The word grunge comes from the adjective grungy, which originated in about 1965 as a slang term for “dirty” or “filthy.”
“Grunge clothing” (worn by “grunge musicians”) consists of thrift store items and typical Northwest outdoor clothing (like flannel shirts). Over all, the INTENT is to have a generally unkempt [sloppy] appearance.
The style was never an attempt at creating “appealing” fashion. Music journalist Charles R. Cross said that Kurt Cobain (a grunge musician) was “just too lazy to shampoo”! Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman said, “This clothing … runs against the grain of the whole flashy aesthetic that existed in the 80’s.”
So, let me get this straight, the goal of grunge is to have a generally sloppy appearance that “runs against the grain” of the rest of society. In other words, the purpose is to bother other people. In. Your. Face. And let’s suppose your grunginess doesn’t get the desired adverse reaction? Then, more extreme grunginess must be in order? Right?
So, meet Mark Johnson. Is this man a poster boy for GRUNGE?
On the other hand, if this man’s appearance IS “appropriate” to his job, what might you guess his job is?
Most jobs and work places have a dress code. Many places expect their employees to wear a “uniform” of some type whereby the public can thus determine at a glance what the employee does. Firemen, policemen, nurses, lab technicians, etc. can often be identified as such by their clothing.
What a person wears also conveys his self-image as well as his attitude towards others. Someone who is neat and clean, and appropriately attired for the job or the occasion, usually feels appropriately self-confident. In response, other people in the setting usually react favorably toward that person.
However, a person who purposely and consistently goes “against the grain” is commonly (and understandably) regarded as a person with a bad attitude, or one who is disrespectful. And sometimes not very likeable. Or bright.
Mark Johnson is complaining that his employer has recently mandated a strict dress code which he thinks is unfair and narrow minded. For one thing, he is expected to wear clothing that hides the tattoos that completely cover his forearms. He is expected to be a "role model" and look more “professional.”
Mark Johnson’s job?
Would you believe high school English teacher?
Well, you might say, it depends on WHERE he teaches high school that determines whether his current appearance is appropriate or not. Maybe if he lives and works in an inner-city school plagued with gang members, he might NEED to look like this to SCARE some of his scarier students.
But, do you think his appearance is appropriate for English teachers in the average high school in Utah?
If you said yes, is it because our standards have slipped that much? Or because our culture has been co-opted?
For all his protestations that his tattoos reflect his culture, I don’t think a long sleeve shirt is going to kill him or hurt his culture. I think the truth is he likes shocking people. He protests that his appearance is “teaching” people to not be judgmental. I think this rationale may actually betray an over-riding “in your face” attitude.
This is the role that he is actually “modeling.”
Personally, I think the media has made entirely too much of the issue of the tattoos.
But, what about the grungy looking hair? What about the sloppy attire? If he had no tattoos, would his appearance then be “professional” enough? Without the tattoos, but with the dread locks and the sloppy clothing is he a "role model"?