Grunge fashion is the clothing, accessories, and hairstyles of the grunge music genre and subculture which emerged in mid-1980s Seattle and had reached wide popularity by the mid-90s. Grunge fashion is characterized by durable and timeless thrift-store clothing, often worn in a loose, androgynous manner to de-emphasize the silhouette. The style was popularized by music bands NirvanaSoundgarden and Pearl Jam.

One of the biggest influences on grunge fashion was rock star Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the hugely successful band Nirvana. It is widely believed that Cobain represents the core of the grunge movement and the phenomenon of the grunge scene’s influence. Cobain’s style was a combination of both male and female fashion, and “his Seattle thrift-store look ran the gamut of masculine lumberjack workwear and 40s-by-way-of-70s feminine dresses.” Cobain’swife, Courtney Love, was mostly known for her “kinderwhore” sense of style which was used by many female grunge bands. The look consisted of barrettes, tiaras, ripped tights, Mary Janes, slips, and Peter Pan collared dresses. Love claims that she drew the inspiration for her kinder whore look from Christina Amphlett of DivinylsPearl Jam made their mark on the grunge fashion scene with leather jackets, corduroy jackets, kilts, shorts-over-leggings, ripped jeans, and snapbacks. They were best known for inspiring the Doc Martens trend.

Grunge fashion/style was influenced by disheveled and androgynous thrift-store clothing, defined by a looseness that de-emphasizes the body’s silhouette. Men wear second-hand or shabby T-shirts with slogans, band logos, etc. A plaid shirt might accompany the T-shirt, along with ripped or faded jeans. Black combat-style boots, such as Doc Martens, complete the ensemble. In 1992, The New York Times wrote: “This stuff is cheap, it’s durable, and it’s kind of timeless. It also runs against the grain of the whole flashy aesthetic that existed in the 80s.” As for hairstyles, men follow the “hair-sweat-and-guitars look” of Kurt Cobain.

In the 1990s, less was more and dressing-down was an acceptable norm. For shoes, women started wearing clunky combat boots and Doc Martens. They typically wore slip dresses with flannels, flannels and ripped jeans, and plaid in layers. Low-rise and ripped, wide-legged jeans were popular. The clothing was paired with simple jewelry such as chokers and hoop earrings and dark, rich-colored lipstick. Bell-bottom jeans from the 1970s were popular again by 1995, along with the baby-doll T-shirt. Whenflannelswereworn, they were oversized, and when it became too hot to wear them, they were tied around the waist. Hairstyles included the half-up-half-down style and messy hair that made the impression nothing was done to it. 

When grunge started to be a popular trend in the early 1990s, fashion designer Marc Jacobs was the first designer who brought grunge to the luxury platform. In 1993, Jacobs as the creative director of women’s design at Perry Ellis debuted a spring collection that was inspired by grunge. The collection included some items such as flannel shirts, and printed granny dresses.

Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash