How Grunge Took Over The World
When we think of grunge, it's hard not to picture anything other than flannel shirts and ripped denim or silk slips and near mutilated tights, paired with dark rimmed eyes and a slash of red lippy. Essentially, it is a rain-washed, tattered look that was once the driving cultural force for a generation of disenfranchised teenagers. It doesn't get much more grunge than Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, as the latter explains, 'I found my inner bitch and ran with her'. At Rokit, we are taking a look at the history of grunge and how to channel your inner bitch à la Courtney.
As the story goes, grunge was born on the rain-slicked streets of Seattle, Washington, on America's Northwest coast. Unlike other, often more violent music scenes in major US cities, grunge was characterised by the blurring of boundaries. Drawing on the aesthetic of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and, of course, Nirvana, heavy metal and punk coalesced into what would become grunge.
Pioneers of the early grunge scene included the band Green River, which featured Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Mark Arm. The members later splintered off to form iconic bands Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney; members of grunge's second wave. With The Melvins, the basic grunge sound was completed: grinding, savage, fuzzed out guitars that owe a debt to corporate rock of the 70s with lyrics speaking of disillusionment, loneliness and despair.
As with most music scenes that erupt into something more, clothing and image is inherently tied up with the sounds. Grunge was no different. If punk rock had a dogmatic stance of anti-fashion, then grunge clothing was the movement of no fashion.
Generation X was the children of hippies, raised on a diet of punk. They took the lackadaisical casualness of the West Coast and fused it with their own punk-influenced ideas of what sartorial elegance (or inelegance) could be.
Thrift and vintage shops were a goldmine for the grunge faithful. Many devotees to the lifestyle spent hours scouring the racks for oversized plaid shirts, sequin slips, babydoll dresses, chunky knitwear and vintage denim - the more tattered, the better! With that, a new iconic form of fashion was created.
Aside from the wealth of icons behind a microphone or electric guitar, the grunge image seeped into cinematography. Nineties cult classics oozed grunge aesthetics, from the cast of The Craft and Empire Records to Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting and Natalie Portman in The Professional: Leon.
Of course, outside of the big screen, actors and actresses repped the grunge trend off screen, with favourites including Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy anyone?) and Winona Ryder; with Johnny Depp as your beau, it's hard not to see the direct influence of rock on the angelic face of a grunge convert.
At some point in your life, it's inevitable that you heard the four-chord intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit. 'Course you have! It's not just a grunge classic but one of the most important songs ever recorded. However, for the truly grunge faithful, it signed the death note for their scene.
Grunge had grown. Nirvana's 'Nevermind' transported the scene from the tiny basements and cellars and rather propelled them onto the world stage; with this came everything the grunge scene stood against. Corporate sponsorship began to get its greedy claws into a scene that thrived around individuality.
Big name designers manhandled and moulded something spontaneous, categorically effortless and without design into collections. Marc Jacobs attempted to turn grunge into some sort of high-fashion trend with his 1993 collection, and Calvin Klein, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana followed suit. This turned out to be a flop. The original grungers never wanted this in the first place, nor could they afford clothing from labels. It was just another classic story of a sub-culture turned mainstream and the corporate world trying to milk it for all its worth.
This sense of repackaging and reselling of their scene left many of the grunge faithful even more disenfranchised than before (which, all things considered is pretty impressive) and grunge looked destined to implode.
When did it really end? It's hard to say. Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide is definitely a watershed moment for grunge. After all, can a scene really continue without one of its leading lights? Or did it never end? Bands still rock out with distorted, wailing guitars and grunge clothing is as fashionable as it's ever been!
So, to celebrate everything grunge stands for, why not grab some authentic vintage denim, strap on your combat boots and head down to Rokit to deck yourself out in a thoroughly grunge way? Shop online or in store today!