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Grunge: The Emergence of a Style Tribe


Emerging as a counterculture in the 1980s, the unique style tribe of Grunge, manifested itself to be the antithesis of capitalistic society and consumer greed.  
For almost 40 years, Seattle was home to a strong population of blue-collar workers and “backwater” lumberjacks, representing a culture of individuals with unwavering faith in the "American Dream" and the value of a hard days work. A center of stability, the city remained stagnant through the liberal changes happening in the era of peace, love and the Hippies. 

In the 1980s America underwent an atmospheric change.  Fresh energy rippled throughout the country, bringing in new ideologies, values, and introspective worldly thought to the forefront of traditional American society. The city of Seattle began to adopt the trends of change, becoming a home to new breeds of subculture; soon to be the breeding ground of rebellion. The city was now home to a mix of characters, ranging from traditional blue-collar workers and surburbanites to new-age Punks, raging anarchists, and the unbothered Grunge lovers.
Birthed within the walls of underground punk collectives, dingey garages and retro video stores, Grunge counterculture was founded. Rooted in anarchist belief, the style of dress surrounding punk rock developed as a way to outwardly express the rawness and illusion within the music.  Alternative punk artists such as Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, expressed a disregard for fashion and a retaliation of stage outfits by performing in ripped denim, baggy tee and a flannel tied around the waist.
The Grunge 'look' appeared in many forms. The subculture style beginning in Punk Rock, but also adopted the workings of tattered Blue-collar Uniforms and typical Lumberack Dress.  Key elements include flannel shirts tied around the waist, heavy socks with work boots, torn jeans over long johns, faded denim, shapeless print dresses and distorted blue-collar uniforms. This recognizable form of dress was matched with untouched greasy hair and a typical lack of makeup. Hair and makeup were purposefully unkempt to showcase a distaste for conventional style and 'normal' expectations.
As described in The Fashion of Subcultures, Grunge was “born from necessity and practicality, and rejected the aesthetics of conventional beauty”. It is this rejection of conventionality that inspired fashion designers of the nineties to transform grunge into high fashion. Ironically enough, Grunge Fashion represents a mockery of mainstream trends. Manipulation of the cultures style into high fashion symbolically juxtaposes the entity that Grunge fashion was founded upon. 
Although diluted, Grunge has continued to stand as a counterculture. Today, the rebellious energy of counterculture is emulated in a new light as a new fashion revolution grows. Sustainably concious consumers parallel grunge enthusiats of the past, as they lead a charge against overconsumption and mainstream fast-fashion.