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Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobainvia HBO Documentary Films/‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’

This Instagram account excavates the world of 90s grunge culture

@1990 archives is a time capsule of icons and ephemera from the decade’s counter-cultural underbelly

@1990archives is the Instagram account chronicling the grunge culture of the 1990s. Featuring icons of this era-defining movement as well as more peripheral but nonetheless influential reference points, it’s a comprehensive time capsule of grunge and grunge-adjacent cultural moments. Expect to encounter Kurt Cobain, Beavis and Butt-Head, and MTV ephemera alongside Monica Lewinsky, and early iterations of Apple Mac technology. 

The account, which now has almost 70k followers, was created by Brandon Kent when he struggled to find Instagram accounts devoted to the aspects of 90s culture that particularly interested him. He tells Dazed, “Most 90s accounts I saw were full of supermodels, high fashion ads, and paparazzi shots. So I got the idea to start a 90s account about the grunge era and what I’m interested in posting.”

Despite only having being born midway through the 90s, the 26-year-old found an affinity with the era and felt nostalgia for a time that pre-dated the homogenising influence of the internet. He tells Dazed, “At that time, if you were goth it was because it genuinely resonated with you. There was no internet or social media to show you what’s cool at the moment or even shed a light on similar people.” 

Below, we talk to Brandon Kent about his 90s idols, the allure of grunge, and his hopes for the future of his rapidly growing Instagram account.

Please could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Brandon Kent: My name is Brandon Kent and I’m 26. I’m from the US and I was born in Georgia but I currently live in South Carolina. I don’t know what I’m doing right now, I’m still trying to figure life out and my path as a creative, but while all of that is going on, I run an Instagram account dedicated to the 90s grunge era. I like to think of my account as a showcase as if I was a current day photographer from the 90s sharing all of my work on Instagram. 

How did your fascination with this era begin? What was it about this decade that you found so alluring?

Brandon Kent: I think my fascination began when I was younger. I’ve always had an interest in pop culture, music, and movies. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I started to do my research and digging into the 90s, which led me to want to know more about the grunge scene specifically. 

I think what drew me to this era is how authentic everyone had to be, you didn’t have social media to see what the next person had going on. You were only concerned about yourself and your friends and what you thought was cool among them. I think the authenticity and the newness – even though I know that nothing under the sun is new, but I mean new at the time in the 90s and also new to me because I wasn’t there – that’s what got me to do my research and want to find out as much as possible.

How would you describe the 1990s grunge style? And who, for you, were the icons of that movement? 

Brandon Kent: Two words that came to mind first are ‘carefree’ and ‘authentic’ because I feel like at the time that if you were goth it was because it genuinely resonated with you. There was no internet or social media to show you what’s cool at the moment or even shed a light on similar people. So when you chose to be goth, it wasn’t because of a TikTok trend, it was you being your authentic self. Also, many things that are considered cool now weren’t cool then, so you were ultimately going against the norm. 

I focus on Kurt Cobain, Björk, and Aphex Twin a lot, but it’s mainly because their styles are so timeless. A lot of things they were doing and creating are still being used as references to this day by a lot of creatives. All three of these people are icons, in my opinion. When your impact can transcend generations and still inspire people to this day, that’s iconic.

Your account has nearly 70k followers now! Can you share with us the story of how it began and how it become so huge? 

Brandon Kent: I started the account because I noticed a lot of 90s Instagram accounts which I thought were excellent, but I could never really find one that posted the side of the 90s I was interested in seeing more of. Most 90s accounts I saw were full of supermodels, high fashion ads, and paparazzi shots. So I got the idea to start a 90s account about the grunge era and what I’m interested in posting. I never thought this many people would be interested in the grunge scene as well. 

In the beginning, I made the account just for fun, just randomly posting things that surrounded the grunge era. After a while, I started to gain followers slowly. Still, it wasn’t until I met someone who is a big deal in the creative and fashion world via Instagram that it played a huge hand in my growth. Then, in the space of the next month, I had 12k followers, which might not sound like a lot but 500 to 12k is pretty significant for a small creator like myself. 

Gaining this attention and with the help I got, it got me in front of many influential people I’ve looked up to and admired. Which led me to work with some of them on their projects. I’m super grateful for the opportunities Instagram has bought me.

As a 25-year-old, you were born right in the midsts of the 90s and probably have very few memories of the decade itself. Why do you think people are so prone to feel an affinity with bygone eras they’ve not experienced directly? 

Brandon Kent: I think the obsession comes from looking at almost every aspect of something that you’ll never be able to experience, but you can look back on it at any point in time through photos, films, and documentaries. Still, physically being there is something we will never get to feel. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards things we can’t have, and experiencing a bygone era is something we will never fully get. 

Kurt Cobain is a recurring presence in your feed. What does he mean to you as a cultural signifier?

Brandon Kent: To me, he was the spearhead of an entire wave that is still very strong and present to this day. Kurt Cobain had many significant influences from other artists that he looked up to, like Pixies, who he openly spoke about trying to rip off. The Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth also played a significant role in Nirvana’s rise to fame, which played a part in him becoming one of the most influential people ever. 

He was way ahead of his time from the things he wore and created but, I mean, we all knew that. Without him, we wouldn’t have all the great artists who looked to him as inspiration today. He signifies some who wasn't afraid to be themselves and express how they feel. He’s the foundation that the grunge era was built on.

Looking back with hindsight at this bygone era, what do you think were the big moods of the day? And why do you think they continue to resonate? 

Brandon Kent: I think it still resonates today because the music evokes real emotions and people will connect with it whether it came out yesterday or ten years ago. People relate to authenticity, which many people felt like music was lacking in the 70s and 80s with pop and disco. 

When you listen to the lyrics of grunge music, these guys are pouring their hearts out about topics that most people would have a hard time sharing with the world, like addiction and suicidal thoughts. Many people go through these same issues. Or, if not these same things, you can still feel the raw emotions these guys convey in their music.

If you had to select one image from your IG feed that you think most typifies your account and the aspects of the 1990s you celebrate, which would it be and why? 

Brandon Kent: I think this photo (above) pretty much sums up the aspect of the 90s. I celebrate the grunge movement because it was all about creativity and artistic expression. The image almost speaks for itself – being bold, colourful, and creative. 

This photo was a part of Nirvana's booklet for In Utero, in which Nirvana represent all things 90s and grunge. The picture encompasses my account because it’s also it’s all about sharing those creative highlights from the 90s grunge era. 

How do you hope the account will develop? Having already done a high-profile takeover for Diesel, which other brands would you love to collaborate with? 

Brandon Kent: I want to continue working with brands and expand to start creating things that live outside of Instagram. I would love to get into creative direction, photography, and videography. I’d love to do more work with brands and music artists. And working on my clothing brand or working with a brand in collaboration would also be something I'm looking to do in the future. Collaborating with fashion bootlegger Ava Nirui (AKA @avanope) would be top of the list.

Follow @1990archives for more dispatches from the 1990s