Grunge Fashion – 90s, 2011 and beyond

Grunge Fashion - 90s, 2011 and beyond
| Style > Alternative Style

Music sparked grunge fashion. Arguably, the celebrity factory and fashion industry sparked Grunge Luxe. Mookychick explores the muses, ideals and style that made grunge fashion what it was in the 1990s and what it is in 2011. What will grunge evolve to become?

There’s something about the style that emerged out of the Seattle music scene of the mid 1980s that gives it an edge that it arguably shouldn’t have. After all, grunge fashion – which had its roots in grunge rock – was born out of the fact that its followers were trying to do just the opposite of what the word ‘fashion’ suggests.

Grunge fashion – 80s and 90s

The original grunge musicians and fans were rebelling against a conformity they felt boxed-in by. The flannel shirts, undyed hair roots, ripped jeans, ripped tights and battered boots were thrown together with anything but the intention of appearing on the forefront of a new fashion craze. What is now viewed as a bona fide fashion was the result of a perceived laziness and a life far more concerned with music than appearances. Music journalist Charles R. Cross summed it up: “Kurt Cobain was just too lazy to shampoo”.

Why did ‘unkempt’ become so popular in the late 80s and early 90s? Conversely to the contrasting trends of the hip-hop music scene of the time – the prevalence of flashy sportswear, the want for flashy chains and gold rings – early grunge was a trend laid back enough to suggest the wearer had not tried at all, even though today it is a trend that we now see in magazines and sold on the high street. We even see it on the high fashion scene – from big names like Balmain to the smaller labels like Religion. Fashion names now try to appropriate, tweak and evolve a style that was originally very random, very spontaneous and – generally – very unfashionable.

Find out more about grunge fashion and music in the 80s and 90s on Mookychick.

Grunge fashion – 2011

Today, grunge fashion takes a different angle. Stylists don’t buy clothes from charity shops or retrieve them from bins to dress models, actresses and stars. Grunge style has been reinvented. It’s resurfaced incorporating glamorous elements – more lace, more glitter and more decoration. Jeans are deliberately distressed and t-shirts are deliberately ripped, and their pre-sale damaged condition often means they cost more. Looking like an impoverished rock musician still wasted from last night’s gig can be an expensive business in 2011. ‘Grunge Luxe’ means a leather jacket or a slashed shirt can now sell for hundreds; even thousands.

The fashion imprint left by the original grunge dressers – from Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland) and Courtney Love (Hole) in their kinderwhore glory to (of course) the one-step-from-homeless scruffy style of Nirvana and Pearl Jam – is one not forgotten. From the stage to the fashion frontline, models from Agyness Deyn to Georgia May Jagger, Pixie Geldof to Alice Dellal publicise the trend today. Today, the idea of sticking a finger or two up at conformity has become ‘cool’.

Grunge fashion – moving forward

Without delving too deeply into social comment, the original ethos of grunge style will always remain. There will always be those who are too poor to keep up with fashion trends and have no desire to do so. Regardless of how Grunge Luxe will evolve, there are certain classic grunge basics that will never go away. As to how the non high-fashion grunge look changes? It really depends on what people who’ve chosen to drop out start finding in their charity shops and hungover friends’ houses, deep down behind the sofa…

Grunge clothing basics

If you feel connected to either early grunge or Grunge Luxe, then learn the basics, get inspired and take the style in your own direction. The basics – the boots, the variety of lace and fishnet tights, the flannel shirts and the vintage rock tees – are a given, but the attitude? No one can teach true grunge-rock individuality. Some girls will prefer the ‘no make-up’ look; others may go for gothic, black-rimmed eyes. Then there’s jewellery and accessories, nail varnish and lipsticks (such as dark plums, reds and purples) and hair (nothing too styled, obviously). From babydoll dresses teamed with Doc Martens to a pair of patterned leggings with a tee and crucifix necklace, think androgynous, think rock ‘n’ roll, think attitude, independence and individuality.

The true key to grunge style? No one remembers the girl that was just like everyone else, so get inspired by music, by photography, by film, experiment, and be yourself.

Grunge bands to revel in and be inspired by

  • Nirvana
  • Soundgarden
  • Mudhoney (Touch Me I’m Sick is one of the best grunge tracks ever)
  • Hole
  • Babes in Toyland
  • L7
  • Pearl Jam
  • Alice in Chains


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