Established in Seattle in the late 80s, grunge was a reaction against mainstream music and flashy 80s fashion. Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney came clad in an unofficial uniform of thrift store finds. Ripped jeans, slouchy, holey jumpers, and battered boots and sneakers dominated the sartorial side of the scene, while Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, became its poster boy. Here’s how his look and the rest of the 90s grunge aesthetic lives on today.
GRUNGE STYLE LEGACY
By Kasia Hastings, 12 December 2016
No man encapsulated the grunge mood more than Kurt Cobain. His striped tee, round glasses and patchwork jeans were an important part of its makeup, but it was his iconic green cardigan, worn here for a MTV Unplugged recording in 1993, that really epitomised his effortless style. Missing buttons and covered in burn holes and bobbles, the original piece sold for $137,500 in 2015, but its legacy lives on today. Cobain wore his with graphic tees and patchwork denim, but these days fashion-forward rappers including A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa and Young Thug sport oversized knits with skinny jeans and fresh Nikes.
A bona fide cult item, there is, perhaps, no grunge staple more enduring than the checked shirt. Picked up in charity shops and second hand stores, the classic flannel button-down was durable, easy to wear and always cool. Guys hunched over guitars with big, baggy shirts layered over vintage tees, or tied around their waists. Since then it’s been updated, deconstructed and overdyed by everyone from Supreme to Off White with big plaid advocates like Kanye West and Jaden Smith piling on the print and clashing it with other patterns.
Layering a T-shirt over a long-sleeved tee is quintessentially grungy – a discordant approach to dressing that was a way of sticking two fingers up to the establishment. It didn't make much sense, but looked really cool. Layered, baggy tops added a nice skater vibe to the aesthetic and the double tee is now a key part of fashion’s current 90s obsession. These days, band tees are swapped out for logo shirts from Gucci, Palace and Supreme. Grunge fanboy A$AP Rocky wears his with a Cobain-esque Breton tee, embroidered jeans and a pair of hip-hop kicks.
There was no room for grooming in grunge, but hair has always been used as a way of rebelling against the status quo and the long, under-styled locks of grunge’s key players were emulated around the world. Their 'just got out of bed' hair came with split ends and jagged middle partings – almost unwashed, it was about making maximum impact with minimal effort. Although similar in spirit, the loose, shaggy curls of men like Jared Leto and Harry Styles seen today involve a little more management, but they still carry cachet and are an important break from the military cuts that keep the majority of men in check.