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What the F is Indie Sleaze?

Alright, gather ’round, my fellow Gen X warriors. Today, we’re dissecting a new trend that’s shaking up the fashion world with its revival—Indie Sleaze.

Listen, I lived through grunge. I wore the flannel, the baggy jeans with ripped-up knees. I had the “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me” vibe, and to a certain extent, I still do. But until about five minutes ago, I had never, ever thought of a fashion trend being called Sleaze. Alas, here we are. So let’s take a look at what this trend is and why, as a Gen X survivor, I don’t know if I am ready to embrace it.

What is Indie Sleaze?

Well, according to WhoWhatWear, Indie Sleaze is all about that messy, rebellious aesthetic that dominated the underground scene a decade ago. Think Alexa Chung, at her peak, paired with a soundtrack of early Arctic Monkeys and MGMT. It’s characterized by lived-in garments, leather, mini-skirts, and chunky boots. It’s the anti-polished look that screams “I woke up like this” and actually means it​ (WhoWhatWear)​​ (PureWow)​.

Indie Sleaze emerged in the late 2000s as a counter to the polished pop aesthetics of the time. It was a mash-up of Brooklyn hipster style, ’70s/’80s electro-rock influences, and a bit of grungy rebellion. Picture high-flash photography, messy hair, and fashion that looked like it was thrown together in the best way possible. Celebs like Kate Moss, Kristen Stewart, and the Olsen twins were icons of this look​ (InStyle)​​ (Byrdie)​​ (Wikipedia)​.

But, Why?

Blame it on a cultural yearning for the pre-social media innocence or just the cyclical nature of fashion. Whatever the reason, the grungy glory of Indie Sleaze is back, largely thanks to media like the movie “Saltburn” bringing those chaotic vibes to the forefront of pop culture again​ (WhoWhatWear)​. This revival is also driven by a backlash against the overly curated, clean aesthetics that dominated fashion in recent years. Gen Z, with their love for nostalgia and authenticity, are breathing new life into this messy, carefree style​ (InStyle)​​ (Wikipedia)​.

The Grunge Lifestyle

Before we get too deep into the resurgence, let’s rewind a bit and talk about the “grunge lifestyle” that Indie Sleaze often gets compared to. Grunge wasn’t just a fashion statement; it was an entire ethos, a way of life that embodied a rejection of mainstream values and aesthetics.

  • Music and Culture: Grunge was born out of the Seattle music scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden leading the charge. The music was raw, angsty, and a bit unpolished, reflecting the inner turmoil and rebellion of the youth at the time.
  • Fashion: Flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and worn-out boots were staples. It wasn’t about looking put together; it was about comfort and an “I don’t care” attitude. The goal was to look like you hadn’t tried at all—even though, let’s be honest, some effort was definitely involved.
  • Attitude: Grunge was all about rejecting the flashy, glam excesses of the ’80s. It was anti-commercial, anti-glamour, and embraced a more nihilistic, laid-back approach to life. It was cool to not care about being cool​ (Byrdie)​​ (PureWow)​.

So, I Guess My Question Is…

By having an aesthetic that is non-conforming or trying to embrace chaos to be rebellious, isn’t that the exact opposite of what wrapped us up in grunge? We didn’t spot a trend and say, “Hey, I am going to do the complete opposite.” We just did what felt real to us. This Indie Sleaze feels like people are walking into Hot Topic and coming out Punk Rockers…all window dressing.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think, reader? Are “Indie Sleazers” trying too hard to make themselves relevant? Sound off in the comments, or not, I don’t care.


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Danny is a visual storyteller who is always looking for the story that each scene is trying to tell and the secret that each person is trying to hide. Danny is a film geek and video game nerd who enjoys reading and listening to as much music as possible!

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