Kurt Cobain, Fashion’s Unexpected Icon

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Singer Kurt Cobain not only defined a music genre, he unexpectedly influenced fashion today.

Cobain’s long blonde hair, layered plaid shirts, and torn jeans took grunge fashion from an independent bar scene to the pages of Vogue. After the release of Nirvana’s famed 1991 song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Cobain’s lanky frame in over-sized clothing became en vogue with young people everywhere. Aside from wearing plaid, Cobain also embraced a feminine edge with Manic Panic hair dye, skinny scarves and oval-shaped sunglasses by Christian Francis Roth. Teens and young adults devoured images of Cobain, because not only was his image rebellious, it was also easily attainable. This may also have been a response to the expensive and flashy styles of the 1980s, where mall culture reigned supreme.

As his fame grew, Cobain wore boat-neck stripe shirts. At the time these tops were reserved for preppy American females or hardcore Francophiles, but on Cobain, it was another variation of thrift-store chic. Another iconic piece was his fuzzy green cardigan at Nirvana’s Unplugged session that forever put grandpa sweaters on the fashion map.

In 1992, runway shows for Christian Francis Roth, Anna Sui, and famously Perry Ellis featured what we know now as the first grunge-inspired collections. Although Fifth Avenue socialites didn’t sweep it all up, Vogue did feature a grunge-inspired editorial in their December 1992 issue.

Since the mid-2000s, grunge has had a reprisal on the fashion scene. Countless designers have used Cobain as their muse on the runway and in advertisements. For his Fall 2013 collection, former Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane was shamed in the fashion press for his plaid flannel button-ups placed over mini dresses, skinny scarves, and black combat boots. He would later recreate Kurt Cobain’s iconic look during his Spring 2016 menswear show. More recently, the fashion line No. 21 featured updated grunge elements on top of colorful, feminine pieces.

About A Boy

Over twenty-something years ago, no one on at Vogue would have thought that a scrawny kid from Seattle would be the hottest look in town. Now Cobain’s plaid shirt and grunge wardrobe is a mainstay that makes an appearance at almost every fashion week.


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