“It’s cool, Mom. You just don’t get it.”
“You look homeless…”
And it was just like that that American kids first confused their parents with their style choices. Well, maybe not exactly the first time, but the typical early-to-mid-'90s teen certainly did not seek their parents’ approval. It was the era of grunge! Who cares what you looked like?! It was about just throwing on whatever you could find. The more washed-out, ripped, or darkly hued, the better. With each additional unfinished edge and tear, the item actually got cooler. But it was not about style choice, but rather, the decision not to choose. Or, at least, that’s what the kids liked you to think. You’d be surprised how much effort it takes to look like you just don’t care.* But there was one person, at least, who really did live and breathe the “I Don’t Give A Shit” attitude...
Kurt Cobain and his Seattle grunge compatriots made looking like you smell awful seem awesome. Who would have thought? Today, we search for the perfect pomade, serum, or spray combo to make our freshly washed hair achieve the same “I haven’t been washed in a month” look, which Cobain maintained effortlessly in his perfect blond (though sometimes pink or brown) chin-length cut. His sense of style influenced a country and even made it’s way into fashion, causing quite a stir when a young Perry Ellis designer by the name of Marc Jacobs sent a squad of plaid- and floral-clad, combat-boot-wearing models down the runway for his Spring 1993 collection . Even Vogue couldn’t resist, and in December 1992, ran an entire grunge story inspired by Jacobs' line, styled by Grace Coddington and shot by Steven Meisel [3, 5, 27]. Though this aesthetic moved a bit more towards the shiny and sexy (thank boy bands and Britney) in the late '90s, there certainly was, and hopefully still is, something to be said for dressing like you’re giving fashion a giant middle finger.
So, in honor of the late, great, and stylish Mr. Kurt Cobain (whose birthday was February 20th), and also because grunge is so in right now, take a look at some of the biggest grunge icons of yesterday. Happy birthday, Kurt. Your smell and spirit have been missed, but we’re doing our best to keep your style alive.
*Just head to Williamsburg. No energy is spent dressing there. It’s all effortless!