Grunge's Influence on Fashion

September 08, 2016

The term "grunge" is used to define a specific moment in twentieth-century music and fashion. Hailing from the northwest United States in the 1980s, grunge went on to have global implications for alternative bands and do-it-yourself (DIY) dressing. While grunge music and style were absorbed by a large youth following, its status as a self-conscious subculture is debatable. People who listened to grunge music did not refer to themselves as "grungers" in the same way as "punks" or "hippies." However, like these subcultures, grunge was co-opted by the music and fashion industries through its promotion by the media.

wearing ultra long sleeves jumper - similar to Vetements - from Gamiss, find it here and  metal  choker - here.
The word "grunge" dates from 1972, but did not enter popular terminology until the birth of the Seattle sound, a mix of heavy-metal, punk, and good old-fashioned rock and roll, in the late 1980s. Many musicians associated with grunge credit their exposure to early punk bands as one of their most important influences. 
Like San Francisco in the 1960s, Seattle in the 1980s was a breeding ground for music that spoke to its youth. The independent record label Sub Pop recorded many of the Seattle bands inexpensively and was partly responsible for their garage sound. Many of these bands went on to receive international acclaim and major record label representation, most notably The Melvins, Mudhoney, Green River, Soundgarden, Malfunkshun, TAD, and Nirvana. Nirvana's second album, Never-mind, was released in 1991, making Nirvana the first of this growing scene to go multiplatinum and Kurt Cobain, Nirvana's lead singer, the reluctant voice of his generation.
While the youth of 1980s Seattle were aware of politics, grunge was fueled more by self-expression-sadness, disenchantment, disconnectedness, loneliness, frustration-and perhaps was an unintentional movement of sorts. Despite this lack of unifying intentionality, grunge gave voice to a bored, lost, emotionally neglected, post-punk generation-Generation X.

Grunge Fashion 

If punk's antifashion stance can be interpreted as "against fashion," then that of grunge can be seen as "nonfashion." The grunge youth, born of hippies and raised on punk, reinterpreted these components through their own post-hippie, post-punk, West Coast aesthetic. Grunge was essentially a slovenly, thoughtless, uncoordinated look, but with an edge. Iconic items for men and women were ripped and faded jeans, flannel shirts or wool Pendletons layered over dirty T-shirts with outdated logos, and black combat-style boots such as Dr. Martens. Because the temperature in Seattle can swing by 20 degrees in the same day, it is convenient to have a wool long-sleeved button-down shirt that can be easily removed and tied around one's waist. The style for plaid flannel shirts and wool Pendletons is regional, having been a longtime staple for local lumberjacks and logging-industry employees-it was less a fashion choice than a utilitarian necessity. 
The low-budget antimaterialist philosophy brought on by the recession made shopping at thrift stores and army surplus outlets common, adding various elements to the grunge sartorial lexicon, including beanies for warmth and unkempt hair, long underwear worn under shorts (in defiance of the changeable weather), and cargo pants. Thrift-store finds, such as vintage floral-print dresses and baby-doll nightgowns, were worn with over-sized sweaters and holey cardigans. Grunge was dressing down at its most extreme, taking casualness and comfort dressing to an entirely new level. 

What grunge did for music it also did for fashion. Grunge opened the door to recycled clothes for everyone as a fashionable, and even a chic, choice. Grunge defined a new approach to dressing that included layering and juxtapositions of patterns and textures. The DIY approach to dress has become the norm, giving the consumer the freedom to choose, to not be a slave to one look or designer, and the confidence to create personal ensembles with the goal of self-expression through style.

Of course, we live in 2016 now, almost 30 years after the grunge revolution. I don't mean to be nostalgic, although I love grunge music and the movement itself (if I may call it that way) influenced my style: the low-budget anti materialist philosophy really is something I aspire to, even though (let's face it) sometimes I get caught in the other extreme. My clothes are not usually expensive - besides few designer items such as bags or shoes - but rather inexpensive. I love a good bargain, I love charity/thrift shops. Yes, I love having an uncoordinated look, but with an edge.
Since we're in 2016, an update is necessary. I am not talking about "normcore", I'm talking about grunge. Go for ultra long sleeves, high waisted jeans (non stretch denim is a must!), keep your hair clean and don't do much to it, keep your makeup simple - or just put a little makeup around your eyes - and choose contemporary accessories: go for mules or slingback flats instead of DMs, at least for summer, go for statement accessories, but keep it simple. It's all in your attitude. 

Speaking of that, I found some pretty amazing pieces that I would love to share with you, all from Gamiss - a leading international online fashion clothing store that offers a complete range of trendsetting, contemporary fashion apparel and accessories including clothing, jewelry, bags, shoes, hair products, watches and home use products at the lowest prices. 
Their motto: "we have everything you want or need to get fashion forward". And they do. I am pleased with the quality of the products I ordered from them, they arrived safe and super-fast (3 to 5 days to UK) and they are gorgeous! See for yourself.

In love with this metal choker perfect to pair with grungy outfits for a punk finish (that sounds awkward), find it here.

La crème de la crème, this amazing faux leather choker. 

This has nothing to do with grunge, but more with Pop Art (maybe I'll do an article on it pretty soon), but I couldn't help sharing it with you - it's a giant hamburger blanket/beach towel/whatever you want it to be. Oh, and that's Colas, my cat. This blanket actually makes me hungry. You can find it on Gamiss too - here.
If you want to find out more about Gamiss, check them out here, on Pinterest and Facebook.

Take care until next time.


Photos: Cristian Vadan
Styling: Carla Vadan
Contains excerpts from: by Shannon Bell Price 
Biography: Coddington, Grace. "Grunge and Glory." Vogue (December 1992): 254-263. 
de la Haye, Amy, and Cathie Dingwall. Surfers, Soulies, Skin-heads, and Skaters: Subcultural Style from the Forties to the Nineties. London: V&A Publications, 1996. 
Polhemus, Ted. Street Style: From Sidewalk to Catwalk. London: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1994. 
Sims, Joshua. Rock/Fashion. London: Omnibus Press, 1999. 
Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1997.

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