The grunge look is a style based around the grunge music scene–it’s comfortable, dirty, and heavily steeped in flannel. The grunge look first appeared in Seattle in the late 80s and early 90s when bands like Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam were just beginning (and making a big splash in the music world). To get the grunge look, you’ll need to visit a thrift store, do some damage to some denim, and develop an I-don’t-care attitude.
Go for an unkempt look. Grunge is defined by a messy, I-don’t-care look that combines punk styles with working-class clothing. If you want to dress grunge, you will have to give up any value you might put into matching or looking too clean.[[
Search the internet for pictures of some of the most famous grungers and grunge band members–Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, William DuVall (of Alice in Chains) etc.
Go shopping at a thrift store. Grunge style is all about cheap clothing worn in a careless way. Thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Crossroads are great places to get second-hand clothes that are comfortable and just the right amount of faded. Look for clothes that are a little big on you. Also H&M has some great stuff, just look up at the divided part. Avoid brightly colored items of clothing–stick with muted colors and black clothing.
Thrift stores are especially good places to find jeans that can be ripped easily (see Step 4 for more on denim.) Jeans found at a thrift store are generally a little more worn and faded in color–both characteristics of a grungy vibe.
Invest in flannel. One of the key pieces in any grunge wardrobe is a flannel shirt. Flannel, which is generally pretty cheap, was incorporated into the grunge look in the 90’s and continues to be reigning king of the grunge style. Look for flannels in muted, slightly faded colors. Both girls and guys can wear an over-sized flannel over a t-shirt or long-sleeved undershirt. A girl-grunge classic look is large, baggy flannel worn over a black t-shirt and a baby doll skirt with big, chunky Doc Marten boots.
Wear ripped denim. Better yet, make your own ripped denim and wear that. Rip jeans are another staple of the grunge style. Keep in mind that store-bought distressed jeans look different than jeans you are ripped yourself. For a more authentic grunge look, rip your own jeans. Other good grunge-jean qualities to look for are jeans that are faded, a little loose, and acid-washed denim.
In the summer, look for (or make your own) ripped up denim shorts.
Represent your favorite punk bands. Grunge was born out of a marriage between punk style and working class clothing. Because of this pairing, another grunge staple is the favorite-band-t-shirt. Think Nirvana (but not JUST Nirvana,) Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Sound Garden, PAW, Hole, and other grunge groups. One key thing to keep in mind–if you are going to rep grunge bands (and dress like a grunger) you’re going to need to actually listen to the grunge music you are representing. Listen to the classic grunge bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s–but also look into the grunge scene in your area. Start following a local grunge band, or start your own.
Layer your clothes. As stated above, grunge is mostly about being comfortable and not caring how you look. A good way to get into the grunge look is by layering your clothing. Wear a big flannel or sweater over a grunge band t-shirt over a long-sleeved thermal (and so on and so forth.) Another good tip to keep in mind–your clothes don’t particularly need to match.
Shoes and Accessories
Scuff up those combat boots. Grungers generally stick to boots and sneakers that can be laced up (all the better to dance in at grunge shows m’dear.) In particular, combat boots such as Doc Martens (or knock-off Docs) are a big part of the grunge look. If you can find a pair of Docs at a thrift store, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Invest in some high-tops. Other grungy shoes included beat up high-tops (such as Converse) and other types of shoes that sort of look like Converse but are cheaper. Again, head to a thrift store to see what kind of scuffed up kicks you can find.
Consider wearing stockings with holes in them. While they definitely won’t keep you warm, ripped up stockings are an essential part of any lady grunger’s wardrobe. Pair them with a black baby doll dress, some big old boots, and devil red lipstick and you’ll be good to go.
Wear a beanie (if you feel like it.) Grungers aren’t really known for wearing hats, but beanies are sometimes seen gracing the heads of grungy guys and gals. Avoid beanies in bright colors (never, ever choose a neon-pink beanie.)
Not feeling a beanie? Pull out a faded bandana and wrap it around your head, neck, hair, whatever.
Don’t wear too much jewelry. If anything, invest in a cool leather bracelet. If you have your ears pierced, wear simple earrings that aren’t too shiny. Also buy a choker, not those big diamond ones just the basic ones with a little charm if you like. Tattoo chokers are really great. Dressing grunge is not about dressing to impress. You could also consider getting gauges.
Hair and Makeup
Think limp and messy when it comes to hair. Like the clothing style, your hair doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Most grungers are known for their long, tangled locks that may or may not be a bit greasy (another part of the grunge style is not caring too much about hygiene.) Let your hair do whatever it wants.
Grow your hair out. As stated above, many grungers let their hair do what it wants. This means not getting it cut and letting curl or fall straight, depending on what’s natural for your head. Go to any grunge show and you’ll be sure to notice that both guys and girls have long hair.
Bleach or dye your hair. Some grungers prefer a bleached or dyed look. Go wild and try new colors, or leave your hair bleached blonde-ish white. When your natural color starts growing out, you don’t need to rush to redye your roots. Believe it or not, grown-out dyed hair is a definite characteristic of the grunge scene.
Consider dyeing your hair with Kool-Aid for a grungier look. Doing thiswill also save you money on fancier hair dyes.
Go heavy on the eyeliner. If you decide you want to wear makeup, go for black eyeliner and mascara. Smudge your makeup after you’ve applied it. You should be going for a
I-spend-all-night-at-an-underground-grunge-show-dancing-my-face-off sort of look. This means smudging that eyeliner and eyeshadow.
Some grunge girls like to rock bright red or dark maroon lipstick.
If you don’t want be called as a poser, don’t just dress the part, act it! Study up on grunge philosophy. Get into the music. And don’t forget the most important step, just be you!
You might get compliments for this fashion, but you might also get negative remarks. Don’t expect it, but be prepared. It’s important that you don’t care if someone does say something negative. You want to be different—so act like it.
Do not spend big bucks at some store at the mall getting pre-ripped jeans or having your hair dyed professionally; it just costs way too much. Instead, take a razor blade to your jeans and let your fingers rip the rest.
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Sources and Citations
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