Grunge is a darker, edgier style that is usually depicted these days with glitches, vinyl records, cigarettes, neon lights, and the color black (which has absolutely nothing to do with the original grunge). Grunge, historically though, has its roots in the 1990s hard rock scene of Seattle, Washington. It was a countercultural, anti-consumerism youth movement and musical genre that defined Generation X. Grunge fashion was made popular by bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, and was meant to be timeless and quite casual.
Grunge started in 1985 with Green River's album Come on Down, but it did not become mainstream until the 1990s with Nirvana's Nevermind. Grunge was most popular from roughly 1991 to 1997, and eventually lost its anti-consumerist philosophy. It can be argued that grunge began to decline in 1994, after the tragic suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, though the genre maintained popularity until about 1997, when Soundgarden broke up and post-grunge bands like Creed became popular.
A majority of Grunge's visuals involve a large amount of dirty, grimy imagery. These show a sort of hopelessness and disenchantment with modern society. A lot of earth tones and pale colors are used to convey this sort of cultural depression often associated with Grunge.
Grunge fashion of the late 1980s and early-mid 1990s was often purchased out of thrift stores at the time. Some will argue it was done out of a rejection of the fashions of the time. It's generally agreed that it's because it was cheaper as, at the time, most grunge artists were dirt poor. As the fashion became more mainstream, editor of men's magazine Details James Truman was quoted in 1993, "to me the thing about grunge is it's not anti-fashion, it's 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."
Men often wore over-sized t-shirts, flannel shirts (that would be tied off around the waist when it got too hot), ripped jeans, and combat boots. These were considered timeless looks and were generally durable and reliable clothing to wear. Women tended to favor slip dresses, flannel shirts, ripped jeans, chokers, and the bell-bottoms/babydoll t-shirt was a popular combination as well. It went out of fashion after Kurt Cobain's suicide, but has started coming back into fashion in the 2010s and 2020s as '90s nostalgia began (an argument could be made this is what has led to the rise in prominence of Vaporwave as well). This trend began to regress as Y2K starts to become more and more prominent only to cycle back in another 20 years, as all trends seem to. But with the modern Grunge movement, the philosophical elements of the original Grunge movement were completely dropped in favor of just achieving the visual aesthetic of looking Grunge (although often paying far more exorbitant amounts of money compared to the original Grunge style icons, who almost exclusively shopped at Thrift Stores).
For more feminine, edgy fashion, however, there was also the Kinderwhore aesthetic, popularized by Courtney Love, who was Kurt Cobain's wife.
While the fashion has certainly come back into style, the music doesn't seem to have the same comeback, which was a blend of heavy metal sound and punk rock ethos. However, after Kurt Cobain's suicide, grunge started to trail off into two separate genres: post-grunge, which included bands like Creed, Nickelback, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Bush, and the Foo Fighters (fronted by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl) and Nu-Metal, which included bands like KoRn, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Kid Rock, Papa Roach, P.O.D., and Linkin Park. The Grunge revival has led to the old staples of the original grunge scene to see a return to popularity, but as of this writing, it has not led to any new grunge bands rising up the ranks, but not for lack of trying. Artists in the genre include:
- Pearl Jam
- Alice in Chains
- Stone Temple Pilots
- Green River
- 7 Year Bitch
- Temple of the Dog
- Mother Love Bone
- The Gits
- Title Fight
- Milk Teeth
- Grunge Forever Official Spotify playlist
- Ultimate Grunge Playlist (A much more encompassing playlist with many more bands and songs)
- Post-Grunge Official Spotify playlist (to see what became of the genre)
- 90's Grunge/Rock by prevypicklebear
- Seattle Grunge by Iain C Forbes
- grunge aesthetic songs by Kyra
- Grunge: Essentials by Cultura Inquieta
- The Sound of Grunge by The Sounds of Spotify
- ⚠Warning⚠ by starrybrainss
Soft Grunge, also known as "pastel grunge", stems from the original grunge movement in the early 1990s. With noticeable gothic and Kawaii influences, the "cute" and deliberate soft grunge styles started to gain popularity in 2010, on social media. It is a modern take on the original grunge aesthetic, but adds in more colors and a feminine touch more modest than Kinderwhore.