The Instagram account channelling 90s grunge culture

Run by a regular 25-year-old guy from South Carolina, this Frank Ocean-followed IG page will fill your feed with throwbacks to a time when Kurt Cobain was every sad teen’s idol.

by Douglas Greenwood
21 December 2020, 9:52am

Photo Lindsay Brice/Getty Images

Has there ever been a time when nostalgia felt as necessary as right now? As we reach the long-dragging tail-end of a pandemic that’s completely changed our culture, while simultaneously starving us of the juicy celebrity discourse that usually makes our days pass faster, we’ve returned to the past. Archives of materials from bygone eras have become sources of inspiration; the high-gloss tack of the 1990s feeling fruitier and more salacious than the mundane lives we all lead now. 

Chances are that anybody who's spent time on Depop or Instagram has seen the proliferation of 90s content unfold at breakneck speed over the past half-decade. But it all looks sort of similar, triggering the dopamine hits of happy times with an endless grid of Britney’s sparkly eyeshadow, post-divorce Diana, and Winona Ryder

The 1990s, as we know, represented something greater than that. It was the year grunge fully took hold; when Beavis and Butthead was everyone’s favourite TV show; when new cults, fearing the arrival of Y2K, were commonplace. It’s also the decade in which Kurt Cobain went from an unknown boy from Aberdeen, Washington to one of the most famous musicians in America. 

@1990archives, an Instagram account run by Brandon Kent, aims to re-establish the balance between overexposed pop culture and the underground grunge scene; one Brandon has been fascinated with since he was a kid. The account, which features more Björk than Britney and more heavy metal aesthetics than Spice Girls logos, has racked up over 50,000 followers, and counts the likes of Frank Ocean and some of the Brockhampton boys as fans. 

Here, Brandon unpacks the process behind the account’s creation, the way we channel nostalgia for eras we never lived through, and the figure his followers respond to most. 

Tell us a little about you, the person behind the account.
My name is Brandon Kent, and I’m 25 years old. I’m from middle-of-nowhere South Carolina. I always get questions like “Are you someone famous?” or “Are you related to someone famous?”, and the answer is no. I’m just a pretty normal guy in college, who works a normal job and just so happens to run a 90s grunge Instagram account that turned into all of this.

When did @1990archives start?
I made my first post in September 2018. On Instagram, I found plenty of 90s accounts that I thought were cool, but they were all similar, posting supermodels, greenery, and Polo ads. These never really intrigued me, so I came up with the idea to start an account focusing on the grunge era because I had never seen one before. I didn’t know at the time just how many other people were drawn to this era too.

How much does running the account shape your life? 
After consistently posting for over a year now, running the account has definitely become part of my everyday life. But I have never felt pressured to post a certain number of times or post specific content. I’ve refined the art of finding content, so sometimes it only takes me 30 minutes. I’ve found that if I have to search too long, I’m probably not going to find anything worth posting, so I never force it.

You were born halfway through the 1990s, and would've been five by the time they finished. Do you think you can experience nostalgia towards an era you can't remember?
I can’t say I am fully able to appreciate the nuances of 90s culture, but I can definitely be nostalgic towards it. I appreciate how authentic and vulnerable people were during that time. And although I was young, I still remember major pop and societal influences of the late 90s and early 2000s. This era shaped me into the person I am today, and I have such an appreciation for the rawness of it all.

What was it about this era, in culture and fashion, that you were drawn to in the first place?
Watching a lot of 90s movies sparked my fascination with the era. I started watching every 90s movie I could get my hands on because I was so intrigued; I had to learn more about what it was like, what trends came from where, and what it would have been like to be my current age at that time. My attraction to the 90s comes from the mystery of it, since I’m only able to look and see what took place during that time but not actually able to experience it.

When did you first notice the account was blowing up?
I’ve never thought my account was blowing up because it still feels small to me. But it started picking up momentum when more and more people who I looked up to started following me. That’s when I realised I started something pretty cool. Also, when Frank Ocean followed me I was like, ‘Wait hold on! Is this right?!’ Once I saw how many people I inspired to start their own accounts of their favourite eras from their perspectives, it was really eye-opening.

Is there a particular element or public figure that you're drawn to?
Kurt Cobain, which is probably very apparent looking at my account. I think my fascination with him didn’t actually start until I got older and began to realise what it meant to be your own person and to stay true to yourself. That’s what really drew me closer to him. In the 90s, there was no social media; no way to know what random people right next to you or on the other side of the world were doing, wearing, or saying. So I feel like it was really a time where people represented themselves and what they liked. Social media has killed originality in a way because it gives people a vehicle to present these false personas. Going back to the 90s, none of this media existed, so you had no other choice but to be yourself.

The 90s were a major fashion trend a few years ago. Do you think 'aesthetics' go through similar trend cycles, or are people more dedicated to personal mood boards and art inspirations than their wardrobes?
Yes, I feel like every “new” aesthetic is just reusing an old aesthetic but called something different by the people who just discovered it. Like the whole E-Girl and E-Boy aesthetic that’s taking TikTok by storm is just the Scene era from the 2000s-2010s. Every aesthetic gets a resurgence, then younger kids find it for the first time and want to emulate it.

What era do you think people don't spend enough time focussing on?
I feel like the early 2010s are underappreciated, but I may be a little biased because I was growing up during this time. I recently saw a TikTok about “What it was like to be a teenager in the 2010s” and it was a pretty iconic time looking back on it. I think it might be a little too recent right now to revisit, but young people will definitely be looking back at this time in its entirety a few years from now.

Follow @1990archives on Instagram, then follow i-D on Instagram and TikTok too.

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