Modern Grunge Fashion For Men: 20 Outfits To Help You Get The Look
We've rifled through 30 years of lookbooks to find the best grunge looks for men. If you want to nail this aesthetic, in the words of Kurt Cobain: come as you are.
It’s quite incredible that we’re still talking about grunge more than 30 years on from its beginnings in Seattle. Angsty and apathetic, it was as much an attitude as it was a music genre. And the clothes that came with it were just as creative and groundbreaking as the music.
In a lot of ways, grunge fashion is anti-fashion: thrifted, sloppy styling paired with a DGAF attitude. Punk, but with cardigans.
That particular look was, of course, made famous by Kurt Cobain. The late Nirvana frontman is still the poster boy for grunge fashion some 30 years after his death. He’d hate that, no doubt. But the enduring appeal of grunge is the nihilistic, anti-authority spirit that Cobain and his peers brought not just to music, but culture at large.
Grunge style is still the uniform of disaffected youth. Today’s generation has more than enough reason to rage against the world, from the climate crisis they’re inheriting to wage stagnation. The latter, coupled with the cost of living crisis, makes the thrifted, slightly battered aesthetic of grunge not just stylish but a simple fact of life.
Over the years, grunge fashion has also been co-opted by other style tribes, most notably hip-hop. Artists like Kanye West, Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky are all known for their grungy style, wearing plaid shirts, oversized tees, torn black jeans and well-worn cardigans, much like guitar bands did in the early 90s.
Whatever your reference point, grunge works for today’s casual wardrobes and hacked-off view of the world. So we’ve rifled through 30 years of lookbooks to find the best grunge outfits. The main thing, as Cobain himself sang: come as you are.
Grunge fashion: the essential pieces
Grunge is not the most eclectic look in the world. It’s built on a tight number of must-have pieces that you can either wear together or work into other outfits. These are the non-negotiables of grunge fashion.
Nothing is as closely tied to grunge fashion as the plaid shirt. Eddie Vedder was rarely seen without one in the 90s and the ubiquitous style remained popular with the skaters and hip-hop artists who kept the look going.
Get one in a brushed flannel or a padded overshirt, ideally in washed-out colors.
Jeans with rips at the knees and denim jackets with the sleeves torn off are recurring themes in the grunge wardrobe. The beat-up vibe fits perfectly with grunge’s apathetic perspective. Less make-do-and-mend. Just make do.
Everyone thinks about Kurt Cobain’s thrifted cardigans, but grunge outfits work with any number of battered old jumpers, too. The grandadcore vibe extends to sweater vests, army surplus and fisherman knits.
Oversized is best and if there are noticeable holes, great. Don’t get them fixed.
Cobain and co liked tees with political slogans flashed across the front. Or ones that repped other bands on the scene. Or even a few from the fledgling streetwear scene that was growing at around the same time.
Today, graphic T-shirts and band tees are everywhere, but for a true grunge feel, look for plus-size options that have been washed a hundred times at your nearest vintage store.
Here’s another excuse to raid your nearest surplus store, just like grunge kids did in the 90s. Look for old field jackets complete with tears, patches and years of hardy service.
They look great with battered jeans and there are some absolute bargains out there to be had.
20 modern grunge outfits for men
2024 Kurt Cobain
Longline, oversized cardigans were a Cobain favorite, a centerpiece in the thrifted, grandadcore of the grunge scene. Whether you pick yours up at a thrift shop or fashion boutique is up to you, the effect is the same: finding the cool in something that was once the preserve of pensioners.
Finishing the look with a straggly mid-length haircut nails the look.
The grunge check coat
Grunge loves a check pattern. You usually see it on plaid shirts and overshirts, but it can also work with statement outerwear, borrowed from the traditional workwear that gets Seattle residents through the winter in grunge’s spiritual hometown.
Red and black tartan is a good place to start, and it’s easy to style. Combine with black jeans, a hoodie and some chunky winter boots for one of the most practical grunge outfits you can wear.
Part of the reason for grunge’s longevity in menswear is that it’s surprisingly adaptable. You can even dress it up. This dapper take has some of the mainstays of a classic grunge outfit, most notably the knit, the overshirt and the boots. That earthy, washed-out palette is also right out of 1993.
What makes it different is that everything is plush. The knit is pristine, that brushed wool overshirt is hardly thrifted and the boots are nicely polished. Finished off with a tailored pair of cropped trousers, this is as close as you’ll get to smart grunge fashion.
You’d call it ‘pre-loved’ today, but the grunge scene was doing second-hand fashion long before Depop came along. Broke garage bands would outfit themselves from thrift stores and army surplus places and if there were holes in the denim, the shirts or the knitwear, it really didn’t matter.
That distressed look has since become an on-again, off-again fashion trend. Labels selling ready-distressed isn’t really in the spirit of grunge, but intentionally battered knitwear is a big look either way. Style it with baggy 90s jeans, some sunglasses and a general snarl.
Ripped jeans and tied flannel
This is Pearl Jam (or A$AP Rocky) 101. Like holey knitwear, ripped jeans are an integral part of the grunge look. And worn with a loose tee and a plaid shirt tied around the waist, it’s a 90s rite of passage – streetwear that smells like teen spirit.
One of the best things about grunge outfit staples – the hoodie, the plaid shirt, the beat-up T-shirt – is that you can wear all of them at the same time. They’re all great layering pieces and work brilliantly finished off with a workwear jacket on cold fall days.
Bonus points in this look for wearing the shirt over the hoodie.
The cut-off T-shirt is a stage favorite of guitar bands of every conceivable genre, grunge included. And no need to worry if your guns aren’t as huge as Dwayne Johnson’s because the look arguably works better with skinny arms.
Don’t overthink the styling: some ripped jeans and well-worn sneakers is all you need.
The grunge and skate scenes grew side-by-side in the 90s, and both eventually became mainstream in their own ways. So perhaps it’s no surprise that garage bands and half-pipe kids wore some of the same clothes.
This look neatly sums up the hybrid vibe with the statement knit, long hair and toned-down palette.
Rock ‘n’ roll
Rock music is a broad church. The bands and sub-genres that make it up don’t always like to be pigeonholed, and so it goes with the fashion. This look shows how the grunge look can incorporate elements of the wider trend, with the biker jacket thrown over the plaid shirt.
The rest of the look is grunge 101: the check shirt, open over a tee, and paired with some simple black trousers and no-nonsense boots.
The grunge cardigan
Here’s a good example of how traditional grunge fashion has evolved into something more modern. Some of the staples are there, particularly the oversized cardigan with a pattern that your great-grandmother would happily have had on her curtains.
But this look is softer than classic 90s grunge outfits, thanks to the wide-leg pants worn in place of a staple pair of black jeans.
Acid wash jeans and flannel
Punk and grunge have a lot in common, and it’s not just the anti-authority attitude. Acid-wash denim and big stomper boots work in both camps, as do keyring chains hung from your belt loops.
As ever, it’s the plaid overshirt, worn over a hoodie, that really stamps this one as a grunge outfit.
Workwear is one of the main ingredients of the grunge look. Denim, worker boots and padded plaid overshirts are all borrowed from the building site, prized for their low cost and hardy construction. But it’s the check shirt that nails a grunge outfit.
This one makes the point twice over with layered checks. It looks kinda messy, right? That’s the point.
The check shacket
A check overshirt so synonymous with the grunge look that even if the rest of the outfit is fairly neutral, the outerwear will still be sending people back to the 90s. A good way to style it is to take a colorful (or at least light-colored) shacket and throw it over a black base.
Bonus points if there’s a texture to the shirt that contrasts with a matte trouser.
All-black looks are sometimes associated with smarter dress but they work just as well for casual codes – and black on black is very much in the grunge wheelhouse. It’s not one to overthink. Take a simple black hoodie and trousers then throw a black check shirt over the top.
Pep the look up with contrast white socks and a little texture in the shirt.
Grunge with mid-wash denim
The 90s loved mid-wash denim like few other trends, so it naturally fused with the rise of the grunge scene. The combo still works today.
Start with a simple band or logo T-shirt and wear it with your most-worn pair of blue jeans. A couple of shirt and overshirt layers on top instantly gives it a grunge vibe.
In a dark, dingy dive bar, is it possible to tell grunge fashion apart from metal or goth looks? Not really, we’d argue. They all like some well-worn denim, a check shirt and good guitar riffs. This look kind of does all three, mixing a band tee with skinny grey jeans and a buffalo check shirt over the top.
Grunge purists won’t love the slim fits on display here but you could easily switch the same look out with baggier cuts.
One of the points about the thrifted grunge look was that clothes didn’t even need to fit you. You’d just grab what you could from the store and bend it to your own style (or not care). The legacy of that can be seen in this outfit.
The longline shirt looks like it belongs tucked into some suit trousers. Subvert traditional style rules by instead pairing one with battered jeans and a denim jacket.
Wondering what grunge fashion looks like in the summertime? Check out some old photos of Pearl Jam on the festival circuit and that’s your basic blueprint.
The ever-present check shirt is paired with some rugged cargo shorts instead of the usual jeans. Chuck a band T-shirt on under the plaid and finish the look with some well-worn sneakers.
Black leather biker
Here’s a slightly elevated, modern take on grunge outfits. A worn-looking waffle knit and hoodie are pepped up with some smart tailored trousers and a sleek, dark palette.
Don’t worry, though. The leather jacket and chunky worker boots mean you’re still in lo-fi casual mode.
Some of the best grunge outfits make the most of well-worn clothing. Faded jeans, washed-out tees and sweatshirts, holey knits and bobbly flannel shirts can all be redirected from landfill into a grunge-friendly wardrobe.
This look makes slouchy and washed-out into a whole attitude, while the dropped shoulders on the sweatshirt and longline T-shirt keep it interesting.