Adventurous style-makers around the world made headlines this year with unusual, extreme, and sometimes even painful fashion choices. Here's a rundown of some of the oddest ways in which people tried to improve their looks... for better or worse.
1. The NBA's geek chic
It's rare that the worlds of fashion and sports overlap, and even rarer that the lanky, oft-tattooed men of the National Basketball Association inspire a trend. But by the end of the 2012 NBA season, basketball players were turning post-game news conferences into veritable fashion shows — thanks, mostly, to their oversized, Steve-Urkel-esque glasses... which don't necessarily include lenses. The consistently flamboyant Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma Thunder claims he started the nerdy glasses trend back in 2008. (Japanese schoolgirls more likely instigated the lensless look.) In any event, by mid-2012, Miami Heat's LeBron James and Dawyane Wade and the Thunder's Kevin Durant were all sporting massive, chunky frames.
2. The made-up South Korean male
A growing number of South Korean men are ushering in a new era of cosmetics-friendly masculinity. In the socially conservative, male-dominated country, men are using everything from foundation to lipstick to eyebrow pencils to advance their careers and social status. What's behind the paradigm shift? Experts credit relaxed rules on the importation of Japanese comics, with their depiction of pretty men, and the cultural influence of Ahn Jung-hwan, a hero of South Korea's World Cup soccer team, who led the charge for so-called "flower men."
3. Mustache implants
In certain Arab countries, a full, thick mustache is a sign of a man's power, and for those who struggle to achieve the wooly status symbol naturally, a surgically implanted mustache has become an increasingly popular option, even at $7,000 a pop. Using a technique called follicle unit extraction, a doctor takes hairs from more hirsute parts of the body and implants them in the mustache area and — voila! — the upper lip is lonely no more.
4. The Ukraine's "Barbie flu"
It may be physically impossible for a human to achieve Barbie's extreme proportions and cartoonish allure, but that isn't stopping a wave of Ukrainian women from trying. With the help of plastic surgery, eyelash extensions, colored contact lenses, and some serious styling, these young women are transforming themselves into "living dolls" with tiny waists and implausibly large busts (one contender boasts a surreal 34-18-34 figure). While some of the women say they're looking to publicize their style-focused professions, critics have described the so-called "Barbie flu" as an "escape from reality."
When most people think of plastic surgery, they imagine nose jobs, breast augmentations, and tummy tucks. But weak jaws have become the hot new flaw, with chin implants gaining rapidly in popularity, according to data released this past April. Demand for the procedure shot up 71 percent over 2011. Observers theorize that the amount of time Americans are spending using Face time and video-chat programs, which exaggerate the shortcomings of a weak chin, has contributed to the surge.
6. Cosmetic limb-lengthening
Once reserved for people with dwarfism and children with unequally sized legs, limb-lengthening is reportedly catching on for cosmetic reasons among the vertically challenged. The procedure, which is both arduous and prolonged, requires doctors to break the patient's shin bones and insert telescoping rods that gradually "pull" the two halves of the bones apart at a rate of 1 mm per day (as new bone, nerves, and arteries grow to fill in the gap). The excruciatingly painful $85,000 procedure can add two, three, and in extreme cases, up to six inches to a person's frame.
7. Bagel heads
Finally, the year's most bizarre style-craze honor goes to... Japan's "bagel heads." In September, the National Geographic show Taboo showcased Japanese body-art fans who, presumably bored by tattoos and piercings, sought to adorn their foreheads with a circular bulge distinguished by a bagel-like "hole." To achieve this effect, body modification artists inject 400 cc of saline into the subject's forehead, then press a finger into the lump to create a dent. Since the body absorbs the saline, the look only lasts a day or so. Considering the overwhelmingly nauseated response from American critics, this trend seems unlikely to take hold stateside.