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Grunge clothing styles – 10 must-have essentials for the look

August 16, 2022

Grunge: the style of the 1990s featuring band tees, flannel shirts, combat boots, leather jackets and ripped denim. Redolent of nights spent rocking out and sleeping on a mate’s floor, and going home in the clothes you went out in without a single difference to their appearance or any hint of the walk of shame – because they already look grungy. It’s all in the name. Thankfully, in today’s reboot, you don’t need to live the lifestyle to revel in the high points of grunge fashion. Here are 10 must-have grunge clothing styles.

Grunge clothing styles. Eddy Vedder. Image via Wikimedia.

Grunge clothing styles. Eddy Vedder. Image via Wikimedia.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 1 – the flannel shirt

Flannel shirts were a practical item. Always worn open over a band tee shirt, never buttoned up. Any colour goes, but dark and worn-looking is excellent. In fact, the whole grunge look is essentially practical, and pretty casual. The essence is in things you can get at the vintage store and throw on from your floordrobe. 

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 2 – ripped jeans

Ripped jeans are an essential grunge item. Black is preferable, but indigo or faded blue is also ok. Also, when we say ripped, it’s up to you where and how far. Ripped knees and thighs are good, but you can also rip them into shorts. Micro-shorts were not often seen in the 90s, but it’s definitely today’s interpretation, so cut off as much as you like. One bonus of today’s versus yesterday’s denim is the added lycra a lot of jeans have – so they will still hang onto you no matter how much of the legs or waistband you hack off.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 3 – a leather jacket

Stiff and heavy, a biker jacket was part of the “borrowed from your boyfriend and a bit incongruous” fashion style. I definitely prefer a worn in denim jacket.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 4 – combat boots

Really similar story here. Combat boots came from army surplus stores and were originally a part of dressing on a budget for the cold Seattle winters. Plus, steel toecaps were handy for when your toes got mashed in the mosh pit. But, they stiff and really heavy. You could build up your calf muscles, but lighter and bouncier Doc Martens have a similar look, with much greater comfort.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 5 – fishnet tights

Fishnet tights provide the fun and flirty soft grunge contrast to those heavy boots. Stripy tights and pattern printed tights were also popular, back in the day. It doesn’t matter if they get ripped or laddered. It’s also great to layer them. 

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 6 – plenty of eyeliner

Smear it on.

Number 7 – plenty of graphic tees

T shirt shapes ran the gamut, from oversized stolen-from-your-boyfriend tees, to bra tops. They could be printed with band names and tour dates. These included bands you supported and tour dates you actually attended, or bands you’d never heard of and just found in a vintage shop. Also cute grunge was children’s t-shirts with cute graphics on, worn tight. These are small enough to look cropped.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 8 – denim jackets

A much lighter alternative to the leather jacket. Denim jackets can be any colour you like, but if they are worn and frayed, all the better. Cut the arms off, cut it so it’s cropped, personalise at will. Also, it’s great to embroider on your denim jacket, or sew patches on, or paint with acrylic paint. It doesn’t matter if you have no skill in this department – this is grunge! But if you are good at it, other people WILL ask you to do theirs, too. And get offended if you charge them more than a tenner for the job.

At number 9 – crop tops

The grunge style is all about contrasts – a small crop top under your heavily paint encrusted denim jacket is perfect. Body type absolutely doesn’t matter – if it’s hot or if you want to, a crop top is cute. When I say crop top, this could be one of your band tees that have been cut off, or it could be a shelf bra.

10 must-have grunge clothing styles – number 10 – a prom dress

Raid the rails for a really pretty dress, and wear it with your boots and fishnets. Any era will do. But don’t spend a lot, or get a very precious one. Maybe an 80s one, made with bright nylon fabric and plenty of pouffe? Or a slip dress, or just a slip. As in underwear.

Also add a cardigan. Long and grandad-like is essential, but also, whatever comes to hand. A tiara. Children’s jewellery. Long hair, unwashed and unbrushed. In fact, leave your entire self unwashed and unbrushed. Bleach your hair at home. Roll on the floor for maximum impact. Spill beer on your carefully curated outfit.

To complete the look, the sound is essential

grunge clothing styles. Image via Wikimedia.

Some of the top Grunge titles in an exhibition. Grunge clothing styles. Image via Wikimedia.

And now you have the perfect grunge outfits for your personal style, don’t forget to revel in grunge music, too. After all, if you’re wearing a Nirvana t-shirt, what will you do if someone asks you about Kurt Cobain? Please get a cassette player and find a horde of old cassettes, preferably all home recorded and copied from the radio.


Best if the cassette player is a Walkman and you can find those old cheap and flimsy headphones with orange foam, ill-fitting and leaking noise. Then play Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and also something less screamy, like No Doubt and Alanis Morrisette. Nod along and even wail slightly. Your grunginess is complete.