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January 22, 2020 4 min read 1 Comment

Grunge Style: Fashion Breakdown

Grunge began as a rock music genre of the 80s and 90s, but it’s much more than that. The grunge music scene is also a subculture that inspired the grunge movement, and eventually, the grunge era. In addition to being a music category originating in Seattle, Washington, grunge is also a fashion style.

While music and fashion simultaneously gained popularity at the end of the twentieth century, the music genre came first. Grunge music is sometimes referred to as the Seattle Sound. It’s an angsty hybrid of punk and metal with sounds of heavy bass and warped electric guitar. The most noteworthy grunge bands are Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Bush, and Radiohead. 

Through the 80s and 90s, song lyrics from grunge artists often depicted themes of anti-consumerism, social isolation, and being misunderstood. Here’s what you need to know about the substantial impact the grunge era had on the world of fashion.

What Is Grunge Style?

So, what is grunge style, exactly? Essentially, grunge fashion echoes the movement’s outcasted edginess, somber attitude, and general carelessness. During the grunge era, fashion trends tended to imitate the clothing worn by band members. When they were starting out, many rock artists in the Pacific Northwest saved money by thrift store shopping where they found flannel shirts and leather work boots previously worn by lumberjacks.

Toward the beginning, the grunge look was a bit more punk, embracing the rebellious 1980s counterculture. It was a stark contrast to bright neon styles, which were also popular at the time. The dark, edgy, aesthetic included a lot of leather jackets, combat boots, chains, studded belts, cut-off sleeves, and all-black clothing.

As the grunge movement gained momentum in the early 90s, its signature style evolved with it. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Hole’s Courtney Love were the muses for the 1990s grunge fashion. The iconic couple was known for baggy apparel, mismatched patterns, and faded fabrics. Their grunge style clothing choices presented an “I’m not even trying” vibe that was at first considered to be anti-fashion.

The era saw lots of ripped denim, velvet, bandanas, beanies, baggy sweaters, babydoll dresses, slips, ripped tights, and of course, plaid flannel shirts. In terms of shoes, beat-up Doc Marten boots, worn-down Converse sneakers, and Birkenstocks were all top choices. To learn more about the era, see our blog about the history of the grunge era.

Aside from apparel, grunge style is all about a disheveled, unkempt look. Grunge fashion for men and women went beyond the clothing, but also included hair and makeup. We’re talking unwashed, messy hair and unshaven faces for men. For women, it was more of a grunge-chic look, with short pixie haircuts, black eye makeup, and dark lipstick.

Get The Grunge Look

Although the grunge era is over, its influence on fashion is here to stay. When trends reemerge from decades past, they’re never exactly like the first iteration. That being said, the modern grunge style embraces contemporary fashion while celebrating the original inspirations. 

Ultimately, the look is casual, nonchalant, and effortlessly cool –– no matter what decade you’re in. Anyone can learn how to dress edgy with a grunge look by incorporating a few key pieces.


We recommend starting with a pair of jeans. There are plenty of pre-ripped, faded, frayed, and distressed jeans on the market. Alternatively, you can opt for a vintage pair for a more authentic look.


Both plain t-shirts and graphic tees work well with grunge style clothing. Traditionally, the trend was all about rocking a band t-shirt from actual concerts. Heading to a rock show to get a tour t-shirt isn’t a bad idea. That said, grunge-inspired graphic tees are on-trend right now, and you shouldn’t have to look very far to find one that speaks to you.

Button-Down Shirt

There may be nothing more grunge than a plaid flannel shirt. And yet, to pull off a contemporary grunge look, almost any button-down shirt will do. Tie one around your waist or wear it unbuttoned over a t-shirt. Oversized button-downs are also coming back along with other loose-fitting styles.

Leather Jacket

Leather jackets are timeless. They lend to a rockstar vibe that’s all about living on the edge. Not only does a leather jacket go with just about any outfit, but it’s also practical and warm. A distressed denim jacket is also a solid choice for a grunge-inspired ensemble.

Grunge-Inspired Fashion From Affliction Clothing

At Affliction Clothing, we create original apparel that’s inspired by rule-breakers and thrill-seekers. Rule-breakers, like Jose Mangin, speak to what we stand for as they challenge the status quo with their clothing and lifestyle. We invite you to join the movement with Jose by embracing your affliction with grunge style. 

We were pioneers in alternative fashion, and our clothing embraces the daring qualities of several eras, including grunge. When you browse our inventory, you’ll find lots of denim with a live-in look, graphic tees, versatile button-downs, and leather outerwear. Start curating your grunge look now.

1 Response


February 25, 2020

Grunge style, and grunge music, never was a thing. Watch the documentary Hype!. People made some songs. They just wore what they had. Then it became a fad. Just like now. And every other music fad ever. Except now, the music is gone. Unless you dig deep, and find those random bands still keeping it alive.

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