Another trend being resurrected by the emergence of 80s and 90s fashion on social media, grunge aesthetics and styles are back in fashion.
If you were in the internet back in the 2010’s - specially in tumblr - you’ll probably remember how grunge is a darker, edgier style usually depicted with glitches, vinyl records, cigarettes, neon lights, and the color black – even though it has nothing to do with the original grunge culture. Historically, grunge comes from the 90s hard rock scene, more specifically in Seattle, Washington. It was a music genre back then, bust just like the punk and many others it became a countercultural, anti-consumerism youth movement that defined Generation X. The music and the beliefs helped creating a fashion culture that was made popular by bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains – and it was meant to be some kind of timeless, quite casual style.
Grunge as a concept is believed to have started in 1985 when Green River dropped the Come on Down album, even if it didn’t become mainstream until Nirvana's Nevermind in 1990, when grunge as a style reached peak popularity and the whole grunge aesthetic became the heart of the counterculture movement of those days. It was most popular from 1991 to 1997, and then it eventually lost its anti-consumerist philosophy and started to decline and fall from people’s grace – some even say that grunge’s decline happenned after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, but the style maintained popularity until about 1997.
Being under the influence of many other subcultures from the time, the 90’s grunge aesthetic had its adopters using baggy jeans, thrifty clothes, chunky heels, plaid skirts, and flannels in dark colors and with chain details. Also, because of the feeling of hopelessness and disenchantment with modern society, the majority of grunge's visuals involve a large amount of dirty, grimy imagery. A lot of earthy tones and pale colors are used to convey this sort of cultural depression often associated with grunge. To be part of the aesthetic wasn’t so easy, as grunge fashion of the late 80s and early-mid 90s wasn’t available in-store and was often purchased out of thrift stores at the time. Some say it was because of the rejection of the fashions of the time but it's actually generally agreed that it's mainly because it was cheaper – and the aesthetic did not quite became famous between the rich kids at first. But as the fashion became more mainstream, professionals like James Truman would say grunge is not anti-fashion, but unfashion. “Punk was anti-fashion. It made a statement. Grunge is about not making a statement, which is why it's crazy for it to become a fashion statement”, he said.
When choosing to hop on the grunge trend, men would wear over-sized t-shirts, flannel shirts – that could also be tied off around the waist – ripped jeans, and combat boots. That would be their choice as it was considered a timeless looks and the clothes were generally durable and reliable to wear. Women would usually go for slip dresses, flannel shirts, ripped jeans, chokers, and the bell-bottoms plus babydoll t-shirt combination was very popular as well. Those things went out of fashion in the mid 90s, but has started coming back into fashion in the 2010s and again now in 2022 as we’re living this big 90s nostalgia. The grunge trend actually began to regress as the first wave of y2k fashion became more and more popular, so it’s kind of funny how they are cycling back almos at the same time, isn’t it? The main difference now is that with the current grunge movement, the philosophical elements of the original one were completely dropped and now it’s just about achieving the visual aesthetic – even if it means paying exorbitant amounts of money.
Now displaying rough punk edges and maybe a little too much of emo style, the current grunge aesthetics combine the style with the images of emo kids and runaway teens, creating what is one of the most popular fashion trends in 2022 – one that is only coming stronger this season, specially if you’re watching all the videos in #fashiontiktok – the grunge aesthetic outfits and clothes we see now are much more than a combination of punk and grunge music genres but rather pure style and fashion statements, starting even sub-genres like the ‘soft grunge’ and ‘fairygrunge’ - my personal favourite, if I may say – so let’s get a little into those two.
Worn mostly by Gen Z – and some modern millennials – the soft-girl-grunge is one of the most popular grunge aesthetics right now, I mean, it has taken over OOTDs and Get Ready With Me videos all over TikTok and Instagram so we can only accept that’s the ultimate success. And do you want to know something great about it? Most popular soft grunge aesthetics are built from women’s casual clothing, just now they’re coming mostly in pastel colors and mixed with super feminine pieces in traditional details.
But grunge and even soft grunge are not really news to us who lived in the internet from 2012 to 2016, so I’m not really inventing the wheel as I say all this. But there’s a real new take on the grunge style: fairy grunge. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the fairycore grunge is quite literally a mix of the fairycore and grunge aesthetics – of course we would have a ‘core’ addition here – and like most are these days. It was popularized predominantly by creators on TikTok and other social media platforms, but also has strong roots in early 2000s – which just makes sense nowadays too. If you pay attention to the main goals and themes of fairy grunge, it could easily be viewed as a natural evolution of the kinderwhore aesthetic – one that has deep ties with Grunge, in fact, they kind of happenned at the same time – but in a more ethereal and hot topic-influenced way rather than subversive. The fairygrunge girls have a very distinct style that is usually about sporting oversized t-shirts and hoodies with maxi or mini skirts, a lot of nightgowns and corsets – the victorian ones are very popular here – mittens/gloves, patterned mesh tights or fishnets, knee high socks, leg warmers, platform shoes, large cargo pants and sometimes they can also go all the way and add some fairy wings and elf ears.