ith fall season in full swing one of the best styles to compliment it is grunge fashion. It revolutionized the 90s and it still has a stronghold to this day. From TikTok trends, Tumblr fanatics, Spotify playlist connoisseurs and Kurt Cobain apologists, grunge fashion has thrived over the years.
Grunge, a word initially associated with dirt or grime, is now associated with a specific brand of rock and indie/alternative music. This genre emerged in the mid-80s to early 90s, and was often thought of as ‘dirty rock’ due to the music's dark, complicated nature. Therefore, those who would attend concerts or listen to these bands would often be associated as ‘grungy.’ They, similar to the music in which they listened to, would dress in dark tones and distressed clothing. Thriving off of edginess of outcast individuals, it's no wonder that the grunge aesthetic has still lived on to this day and continues to be revived over and over.
In 2021, most associate grunge style with being hipster, or even goth. Both are true, but grunge is about more than simply being perceived as edgy. Grunge music grapples with the very serious issues of mental illness, hopelessness, existentialism, and feelings associated with living in a world filled with cruelty in a somber, authentic tone. This was likely the reason why many flocked to this genre during its creation - music had simply created an environment where people could talk about their mental illness before it was widely accepted. Here we’ll dive into the timeline of grunge music and fashion, and it’s influences.
How 90s Music Created Grunge 🎙🎶
The history of grunge fashion all started with the bands who revolutionized them. When people think of grunge, they remember the famous yet tragic story of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Grunge style was popularized by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, the Cranberries, the Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, and the Foo Fighters.
Each one of these bands has their own special style and they tend to attract the same listeners. Those who attended these concerts also dressed in a unique way. People were starting to dress more comfortably, using distressed clothing and oversized shirts or pants. Styles from hand-me-down grandma sweaters to long sleeve striped shirts and turtlenecks with band tees over them topped with Chuck Taylors became normalized. Although some still considered this clothing style to be unprofessional or lazy, it became a new type of streetwear that some aspired to wear.
Funnily enough, a lot of grunge bands started in the midwestern United States. Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana and current frontman of the Foo Fighters, is from my hometown of Warren, Ohio. We have an alleyway with the world’s largest drumsticks dedicated to the artist downtown, and many people visit or even take senior pictures there.
If you're looking to listen to some grunge classics, here’s a playlist filled with 90s grunge hits that’ll leave you jumping around your room in the dark with a strobe light.
Grunge’s Early 2010 Tumblr Revival ⛓🥀
TikTok and the pandemic has recently reminded Millennials and Gen Z of the underrated 2014 Tumblr grunge era. As someone who was personally immersed in this culture during my early teenage years, I can attest to the revival of the grunge aesthetic on Tumblr. Although I couldn’t afford to buy some of the clothes, my emo phase ran rampant. Fishnets, Doc Martens, graphic band tees from Hot Topic and Twilight were all the rage. Alongside it the Hunger Games was starting to emerge alongside the Divergent series. Bands such as Paramore, the Arctic Monkeys, the 1975, Panic at the Disco, Fall Out Boy and All Time Low became the lineup for the annual Vans Warped Tour.
Tumblr became a place where grunge became a renewed aesthetic that people could die for. Not only did these emerging bands get publicity but people revisited the music that started it all. Tumblr grunge gives current teens and young adults a nostalgic feeling. Some of my favorite early 2010 tumblr grunge tracks can be found on this playlist. Listen if you dare.
Some Modern Grunge Looks 🕷⚡️
The modern grunge look typically is an androgynous combination of converse, chokers, flannels, jeans, large boots. The beauty of grunge is that it can fit any body shape and can be accustomed to any gender expression. It emphasizes using durable thrift-store-like clothing, often worn in a loose way. This style embraces heavy layering in order to complete your look, making it ideal for the fall and winter months, which are currently right around the corner. Below are some purposely untidy grunge looks from modern influencers to give you some outfit ideas.
Hardcore grunge can feel really intense especially for people who aren't used to the grunge aesthetic. however it is a staple in any emo kids wardrobe. Pairing a leather jacket with some equally cool leather Doc Martens and all black is the easiest way to pull off hardcore grunge look. Just add some dark tone makeup and chunky jewelry and you'll be all set.
Grunge Fairycore Aesthetic
The grunge fairycore aesthetic the look of hardcore grunge with a more uplifting and whimsical approach. Generally, this means that you can add a splash of color to any all black outfit and add a dash of some sparkly makeup and blush or a pearl necklace. chances are that wearing a grunge fairycore outfit will turn some heads in the best way possible.
The Soft Grunge Look
The soft grunge look combines some aspects of hardcore grunge with lightened denim staple pieces. This world can be very simple but stylish. It encourages you to slightly step out of your comfort zone while also embracing the grunge look. Maybe pair dark jeans and a band tee with a lightly colored distressed denim jacket. Or, like in this example, you can wear distressed light colored jeans with a t-shirt and chunky jewelry.
Dark Academia + Grunge
If you don't want to dress in your typical business casual outfit, this is your best bet for your 9-5. The best thing about the dark academia aesthetic is that you can dress it for any formal occasion. Pair a collared button up with some grungewear and you've got the best semi-professional look for your job. The most important thing for pulling off the dark academia style is by wearing classy, yet cool, jewelry. In this outfit, the model is wearing a vintage style watch that ties the entire outfit together, making it look more professional.
If you're looking for a more casual everyday grunge look I suggest wearing mostly black but with some comfortable aspects to the outfit. You can play around with this kind of style and it's really easy to put together. Most of the time I throw something like this together when I'm in a rush to get ready in the morning. Mostly, if you combine staples from your wardrobe, such as solid color pieces with a cool t-shirt or checkered pattern shirt, you can pull off the streetwear grunge aesthetic.
Grunge, in Layers
By layering your look with sweaters and t-shirts you'll find the perfect look for the fall and winter months. Not only are these looks comfortable but they are cool and easy to put together. Most of the time, you won't regret wearing a grunge outfit with a bunch of layers. You can make these types of looks androgynous if you want, and they're more stylish than you might expect.
Dressing and grunge style can be practical and fashionable. It's comfortable aesthetic can be dressed up or down and its influences are complex and rooted in musical history. If you're rocking the grunge aesthetic, you're likely a cool person. Let's be friends.