The Return of The Grunge Aestethic, Celebrated in 70+ Gorgeous Images

by John Griffith

It feels like nostalgia is slowly taking over every aspect of modern life. There seem to be more and more movies and TV shows depicting life in the 80s and 90s, while animation studios are constantly churning out remakes of our favorite childhood cartoons. Clothing trends from the past are also returning, as you may know from our articles on 80s and on 90s fashion. Today, we would like to take a closer look at one of the most popular throwback styles- the ever popular 90s grunge aesthetic.

What is Grunge?

Some believe that the term “grunge” is a portmanteau of the words grimy and dingy. It refers to a style in music, which blends rock, punk and metal. Its roots can be traced back to 1980s Seattle, where local bands began creating a very distinctive sound, characterized by the use of electric guitar feedback and distortion. The lyrics were usually dark and pessimistic, focusing on bleak topics such as hopelessness, boredom, loneliness, superficiality, abandonment and abuse, as well as feelings of suffocation and lack of freedom. This instantly made the innovative genre e a popular emotional outlet for the younger generations, who felt increasingly misunderstood by their flower power-era parents. In the 90s, bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden made grunge popular worldwide, and many fans began emulating the musicians’ way of dressing.

Kurt Cobain, the vocalist of Nirvana, is the best known 90s Grunge icon

Characteristics of the grunge style

In the late 80s the popular scene was dominated by polished and lavishly dressed glam rock performers. Grunge musicians felt the need to rebel against this flashy display by wearing layers of humble, baggy clothes, plain sneakers and modest accessories like beanie hats and cheap, plastic sunglasses. Teens of the early 90s readily embraced this rebellious and effortlessly cool style. All you needed were old baggy jeans and t-shirts, dirty and worn converse sneakers, and one or two plaid shirts. The aim was to look unkempt and unbothered, a very embodiment of nihilism and rejection of superficial and suffocating social norms.

A contemporary outfit, inspired by 90s grunge

90s grunge, slim young woman, with short dark hair, and long bangs hiding her face, sitting on the ground, video tapes on her lap and near her

The revival of grunge aesthetic and “soft grunge”

One can argue that grunge’s current revival is a bit ironic. What started out as a rejection of trendiness and a rebellion against looking neat and polished, has now evolved into a full-blown fashion style – sometimes referred to as “soft grunge” – popular among famous bloggers and hip Instagramers. Grunge may have been associated with outcasts and misfits in the past, but today it’s the look which the popular kids wear to school.

An example of soft grunge

meshy sheer white top, with long sleeves, worn over a white bralette, by a pale young woman, with a white lace chocker necklace, decorated with a blue gem, 90s grunge

90s grunge meant shabby clothes and beat up sneakers, 2018’s grunge means wearing ripped skinny jeans and oversized sweaters with shiny Dr. Martens, or pristine Vans. And while some may scoff at the younger generation’s lack of knowledge regarding the music at the heart of grunge aesthetic, others greet it with a smile. After all, ironically using 90s grunge as an inspiration for a fashionable outfit today is a pretty meta.

Accessories featuring UFOs and aliens are really popular among soft grunge kids

patch in black, featuring a flying saucer, and the words look up friend, space is the place, embroidered in white, yellow and pale green, 90s grunge accessories, sewn on a dark blue fabric

And now it’s time to celebrate the return of the grunge aesthetic by enjoying our gallery! We have loads of cool images we’d like to share – check them out, and don’t forget to take a look at our Fashion Section for more cool articles.

The soft grunge aesthetic goes beyond fashion – it’s a way of life

neon sign with the word art, glowing in light pink, 90s grunge aesthetic, near a large green palm leave

The button up miniskirt is one of this season’s key items

button up plaid skirt, in black and dark red, with front pockets, and gold colored buttons, 90s grunge, worn with a ribbed jumper in off-white

A grunge lookbook for teens:

The legendary Kurt Cobain – a 90s grunge style icon

90s bands, kurt cobain photos, nine small colorized portraits, and a large black and white image

Don’t forget the baggy t-shirts with colorful retro prints!

young woman with dark hair, partially styled in a messy half-bun, wearing a dark grey t-shirt, with a colorful 90s grunge cartoon print

Old, shabby sneakers – a trademark grunge look

well-worn white, retro lace-up sneakers, worn with tennis socks, featuring multicolored stripes, 90s grunge items, acid wash ankle jeans

teenage boy dressed in black skinny jeans, and a plaid shirt, over a white t-shirt, 90s grunge outfit, grey tube scarf, beanie hat and black combat boots

90s grunge fashion, oversized white t-shirt, with a small green cactus applique detail, worn tucked into black skinny jeans

80s grunge aesthetic, hand gripping at a broken chain-link fence, overlooking a city at dusk

Kanken backpacks are very popular among soft grunge fans

woman wearing a white t-shirt, and a teal blue backpack, running a hand through her blonde hair, while looking at a lake near a mountain, 90s grunge fashion

nowhere written on a black shield, hanging over a pair of escalators, in an empty mall-like space, illuminated by pink neon light, 80s grunge

illustration of kurt cobain, made with watercolors, wearing blue jeans, a red t-shirt with a graphic print, a yellow cardigan, classic converse sneakers, and blue-rimmed sumnglasses, 90s bands

Check out this awesome oversized jacket

ripped oversized grey denim jacket, with many holes, 90s grunge fashion, worn by a slim woman, in a white t-shirt with black print, and blue denim cutoff shorts

back view of an oversized, grey denim jacket, with three large ripped holes, 90s grunge fashion, worn by a slim woman

icons of grunge in the 90s, three photos showing river phoneix, a group shot of nirvana, 90s bands and celebrities, black and white image of kurt cobain

Cool neon glow

moon and three stars, neon wall decoration, glowing in soft, pale pastel pink, 80s grunge ornament, on a dark purple wall

over-the-knee socks in black, worn with sheer black patterned tights, a dark grey jumper mini dress, black combat boots, and an oversized pale blue cardigan, 90s grunge fashion, on a slim young woman, with long brunette hair, and a grey beanie hat

heart-shaped cutout detail, on a striped short-sleeved top, with small frill details on the neck and sleeves, 90s grunge fashion, worn with a belted, pleated black mini skirt

Long stonewash denim vest with rips

vest in pale blue, acid weash denim, with a long design, featuring pockets and rips, 90s grunge fashion, over a white oversized t-shirt, worn like a mini dress, by a slim woman

messy and long blonde hair, on a pale young man, seen in close up, dressed in a black tank top, with white print, 90s bands and singers

two young women, dressed in 90s grunge fashion, one wearing a black outfit, with multiple belts and red sneakers, the other in checkered ankle trousers, white cropped top, and a cropped yellow jacket

Plaid and stripes – soft grunge perfection

grunge definition, slim young woman, dressed in a woolen, grey plaid mini skirt, and a beige oversized jumper, with blue stripes, and yellow cuffs

cream turttle neck jumper, oversized and featuring a rim detail, running down its front, worn half tucked in pale blue, high waisted jeans, with a black leather shoulder bag, grunge definition

lace up black leather combat boots, plaid skirt in grey and dark red, grunge definition, sheer black tights, and a shirt jumper in grey marl

What do you think about these baggy high waisted jeans?

cutoff ankle jeans, in pale blue acid wash denim, worn with a white tank top, under a sheer, striped vintage-style shirt, grunge definition, on a slim woman, with well-worn white converse trainers

slim woman dressed in a black t-shirt, yellow checkered trousers, and black sneakers, grunge definition, taking a mirror selfie

mini dress with short sleeves, featuring a red and dark blue plaid pattern, baggy blue denim jacket, black tights and a beige suede bag, grunge definition, dark blue and white retro sneakers, and various accessories

curly blond woman, dressed in a pale grey, strappy a-line dress, featuring a black cross, and the words grunge dead, man with a dark grey denim jacket, with plaid sleeves, grunge definition, black combat boots, and various accessories

How to be a grunge girl in 2018:

various retro clothes, denim skirt and plaid shirt, dark grey denim high waisted shorts, oversized sweaters and t-shirts, grunge definition, combat boots and a yellow backpack

how to dress like 90s bands members, unlaced brown leather combat boots, pale grey jeans, plaid shirt and khaki green parka, blue sweater round the waist

grunge girl inspired outfits, ripped black skinny jeans, oversized grey jumper, black felt hat, grey ankle biker boots, black leather backpack, and assorted jewelry

A cool casual outfit, with grunge undertones

what a grunge girl looks like, ripped black skinny jeans, dark mustard yellow jumper, blue denim jacket, and black leather combat boots

biker jacket made from glossy black leather, worn over a white shirt, by a man with messy short black hair and stubble, with a plaid shirt around his waist, 90s bands inspired attire

house plants with different, large green leaves, near a pair of legs, dressed in pale blue, acid wash cutoff ankle jeans, worn with white socks, and black loafers, featuring silver heart-shaped buckles, grunge girl

Easy breezy

embroidered pale blue, high waisted acid wash jeans, featuring floral motives, grunge girl looks, cropped orange t-shirt, patent dark burgundy combat boots, oversized plaid shirt in dark green, white and dark blue

shoulder length ombre hair, in dark and light blue, on a twirling girl, dressed in black cutoff shorts, black over the knee socks, and ankle boots, and a grey t-shirt, featuring an alien print, grunge girl ideas, shiny gold backpack

dungarees made from medium blue denim, a striped t-shirt and jumper, multicolored floral shirt, acid wash jeans, and other items, grunge girl inspiration

Phone apps with retro filters are a huge hit at the moment. Can you guess whether this photo from 1988 or 2018?

pale young woman, holding an open book over her head, dressed in pale blue, acid wash jeans, and a jumper with large black, and dark green stripes, 80s grunge, black leather lace up combat boots

waterfall style tank top, in pale grey, ripped black skinny jeans, cropped blue denim jacket, patent leather ankle boots in black, grunge girl wardrobe, black leather bag and accessories

patterned leggings in black and beige, featuring suns and moons, worn with a black cropped t-shirt, and black patent leather combat boots, by a young grunge girl, with platinum blonde hair, dark roots and round sunglasses

Four grunge inspired outfits, suitable for every mood and every season

90s grunge clothing, in four examples, black denim shorts, with a dark grey tank top, and a black leather jacket, light blue denim dungarees, with a floral cropped top, and a red plaid shirt around the waist, and other ideas

high waisted blue acid wash jeans, dark grey t-shirt, with a colorful print, plaid shirt and a brown suede bag, black combat boots, and various accessories, 90s grunge clothing

platinum blonde young woman, with long wavy hair, and a black baseball cap, holding a mobile phone, dressed in 90s grunge clothing, ripped black skinny jeans, white oversized t-shirt, and pale blue denim jacket, with a few patches

The soft grunge mood board

mood board with grunge images, two teenage girls wearing masks, black lace up combat boots, smoking girl with teal hair, and many others

jumper with green, white and red stripes, featuring yellow collar and cuffs, on a white background, 90s grunge clothing, iconic key items

pink-haired young woman, with dark roots, sitting on some wooden crates, dressed in shiny black, skinny leather trousers, and a black leather biker jacket, 80s grunge or punk aesthetic

The perfect outfit for inspiring artists

khaki green backpack, brown chunky knit sweater, plain black bralette, and ripped pale blue jeans, 90s grunge clothing, black hair scrunchie, multicolored socks and acceossires

metallic trousers in silver, worn with a black cropped t-shirt, and high-heeled black leather ankle boots, 80s grunge attire, on a young woman, with light blue hair, and a black felt hat

sleeveless plaid mini dress, in black and red, dark green and white, chunky heeled black sandal, fir green chunky knit oversized cardigan, 90s grunge clothing, black socks a grey tube scarf, a cross-body bag, and various accessories

Have you seen it?

denim jacket in light blue, with several large rips, and a few patches, featuring a graphic print on its back, on a wooden hanger

backpack in black, decorated with white scribbles, khaki green jacket, plaid shirt and a baggy, pale grey t-shirt, ripped black skinny jeans, black and white sneakers

converse sneakers in black, black skinny jeans, striped jumper and an oversized, blue denim jacket, vintage camera and various accessories

Grunge outfit with a strong punk twist

skinny jeans in black, with lace-up details, combined with a black t-shirt, featuring an alien-themed print in white, silver chocker necklace, and a silver backpack

red and white and blue striped t-shirt, ripped black skinny jeans, blue denim jacket, with hand-painted back, beige suede cross-body bag, and a few accessories

long tank top in black, with white print, worn as a mini dress, over sheer black tights, by a slim and pale, young woman with a black chocker necklace

When people keep mistaking you for a famous rapper

pinstriped trousers in black and white, and a black t-shirt with the words, i'm not a rapper, printed in white, worn by a slim woman

lace-up combat boots in black, with platform heels, a pair of glasses, ribbed burgundy beanie hat, tartan skirt with zipper front detail, dark grey cropped top, and a blue denim jacket

chambray shirt in light blue, worn unbuttoned over a black mini skirt, and a black cropped top, by a pale woman, holding three record cases

Retro NASA t-shirts are another soft grunge favorite

blue oversized and baggy t-shirt, featuring a nasa logo, in white and red, 80s and 90s aesthetic, on a white abckground

led zeppelin t-shirt in dark green, beige jacket and round sunglasses, dark grey ripped baggy jeans, skateboard and a backpack, balck and white checkered shoes, floral socks and accessories

white baggy jacket, with black click-clack buttons, worn over a sleeveles black top, with a high collar, and a zip-up detail, pale blue jeans, and chain-like earrings

Grunge outfit for guys

four young men, dressed in grunge, 90s-inspired outfits, baggy stone wash jeans, and a band t-shirt, plaid shirt and skinny jeans, capris and a printed tee, and many others

parka in khaki green, pleated mini skirt, in dark green and navy plaid, sheer black mash top, with long sleeves, black leather combat boots, backpack and round sunglasses


stonewash skinny jeans, in light blue, black leather biker jacket, striped jumper in black and light grey, combat boots and a beanie hat

The actor River Phoenix was another very popular grunge icon who, similarly to Kurt Cobain, left the world too soon

actor river phoenix, sitting on the floor of a retro diner, holding a telephone receiver, and leaning on a bar stool, 90s bands and iconic celebrities

a pair of guys, standing side by side, dressed in black, ripped skinny jeans, and plaid shirts in different colors, over black hoodies

velvet cardigan in burgundy, worn over a black top, black opaque tights, and light blue cutoff denim shorts, by a slim young woman, with braided hair, and black leather combat boots

Monochrome ensemble

very pale and slim young woman, dressed in black skinny jeans, a striped jumper in black and white, black leather combat boots, and a black beanie hat, with a two-layered black chocker necklace, decorated with studs

baggy white vintage t-shirt, with a colorful graphic print, worn with ripped, pale blue jeans, and white sneakers, by a girl standing in a record store

iridescent transparent baseball jacket, with pastel rainbow details, worn over a striped black and white tank top, and pale blue, acid wash high wasited denim shorts, 90s and 80s grunge inspirations

Keira Knightley and her husband sporting grunge-inspired outfits

celebs wearing outfits, inspired by 90s and 80s grunge, keira knightley and her husband, walking side by side, in ripped jeans, and striped tops

beanie hat in black, with a white print, acid wash blue denim jacket, black strappy midi dress, with button down detail, over-the-knee-socks, pale blue loafers, and a few accessories

punk and grunge outfit, inspired by 90s bands, featuring light blue ankle jeans, burgundy combat boots, a plaid shirt, and a dark purple cardigan with leather shoulder details, decorated with spikes, on a young man, with light blue hair, and a black beanie hat

We hope you’ve enjoyed our selection of grunge aesthetic images!

fireflies in a dark field, surrounding a woman, with long dark hair, dressed in an oversized white jumper, and holding a teddy bear

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.