hahahaha nope they stole them.
“When I was here, it was somewhat coveted to have a Fetzer Gym sweatshirt. I believe it’s probably because we weren’t supposed to have those shirts,” says ‘86 UNC grad Rob Patton in a video created for the UNC Library. The shirts were university property, so often the students that ended up with them turned them inside out and wore them, as Patton describes, “over a polo shirt with the collar turned up.”
(pause for UNC fashion joke)
The shirts are no longer in actual use by the university, and authentic “FG” shirts are now coveted and somewhat rare collectors items. They also, you know, probably have the faint aroma of bygone man- and lady-stink.
If you can’t get one, but want to act like you hung out in Chapel Hill before it was cool, replica Fetzer Gym shirts are for sale! He’s Not Here has even adapted the look. And you know who else loves wearing FG shirts? That’s right! K-Pop superstar Suga from BTS! You guessed it! Fetzer Gym is dynamite!
If you do not know, BTS is one of the biggest bands on earth. Since 2013, they’ve sold more than 32 million albums. They dance. They rap. They sing in Korean, Japanese, and English. There are entire online ecosystems dedicated to every tiny aspect of its members lives, including their choices in fashion. And so it did not go unnoticed that one member wears one particular thing over and over again.
The guy wearing all of the FG shirts is Min Yoon-gi (민윤기), better known as Suga. He’s all of 29 years old, raps, and also has given away millions of dollars to medical charities and disaster relief funds. He also, according to his Wikipedia page, did this:
In 2014, Suga made a promise to buy his fans meat should he find success as a musical artist. Four years later, on his 25th birthday, he donated beef to 39 orphanages in the name of "ARMY", BTS' fanbase.
Rabbit Hole readers, I love you. But I am not shipping you meat.
Anyhow, Suga and occasionally his bandmate RM wear “FG” shirts, which doesn’t actually stand for Fetzer Gym, but rather “Fear of God.” It’s a fashion brand that sells luxury streetwear, and was founded around ten years ago by Jerry Lorenzo, the son of former NBA player Jerry Manuel. He’s done a lot of stuff around Los Angeles, but started Fear of God without having much formal training in fashion. Since then, Justin Bieber and Kendrick Lamar have worn his stuff. Also, so has Suga.
So, how much does a Fear of God “FG” shirt go for? Currently, all shirts that resemble the one that Suga wears are sold out. But if you could buy one, it’d cost $250 for a t-shirt, and $595 for a sweatshirt.
By comparison, you can get a Fetzer Gym “FG” replica shirt for $20. You know what that smells like?
Value. Or sweat. Or meat.
This brought back memories! In 1979 I had a Woollen Gym sweatshirt (WG with an M underneath indicating size). Managed to keep it because when I turned in the matching sweatpants they must have looked bulky enough to be two pieces. Shirt is, alas, long gone. And I loved He's Not Here! Glad they're still open.