27 December 2019
We have never looked so much backwards. Lately, if you want to be trendy, you might have to get used to the idea of a fashion made of rebellion and decadence. As many like to say, yes, fashion is an eternal renewal and it’s indeed a “déjà vu” that collections frequently put in the spotlight. Punk or grunge? Did you know there was a difference between the two? In fact, they have nothing to do with each other. As much in style as in claims, influences, and even continents, since one was born in great britain and the other in the united states! To avoid dressing without understanding, to endorse trends with knowledge, La grande boutique gives you the keys to these two great fashion and music movements of the 20th century. Then, you can be both at the same time, maybe nothing at all, but one can be sure about one thing, you will be tempted to try at least one of the two!
Like many fashion movements, punk has its origin in a social and cultural movement. At the end of the 1960s, the hippie philosophy reigned and the baba cool philosophy prevailed over clothing and cultural habits. The punk movement, from the word “thug” in English, was born in the 1970s in Great Britain. What defined it? Provocation ! Scalded by rising unemployment, the punks want to free themselves from established society, reject the ambient “peace & love” and impose a new slogan, “No Future”.
Very quickly, this social momentum is reflected in fashion and music. Like every movement, it’s embodied by major personalities and flagship pieces. This is the rise of the Sex Pistols (music band) with its iconic leader Sid Vicious. The manager of the group Malcolm McLaren is with Vivienne Westwood, the famous fashion designer.
In 1974, they opened a clothing store in London called “Sex”. They want to shock. The designs are sulfurous, in contrast with prudish England. Westwood becomes a figurehead of the movement. Aesthetically, rejection and rebellion are the keywords of the silhouette. It all starts from there. They take everything that comes along to get a look, it’s the great trend of DIY (Do It Yourself). They celebrate self-destruction with torn, ripped t-shirts, fishnet stockings. Safety pins patch dirty or torn clothes that are celebrated as non-conformists. They dye their hair in all colors, if it’s in the shape of a crest it’s even better. The nails symbolize anger and strength, they are put around the neck, wrists, or on platform shoes.
The tartan becomes the iconic punk print. Worn to protest against the ruling classes, he became the symbol of rebellion, almost militant. It will remain the flagship motif of this movement, and will be honored among others at the MET museum in New York during the exhibition on the Punk movement in 2013. Ironically, the first punk t-shirts designed by Vivienne Westwood, true witnesses of an era and social cultural vestiges of a rebellion, are today sold at auction. Punk is not dead!
Grunge has nothing to do with punk, well not really. Let’s explain. Already, it comes from the United States, and emerges much later, at the dawn of the 90s. It’s said that its first hours took place in the Seattle area and it was under guitar riffs that grunge would have emerged. In tribute to punk (the link is there!), the first grunge play hard and saturated rock music, were dressed in torn pants, plaid shirts (chosen for practical reasons, because they kept warm and were common there!) and patched leather jackets. But unlike the punk movement, their look is the result of some carelessness and not an act of rebellion. Quite simply, they also were penniless and were doing the best they can with the means at their disposal. And like every movement, a figurehead will quickly emerge. He has hair in his eyes, his songs speak of his girlfriends, his apparently sensitive soul contrasts with his neglected appearance. It’s Kurt Cobain.
As much as the group he forms with Nirvana, it’s his couple with Courtney Love that makes people fantasy. Symbols of the 90s (they meet in 1989), they will become the icons of a generation (and of the following ones). They each have an easily recognizable look that will remain in the annals: ripped jeans, t-shirt (not quite) white, oversized cardigan and worn out Converse for him while Courtney Love will manage to define in spite of herself a feminine grunge with an allure made of neglected glamor always at the border between the scruffy and the dressed. The grunge style, beyond the music, was indeed born, like a kind of “woke up like this”, but after a very drunk evening.
The more scruffy (and almost dirty) you look, the better. The basic pieces that compose the grunge style are a little different from those of the punk movement, but especially worn with a rather different intention. Oversized plaid shirts, ripped jeans, t-shirts with the image of a rock band, worn out Converse, etc. form an (intentionally) neglected silhouette more than purely rebellious one.
The suicide of Kurt Cobain on April 5, 1994 does not put an end to the grunge movement, on the contrary. He spreads it. The 90s marked the advent of the model Kate Moss, also grunge on her own style. Kurt Cobain’s style has influenced a great number of fashion designers since, his most loyal heirs being probably his unconditional fan Chris Leba at R13 (his exclusive interview here) but also Hedi Slimane, now the artistic director of Celine.
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