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Grunge as we know it started in the 80s, even though we associate it so heavily with the 90s. The Seattle sound subculture brought a distinct fashion style for guys. It had small dashes of punk here and there, but was mostly understated, slouchy, and worn-in. 

Common fabrics were denim and plaid, worn day after day to achieve that loved, carefree aesthetic. 

In 2020, the grunge look for men is popular among students and professionals in creative, “non-office” jobs. Grunge trends can easily be woven into other aesthetics, versatility suiting all kinds of tastes and settings. 

Welcome to our guide for how to style the 80s grunge look for men. 


Denim jackets  

Denim jackets are a grunge staple, and they’re a perfect way to add grunge to a look without fully committing to the trend. The key is for the jacket to be worn, well-loved, and faded or threadbare in places.

Other grunge jackets were green, army-style jackets, or tan leather jackets with shearling lining. When it comes to grungers in the 80s and 90s, they had that one favorite jacket they’d be seen in day and night until it fell apart. Bring back those days! Imagine how much cash we would save?).


  • Throw a blue denim jacket over a plaid shirt or plain tee 
  • A sweater with mismatched print such as horizontal stripes (a la Kurt Cobain) or faded paisley looks great (and grunge) under a blue denim jacket
  • Doc Martens and slouchy “grandpa” trousers are perfect bottoms with a denim jacket 

The look: plaid shirts and jeans

The plaid shirt is a must-have for grunge fashion, no matter the decade. Kurt Cobain is synonymous with the plaid shirt, worn over a graphic or slogan tee with ripped jeans and boots.

It’s also known in the TV world as a Jordan Catalano staple piece, albeit a little down the track, in the 90s. 

When it comes to plaid, make sure the fabrics are soft flannel for that all-important slouchy aesthetic. Stiffer fabrics such as viscose or polyester tend to have a slight sheen and a less malleable fit on the body. 

Scour the thrift-stores for plaid flannel shirts that have already been well-loved into sweet slouchiness. 


  • Combine 80s/90s grunge with 2020 street by wearing a plaid flannel shirt open over drop-crotch pants and an oversized tee, polished off with combat boots 
  • Try grunge on the top and preppy on the bottom with a plaid flannel shirt worn with chinos rolled at the ankle, and leather penny loafers 
  • Layer a band tee with a plaid shirt and slouchy open cardigan for authentic grunge  

The look: Converse 

Pore over images of 80s punk, rock, and grunge gods and you’ll find a slew of Converse lace-ups. Chuck Taylors were worn by everyone from kids at the skatepark to grunge rockers jamming in the basement. They were often in classic black with white laces, and well-worn, never shiny and new. 


  • If in doubt, go for plain black or white low-top Converse, they’re the most versatile 
  • Pair Converse with baggy ripped jeans and a white singlet for grunge-meets-trailer-chic 
  • Try a skate-style aesthetic with baggy, long shorts in deep khaki or worn-in black denim, with high-top converse and a button-down cardigan 


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Paisley-print shirts worn open over white tees 

Grunge youth fashion was heavily based around wearing thrifted, well-worn clothes, or those that had been snuck from your Dad or Granddad’s wardrobe.

This often resulted in shirts (long or short sleeved) with muted-tone paisley patterns. They were worn open, often over a plain tee, or layered with a slouchy cardigan and denim jacket. 

Remember, grunge wasn’t as sharp or thought-out as punk, it was a take on “normality”, regular clothes worn over and over until they took on their own aesthetic unique to the wearer.

It was an eclectic mix, sometimes with unexpected patterns or colors, such as a feminine pink shirt worn with a neutral khaki or brown cardigan. 


  • Go on a thrifting mission and look for shirts in soft fabrics that have a fluid movement to them, not stiff polyester. For example, silk-cotton blend fabrics in natural hues, or soft flannel 
  • Make sure the fit is on the larger side, so you can roll up the sleeves and have the shirt flowing at the back when left unbuttoned
  • Wear your shirt over a plain grey marle or white tee, or a band tee you’ve worn over and over again
  • Layer with slouchy cardigans, a faded blue denim jacket, or an army-style green  jacket 

Grandad’s trousers and cardigan with Docs 

When grunge guys weren’t wearing ripped jeans, they were wearing slouchy “old man” style trousers in deep chocolate brown or green shades. They were worn with old t-shirts and slouchy cardigans, polished off with Doc Martens or similar chunky black leather shoes.

This look emerged from the 80s and became even more popular in the 90s, further pushing the thrift store look. 


  • For a more refined look, pick a pair of trousers that are slightly more fitted, in a thick wool-knit fabric or cotton khaki 
  • Wear with a slightly oversized shirt in paisley pattern, with a Grandpa-style cardigan over the top
  • Finish the look with black Doc Marten lace-ups or other black leather lace-ups, and a wool knit beanie for Winter 


About The Author

May is totally crazy about the 80s and everything the decade inspired! Having grown up in a household that was totally taken over by 80s music and fashion its only natural that May lives and breathes the 80s!

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