Grunge as Fashion

Grunge as Fashion

By Ruby Wortis

Grunge as a music genre first emerged in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA in the mid-1980s. This genre was heavily influenced by punk, metal, and alternative rock, with a sound that felt raw and intense to a jaded, rain-soaked PNW youth. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden became the face of grunge, and the genre hit its mainstream peak in the early 1990s with the success of Nirvana's album Nevermind. The popularity of grunge was short lived, however, because the tragic loss of Kurt Cobain took the magic of grunge with it.

Kurt often called himself "Kurdt" as an inside joke. He drank strawberry milk, hated jocks, and loved to wear stripes. This shirt is dedicated to him. 


As grunge the music genre grew in popularity, so too did it grow as a commodity to be sold to the public. The relationship between counterculture and popular culture is a complicated one, especially when it comes to the fashion industry. In 1992 Vogue published an article called "Grunge & Glory", which featured a photoshoot of models in grunge-inspired clothing. It was heavily criticized for co-opting and commodifying a subculture that was built around anti-consumerist and anti-establishment ideals. Many saw the article as an attempt by the fashion industry to profit from the grunge movement without truly understanding or respecting its values. Critics also pointed out that the clothing featured in the article was expensive and inaccessible to the people who actually lived and breathed grunge fashion. 


On the opposite side of the coin, in 1993 fashion designer Marc Jacobs was fired from his position as creative director of Perry Ellis after presenting his now-famous grunge-inspired collection. The collection was criticized by the establishment for its perceived lack of polish and sophistication, which led to Marc Jacobs losing the job at Perry Ellis.

The push and pull between organic trendsetters and those in the fashion boardroom is constantly moving. On one hand, articles like Grunge & Glory brought at least some of the values of the grunge movement in front of millions of eyes. On the other, they cherry picked an aesthetic that would sell copies of their magazine without mentioning the political lifeforce between the actual movement.