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Youth Culture and Fashion
Money Can't Buy You Grunge
To the fashion world, "grunge" is the look of the moment. Since November, when Christian Francis Roth and Marc Jacobs, two American designers barely known in Europe, showed their new collections in New York, no catwalk has been complete without its version of the dressed-down Seventies' hippie style.
So are the New York designers cashing in on poverty by reproducing grunge in luxury fabrics with prices to match? It's certainly a long way from the low-budget philosophy of the original grunge movement, invented in the late Eighties to describe the style of rock groups such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden from Seattle. The grunge bands are deeply suspicious of this latest interaction between two powerful strands of popular culture.
But fashion has been here before. In the Seventies it took punk, another "anti-fashion" style associated with a musical movement, and turned it into haute couture.
Fashion commentators say that grunge is a genuine sign of change: a reaction against power dressing in the dress-for-success years. The musicians believe that it is simply a sanitised and snob version of their look.
In London, the youngsters who popularised the look are on the side of the musicians - if they accept that there is a look at all. In Camden market, north London, Jacinta Stringer, 24, unemployed and wearing a plaid jacket, ripped jeans and Doc Marten boots, said: "I'm not grunge. Is that what you think I am?"
Kerty Hagger, 21, a travel agent, in a shaggy jumper from Nepal and cotton trousers from Chipie, looked blank: "Never heard of it!"
Lorraine Macdonald, 20, a student from Inverness, wearing a big plaid coat from C&A, jeans from BhS, and walking boots from Berghaus, offered a definition: "It means wearing comfortable clothes that you throw on without trying to co-ordinate. It means not using make-up and not bothering about how your hair looks."
Pete Millac, 24, a chef, agreed: "Grunge, meant not worrying about your appearance and not spending any money on clothes. Now it's hip it's ridiculous. You read about it in magazines like Elle, and the clothes cost a fortune. Grunge is as low-grade as you can find. Or at least it was before the fashion people got their hands on it."
By the original definition, Mr Millac was out-and-out grunge, wearing a battered leather jacket which he said he had found, a check shirt that cost 1GBP in Brixton market, a 2GBP scarf from Camden market and jeans. What did he think of those who paid thousands to achieve a similar look? "If people want to spend their money on looking bad, that's fine by me."
DISCUSSION: dedicated follower of fashion
Belgium; Denmark; France; Germany; Greece; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Luxembourg; The Netherlands; Portugal; Spain; The United Kingdom; The United States.
appearance: how you look. barely: hardly. battered: in bad condition. blank: expressionless; vacant. bothering about: caring about. cashing in on: profiting from. catwalk: platform for models. co-ordinate: (make) match. Doc Marten boots: black, heavy boots with laces, very popular in the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties! dressed-down: dressed casually. fabrics: materials. fine by me (!): okay by me (!); fine in my opinion. genuine: real. got their hands on (!): took control of. grunge: cheap fashion. hip (!): fashionable. hippie: from the seventies. interaction: exchange. look: image. low-budget: inexpensive. low-grade: cheap quality. out-and-out: true. plaid: tartan. popularised: made popular. power dressing: dress to impress. prices to match: very high prices. sanitised: clean; characterless. shaggy: baggy; big and fluffy. showed their collection: presented their designs. (on the) side of: supporting. strands: elements. throw on (!): put on quickly without planning. youngsters: young people.
From "Ideas and Issues" by Lisa Gerard-Sharp
Published by kind permission of "Chancerel International"
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