90s Grunge Hairstyles, Makeup & Fashion

The early 1990s saw a rise in so-called grunge music. This musical revolution was led by bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana. The highly-polished arena-rock anthems of '80s bands like Bon Jovi and Poison were pushed off the rock and pop music charts by these mostly Seattle-based bands. The "Seattle sound" was a raw, garage-band sound with songs being composed of only a few basic chords and performed in a gritty, organic fashion.

General Look

The natural, unpolished sound of grunge music extended to the fashion of the era, as well. The dolled up glam look of the 1980s featured women in heavily applied make-up and men wearing lots of leather. The hair was big and covered in hairspray for both sexes. The 1990s grunge look was the antithesis of this overstyled image. Grunge looks were generally dishevelled and natural earthy looks replaced the artificial images of the 1980s glam-rock era. The grunge look was gritty and inherently against fashion and this reflected in the hair, make-up and clothing styles that were born from the "Seattle sound."


The grunge look's dishevelled image was apparent in the hairstyles of the time. Women can evoke the grunge look by teasing their hair out in a messy fashion. Blond hair with black streaks or black hair with blond streaks can also evoke the grunge look. The hair should never be too-well put together and should always look windblown. Guys hair at the time of the grunge era was worn long and messy. Shoulder length hair with uneven edges and a part down the middle is the quintessential hairstyle of the time for men.


Unlike the 1980s, men did not wear make-up during the grunge era, at least not those that were part of the grunge scene. Black eyeliner was occasionally worn, but mainly by Billy Corgin of the Smashing Pumpkins. Grunge looks for women were defined by minimal, if any, make-up. Blush was not worn and lipstick was nude. Eye make-up was really what made women spend time in front of the mirror during the grunge era. Heavy eye make-up was applied to create a deep, sunken in look of the eye region. This treatment combined with pale skin and nude lipstick created the famous heroin chic look of the early 1990s.


The dishevelled hair and make-up of the 1990s grunge look gave the head shot of the time but the whole body shot reveals a further extension of the earthy, raw nature of 1990s grunge fashion. Fashion for this era was mostly androgynous leaning toward the masculine end of the spectrum. Flannel was the fabric that is most closely associated with the "Seattle sound." Earth tone T-shirts were also often worn with plaid shirts tied around the waist. Knit long-sleeve shirts were commonly worn with short-sleeve T-shirts thrown on top. Ripped-up jeans without pocket designs were the rage, while corduroy trousers were also popular among the grunge set.

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About the Author

Harry Havemeyer began writing in 2000. He has written articles for the "San Antonio Express-News" and the "Tulane Hullabaloo." Havemeyer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy from Tulane University.