In a recent visit to the Manhattan/Brooklyn area of New York City, I spotted girls in grayscale-only clothing, while guys paired black combat boots with black, raw denim jeans. One particular dive bar (with the DJ playing New Order inside, of course), encompassed the entire ‘80s grunge rock look with taxidermical decor and a dance floor full of tousled, asymmetric hairstyles and dark makeup.
But, before you start clipping in coontail extensions and going through all of your eyeliner in one day like a high school scene queen, remember that using this look in your everyday style can easily go terribly wrong. This is a completely separate movement (if you can even call the scene/goth era a “movement”) in which you add ‘80s punk accents to your wardrobe in a tactful way. Let’s break it down.
As a blonde, I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but bleached hair is one way of approaching this look. The harsh contrast between practically white hair and black clothing encompasses that “idgaf” attitude of the 1980s. If you have dark hair and want to go blonde, then lucky you! Dark roots are great. Let them grow out about an inch or so but not much longer. If you already have dark hair and don’t want to fry your ends by coloring it, then first of all, you’re already smarter than I am for deciding not to do so. But second, adding asymmetry to your cut is another, less damaging option. Kudos if you want to go bold and shave an entire side of your head. If your job or major requires any sort of professionalism, however, just ask your hairdresser to add in some tapered layers and “choppiness” to your original style. In terms of volume (and I cannot begin to fathom how many girls on campus this tip applies to), do NOT straighten your hair so much that it looks PLASTERED to your head. Embrace volume! Fortunately, a big part of this look is appearing like you just rolled out of bed. Take this as an excuse to not damage your ends, and simply add some hairspray or mattifying powder to your natural tresses.
Don’t go crazy with the eyeliner, but keeping darkness in mind, utilize the “smoky eyes” application method with slightly darkened eyebrows. Do not restrict yourself to black; gray or even a dark purple can just as effectively capture the look. For everyday, extending your eyeliner a little beyond the outer corner of your upper eyelids works great. Bright red lipstick is another example of adding a harsh contrast, but I’m not going to advocate anyone wearing it to class. In the context of Columbia, I would avoid black lipstick entirely. Save it for your trip to Los Angeles or New York City. Do not apply any foundation color that strays ridiculously far from your natural skin tone. If you lose your tan in the winter, put the pale to use! It’ll make your lipstick and eye makeup pop that much more. But, avoid looking like a clown. You still want to look somewhat feminine and classy.
Depending on your willingness to take the time and get ready for class, you may or may not find yourself applying grunge or goth features to your regular style. Denim, high-waisted shorts (bedazzled with studs, if you can find them), black leggings, a simple tee and combat boots make for a practical combination.
An oversized T-shirt worn as a dress with slightly ripped leggings will add edge to your usual going-out look. Feel free to go crazy with your shoes; if you can find any with studs or intricate heels, even better. This is also the time to go all out with your makeup (remember: dark and smoky). Yes, your destination may only be Five Points, but pretend it’s Williamsburg in Brooklyn when deciding whether or not you want to apply that bold red lipstick or rock the oversized tee with a St. Peter’s cross on it.
Think crosses, taxidermy and just plain creepy. If you’re not exactly into sinister things like animal skulls, conservative, studded accessories work. Wear Latin or St. Peter’s crosses in the form of a rosary, attached to a simple chain or on a graphic dolman tee.
Please don’t take this advice too literally. Fashion rules are meant to be broken, but no one looks good in all black when it’s hot out. Keep this look in mind for February and March, and from then on, only incorporate hints of grunge influence. To sum things up one last time: DO. DON’T.