The lasting legacy of Nirvana

Bella Perez

April marked 30 years since the death of Kurt Cobain and the subsequent end of Nirvana. I first became aware of Nirvana in middle school. As a self-proclaimed emo in 2016, stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s were a sacred place for my angsty middle school self.

Browsing these stores for pop culture and band tees exposed me to a black shirt with a bright yellow smiley face. I would quickly become very familiar with that iconic logo and the music that came with it.

It seems Nirvana has been inescapable ever since. Even if you don’t know much about Nirvana chances are you’ve heard a song, know what Kurt Cobain looks like, or at the very least have seen a shirt adorned with that smiley face on it.

I feel there is a divide between those who know Nirvana as the band and then some who just know them because of their shirts. People on Tik Tok take this idea as far as to joke about how Nirvana is their favorite clothing brand. And the idea of gatekeeping and people’s protectiveness over something they love is really what prompted me to write this. I work at Altar’d State, a faith-based clothing store at the Mall, and I found it very interesting when we began selling Nirvana t-shirts. And it’s not to say that people who shop at our store can’t simultaneously be fans of Nirvana, but the aesthetic of our store and the band just don’t match.

The iconic Nirvana logo

This is really when I realized how this band has achieved something I feel not many other bands have been able to do, which is to be musical icons but also pop culture icons separately appealing to two demographics. I think it is very telling that kids and teens born twenty plus years after the ending of Nirvana are still talking about and repping this bands merch. Whether you agree with 10-year-olds wearing their neon pink Nirvana sweatshirts I think it’s undeniable proof that this band has made a cultural impact that has yet to slow down.

Instead of being so critical of younger generations for wearing band tees of older bands we can really see this as a good thing. With people still getting exposed to these bands it allows their legacy to live on much longer than the band themselves may be around.We focus so much on protecting what we love from people we don’t think it aligns with but if anything they are just carrying out a lasting legacy. Truth be told, if I hadn’t seen that black and yellow t-shirt eight years ago, who knows if I ever would have gotten curious and started listening to Nirvana.

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