The grunge aesthetic is often associated with a particular style characterized by a devil-may-care attitude towards fashion. However, it is so much more than Doc Martens, ripped jeans, and vintage band tees. It is also deeply rooted in music and is a lifestyle unto itself. Here’s everything you need to know about grunge and its origins.
What is Grunge?
The word itself is associated with “dirty” or something that is messy. In some way, this also defines the grunge music genre and lifestyle. The movement itself has over 30 years’ worth of history, from its origins in the underground scene to finally becoming mainstream. Here’s how it all began.
Back in 1983, the Melvins were formed in Washington State. They were among the first generation of bands to mix both punk and metal to create their grunge rock sound. During this period, Seattle was also just starting to grow from its hippie image while also holding on to its counterculture philosophy.
After the Melvins, other Seattle-based grunge bands began to pop up. This includes the likes of Soundgarden, Green River, and the Screaming Trees. Many of the city’s foremost bonds became a tight-knit group, though they would eventually undergo major transformations. By the time the late 80s and early 90s rolled around, they had split into two factions: those who stuck to being nonconformist and those who went mainstream.
The Grunge Aesthetic and Nirvana
Back then, the term grunge rock mostly pertained to the heavy use of guitar distortion and feedback in the genre’s sound. It is much less polished than the early varieties of rock and greatly emphasized emotion instead of performance. This can be seen in the musician’s appearances as well. In the beginning, the ripped jeans, dirty flannels, and worn-out Converse sneakers were due to them mostly being broke musicians.
It isn’t surprising that their fans began to take inspiration from this unkempt manner of dress, unconsciously creating the 90s grunge fashion.
Grunge Rock and the Move to Mainstream
In the same way grunge music began to grow in popularity among the masses, so did the style that’s heavily associated with it. The rich began to wear designer copies, while those who wanted to stay true to grunge’s roots preferred Goodwill finds. There’s no denying that it started out as a trend, but grunge fans are inherently different toward fashion.
Quite ironic, isn’t it? For a movement that is heavily anti-capitalism, it ended up becoming a brand unto itself.
Examples of Grunge Clothing
Looking for grunge aesthetic clothes? In its essence, the style is all about being laidback about one’s appearance and putting personality over everything else. Some of its defining features include:
Most people want something that fits them well. However, the grunge aesthetic places emphasis on loose and comfortable garments that drape over the wearer like a protective cape.
Aside from choosing earth tones, flannels are also meant to be worn a little too big. Thrifted ones are better since they’ll be much softer and would hang better on the body once worn. Any minor flaws such as tears and holes are often left as is. Think of these as a “mark of authenticity.”
Graphic or Band Shirts
What better way to support and show your love for your favorite group than to wear their merch? Aside from band tees, eye-catching graphic shirts are also a staple of 90s grunge fashion. Even today, it still remains popular. Most people prefer vintage ones, though there are also high street options that mimic the style quite well.
You get plus points if you ripped them by hand or got your jeans destroyed during a concert! It isn’t unusual for these jeans to have random stains on them as well. A little bit of dirt only adds more personality to a garment when it comes to grunge fashion. So feel free to add paint marks or even draw on your favorite vintage pair. The more worn-in and aged it looks, the better.
Converse Sneakers and Doc Martens
While high-cut sneakers and boots aren’t exactly exclusive to grunge aesthetic outfits, they have also become deeply associated with it. Of course, like most garments typical of grunge, these look their “best” when they’ve been well-loved. It isn’t unusual for people to purchase boots secondhand or purposely scuff up their sneakers.
Different Aesthetics and Grunge
Grunge elements often pop up in some modern fashion trends. To help you better understand what the grunge aesthetic actually is, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Soft Grunge Aesthetic vs. Soft Girl Aesthetic
Similar elements can also be seen when it comes to soft grunge. Pastel and neutral tones are also staples, but these are made edgier by the addition of ripped tights, boots, and darker grunge makeup.
Grunge Aesthetic vs. Goth Aesthetic
The Goth aesthetic comes in many different variations, but there has always been an underlying vein of romanticism and elegance in all of them. Think rich fabrics such as velvet, lace trimmings, macabre accessories, and various symbolism. These are just some of the defining features of the Goth aesthetic.
On the other hand, grunge is looser and much less polished. Grunge fashion is also closer to “starving artist” instead of vampire. Some might say that grunge style can also be seen in Pastel Goth, but there are still very distinct differences between the two.
Grunge Aesthetic vs. Egirl Aesthetic
Unlike the egirl, who is quite brand-conscious and follows specific trends, the grunge aesthetic remains in its own bubble. They may intersect when it comes to flannels, band tees, and Doc Martens, but “grungies” maintain a degree of “griminess” to their look. It is much less pretty and more suited for daily wear.
Different Aesthetic Types of Grunge
Grunge aesthetic clothes have had many reinterpretations over the years. It has been incorporated into other similar styles, such as hippie, skater, punk, and even high-fashion. You might be surprised at the sheer number of designers who include elements of it into their collections. It’s a testament to the timeless appeal grunge fashion has. With that said, here are a few of our favorite grunge styles:
Hippie Grunge or 90s Hippie
Grunge Fairycore / Goblincore
Grunge Girl Examples
Looking for some inspiration for your grunge outfits? There are plenty of fictional and real life examples to choose from. Here are some of our favorite grunge girls!
Daria Morgendorffor and Jane Lane
Janis Ian from Mean Girls
The Grunge Aesthetic Goes Beyond Fashion
Clothing aside, grunge is a lifestyle that goes against the norm and celebrates the individual. These are just some of the reasons why it hasn’t died down, even decades after. While grunge music may no longer be as popular, you will still find many people who adhere to its philosophies. So go on, be a bit fearless and more carefree about your style. It’s all about how clothes make you feel, after all!