Thanks to Topshop, Tumblr, and teen movies, we all know exactly what '90s fashion looked like. Remember how we all traipsed around in fuzzy sweaters and mini-kilts like Corey in Empire Records? And, we constantly charmed hot musicians in our vintage dresses and cool leather jackets like Janet in Singles? Except, actually, no. As anyone who lived through it can tell you, grunge-era '90s fashion was far more ill-fitting and, well, brown than we've been led to believe. It was less daisies-and-miniskirts, and more Dickies-and-flannels. It was less kinderwhore coolness, and more Kurt Loder hair — as the video ahead shows.
This newly unearthed clip shows fans outside a Seattle Nirvana show in September, 1992. Picture it: They're the biggest band in the world, and their fans? They hacky-sack, they have deeply mixed feelings about Nirvana's success, and they're a totally awkward mish-mash of weirdo punk kids who've been following the band since its start, and bandwagon bros who just showed up for the party (and probably also love Guns N Roses). And, for all intents and purposes, it still looks like the 80s — no platform Birkenstocks or baby tees in sight.
Watch the video below, and read on for the real story behind '90s fashion — it wasn't always pretty, folks, no matter what Tumblr tells you.
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These adolescent boys are alternately passionate, terse, and terrified, because they are adolescent boys. They all win points for their T-shirt game, floppy skater-boy haircuts ("I'm not going to Fantastic Sams this weekend, mom"), and their charmingly dorky use of the word "group" instead of "band."
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"There's a lot more to Seattle music than just Nirvana and Pearl Jam," says the lady in the cat burglar gloves and Daisy Duke-style tied top — although, she doesn't expound on these lost Seattle bands. No matter. The real story here is the girl at right's hoop earrings and mustard-striped Ernie tee — although, we may be biased, as that was our preferred look in '92 (stripes make you a "raver," right?).
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These boys are the Fantastic Sams-refusers in a year or two, and they're here to point out that Kurt & Co. totally aren't sellouts, and they only signed to a major label so they could get "better distribution," not because DGC threw buckets of money at them to win one of history's hottest bidding wars, and David Geffen totally forced them to appear in Sassy magazine. It's all so perfectly pretentious, until Mr. Undercut loses a billion points with his homophobic slur. Hope someone let him know Kurt was not down with that.
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We found this fine specimen of early '90s hunkdom playing hacky sack with a bunch of mullet-wearing yokels who drove in from Yukon (and who will not stop throwing up the devil horns), providing us all with a convenient reminder that once upon a time, hipsters and heshers were sort of the same thing. The amazing thing about him is how many sensitive-'90s-dudebro trends he managed to jam into one outfit: the band tee, the Kangol, the love beads, and, not shown here, the burgundy scrunchie holding his ponytail in place. He looks like Eric Nies, and dresses like Jesus Jones — come and get it, ladies. (Also, props to the guy in the back in a first-year Lollapalooza tee!)
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Tabitha Soren's cooler little sister pops in to offer the observation that "if [Nirvana] didn't want to be big, why'd they start playing music?" Meanwhile, her companion drones on about how Nirvana should never change its "music for the masses" (that was my fave Depeche Mode album too, WhiteDread). One thing to remember is that '90s people hate change. Our parents' divorces and the social fabric coming unraveled under Reagan was enough change for a lifetime.
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Skip straight to 8:45 to meet the world's most annoying girl, who insists on continually making that face, and calling everything from people who wear "little shirts," to Nirvana fans, to Nirvana's haircuts "dumb" (but, she assures us, "we're the best.") Why, exactly, she's at a Nirvana concert is not clear.
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Kurt's mom and aunt sport straight-up teacher sweaters, which is almost funny, until Kurt's mom breaks our heart with her camera-shy "I'm glad [Kurt's] enough of a success to make a living. But, some of it is too much for him, I think. For all of us, really. It's a little overwhelming." Luckily, the dopey dudes in the background — one with purple hair, one inexplicably sporting a Santa hat in September — who continually photobomb provide some much-needed relief from all the foreshadowing.