Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If you have to dye your hair... it with cool-aid.
This is the most important piece of advise wikihow has to impart to kids today on the topic of How To Be Grunge . Now, I came of age in the 90s, when most of the current Nirvana-T-shirt-wearing crowd was still sporting OshKosh-dungarees, and I gotta say, the existence of such a manual seems kinda, well redundant and hilarious (especially step 15 which doesn't apply to girls apparently). Sure, flannel shirts and combat boots were very acceptable, and many of my fairer friends certainly did dye their hair with cool-aid (or the Finnish equivalent of it anyway), but the point of the era was not so much, that there was a certain look, but rather that anything went. Especially, since you were most likely wearing it to a gig.

In the early 1990s, at the height of the recession, the long depressed, former lumber and industry boomtowns of America's rainy Northwestern corner, suddenly found themselves in the front lines of Western pop-culture. Almost overnight, depression and darkness became cool, and no one did them better than the kids who'd grown up places like Seattle, Olympia and Aberdeen. The point of grunge styles was just that, depression, indifference; you used whatever was handy, and didn't cost money. Most likely the reason flannel shirts gained such popularity among the early followers of grunge music, was that they were readily available at the yard-sales and Goodwills of those towns, discarded by the lumberjacks.

Rayanne, Angela and Ricky. Bffs you wanted to have circa 1995.

The ultimare misery chick Daria and her heartthrob Trent, the singer of Mystik Spiral. (also the only cartoon character I ever remember having a crush on)

A lot of what kids wore to concerts then was a mix of many different things, rather than a uniform-look. Vintage dresses went with huge grandpa cardigans, over-alls with tie-dye tops (self-made, tie-dye was cheap to do), 60s house dresses over 70s jeans, vests worn over floral dresses, woolly hats and scarfs with everything, rain or shine. Sounds eerily reminiscent, doesn't it?

Sassy Intern Chloë. Sevigny. (was there anywhere that girl wasn't in the 90s???)

Now that the early 90s are creeping back into the mainstream, I have to admit, that I never quite got over them in the first place. The mix-and-match ethos appealed to my style-sense, honed by a lifetime of thrift-shopping. Grunge democratized fashion, taking off the pressure to look perfect. Apart from that now infamous Perry Ellis-collection, high fashion left it alone, so there were no brands, no knock-offs and infinitely more expensive genuine items. In fact, the true measurement of your hipness was not how faithfully you could adopt a certain hipster look, but rather if you could come up with one so unique, kids in your circle would copy it (I'm talking to you Jenni, of the animal-hand-puppets-as-mittens-fame!). To me at least, that was what the era was about, unapologetically being your own, weird self. Or as the city of Aberdeen has seen fit to state it, in honor of it's plaid-wearing heroes:

Listening to: Hole, Greenriver.


  1. This absolutely brilliant! I grew up in Northwest Washington, although I was a little on the young side, and also a bit too isolated, to fully appreciate or understand the whole grunge thing. But looking back, everyone I knew was TOTALLY grunge, we just didn't realize it. People had been dressing, and very much continue to dress like that, except most of the people wearing flannels actually did work in them. Ah, I just think it's all so funny. Little Siri had no idea she was at the center of a cultural phenom!

  2. NO WAY! Apparently I really DO know you too well! This post is awesome, you truly are a girl after my own heart Miss Millatwoshoes!

    I can still remember driving down the street in my very first car (yes, I was old enough to drive) and hearing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the radio for the first time. I was smitten and immediately fell in love with the whole grunge aesthetic. I'd have to agree with you "Bombest style decade ever!" You see THIS is why we are style twins :) The fact that I can read you mind might be something else entirely, wonderful none-the-less!

  3. What a great post, absolutely brilliant!
    I was actually a bit young during the 90's, so I didn't really experienced them as they happened. Still, I think its funny how most people consider them the 'dark' decade of fashion, when in reality, the fact that they truly made anything go, has shaped our current ideas of style quite strongly!

  4. By the way... your blog is really addictive. I'm seriously hooked.

  5. Ha-ha, I love this post. I lived in WA for awhile and the grunge movement is still alive in parts there, I'm actually going back at the end of the summer, I can't wait!
    Oh and that toy link you gave me--brilliant! I think the narwhal would win the battle, but I suppose it depends on what surface they choose to fight...I mean a unicorn can probably outrun a narwhal, but then a narwhal is real and reality kills fantasty every time, right?

  6. Actually, I would advise STRONGLY against it. I tried to dye my hair with kool-aid once and it was the worst hair distaster i've ever encountered (and cost a lot of money to fix)! Not to burst your blog bubble, because I really enjoy reading it:)

  7. I remember around 1994 attempting to color my (brown) locks with Kool-aid. Of course I completely missed the fact that your hair needed to be a much lighter color. So instead of a colored coif, I just smelled like a fruit salad.

  8. I love this post. I have never gotten over growing up in the 90's either. Although, I don't wear my combat boots anymore; I can't buy into having the "it" shoes, bag, or whatever. I still believe in individuality. Thanks for taking me back:)

  9. As it happened, I spent the year 91-92 as an exchange student in the US (I was 16). I'd been into G'n'R and such, but then came grunge and nirvana and a whole bunch of bands that were new to Violent femmes and the pixies:)

    I wore freebie flannel shirts, big t-shirts, baggy jeans or pirate plaid pants.. later also this sorta perry ellis-look with a long-sleeve stripy tee under a flowery dress for example. Army boots also, first pair was thrifted and the second were cherry colored Doc's.
    I've always been extremely low maintenance (or maybe just lazy) and the whole 90's style was a big hit with me, first grunge and "borrowed from boyfriend", then later kinda androgynous minimalist..

  10. oh i love daria, and i always had a soft spot for trent too. boy, i miss the nineties!
    nice blog you have here by the way, it's nice to see interesting entries rather than simply outfits of clothes people want to buy! not that there's anything wrong with that either... :)