More than anything, Kurt Cobain was and still is one of the most iconic musicians in the world. His contributions to the history of rock and alternative music, paired with his superior songwriting and guitarist skills, earned him the spot in Rolling Stone magazine as the 12th greatest guitarist of all time. In 2006, he was still considered one of the highest earning deceased celebrities, earning more than legendary musician Elvis Presley.
His impression has been left on such a massive scale that the Seattle Museum, the Seattle Experience Music project Museum, and the Aberdeen Museum of History have all dedicated exhibits to him. He is nothing short of a legend, and his influence is still felt worldwide today by both the music and the fashion industry.
Although fashion and public image were not by any means a priority of Cobain’s, his rebellion and grunge style gave him both a fashion and pop culture icon status, whether he would’ve wanted it or not.
After all, his anthem was evident in his music as well as in his clothing, and the world took notice. His philosophy was focused on being yourself, not compromising who you are, and living out the definition of punk rock, which according to him was “saying, doing, and playing what you want.”
The Sex Pistols and The Clash were among his largest punk rock music influences, and his attitude, music, and look were also inspired by bands such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Queen.
His style and his artistry emulated his character from the beginning of his career to the time of his death. He was known for helping and standing up for outcasts and those who were picked on in school, as well as for supporting lesser known independent bands.
Standing up for the underdogs, minorities, and those who were oppressed was a deliberate effort on his behalf, and his Buddhist-inspired view of living “free from pain, suffering, and the external world” gave birth to Nirvana’s name.
The grunge music scene that Kurt is so well known for also rubbed off on the fashion world, and through the early nineties spawned a whole new trend of grunge looks. During the pinnacle of his fame, many critics had negative things to say about the grunge look and his overall influence, but that didn’t change the impact grunge fashion had on the nineties and the evolution of fashion trends.
Kurt’s look still lingers today, and its inspiration has popped up in a number of designer lines, including those of the famous Vivienne Westwood, who is legendary for her Sex Pistols and punk rock fashions. Classic Cobain style is found in the video of Nirvana’s famous single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” off of the band’s second album, Nevermind.
Worn-in shirts, Doc Martens, Chuck Taylors, ripped jeans, and of course, lots and lots of flannel were all common place with Cobain’s Pacific Northwest grunge style. He often wore dark yellows, army greens, and laid-back cardigan sweaters. Plaid shirts and band t-shirts that displayed names and graphics of musicians he supported were also some of his typical clothing choices.