Drug use and addiction are severe, pervasive problems around the U.S. and the world. Unfortunately, while the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic that’s ravaging lives and killing people from all walks of life, many outlets glamorize drug use.
For example, movies and television shows often portray drug use in much less damaging ways than what it really is.
The glamorization of drug use in the fashion world that in the 90s it had its own terminology which was “heroin chic.”
It’s unfortunate that drugs become glamorized because they destroy lives and cause death, but what exactly was the heroin chic movement, and who were the heroin chic models that personified the term?
In the years before the heroin chic movement, models were seen as healthy and vibrant, such as Cindy Crawford, but in the mid-90s the heroin chic look was meant to be a pushback against the supermodel look of the early 90s.
The heroin chic look was reflective of other things going on culturally in the U.S. First, heroin had become purer, and it was more commonly used because it was also less expensive than it had been in previous years. It was also a different time because heroin no longer was exclusively injected, and instead, it was more commonly snorted, which reduced a lot of the previous stigma associated with the drug.
Heroin was also becoming seen as an increasingly middle-class drug, whereas in past years it had been more associated with lower class communities. It wasn’t just middle-class drug users that were making heroin use more mainstream—it was also becoming popularized among wealthy people.
In the mid-90s the use of heroin wasn’t just portrayed in fashion. It was also being looked at in movies like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting.
There was something else that contributed to heroin chic, as well and that was the grunge music scene, which was initially a subculture launched in Seattle. One of the common threads among many grunge musicians was the use of heroin.
Some of the musicians that were associated with both grunge and heroin use included Courtney Love and Scott Wieland. While Love and Wieland survived, other musicians like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana weren’t so lucky. It’s believed Cobain was using heroin when he ultimately killed himself with a shot to the head.
The concepts driving the grunge scene were about self-loathing and depression, and the idea of cocaine use was that it allowed people to withdraw and escape from society.
All of these societal factors culminated in the coining of the heroin chic term.
One of the most famous heroin chic models was Kate Moss, who became known for her extremely thin and waif-like figure.
Other models known for having the heroin chic look included Jaime King and Jodie Kidd. These models were all incredibly thin, and almost angular, and they tended to have the grunge look that was popular at the time as well.
Calvin Klein campaigns were among the most well-known examples of the heroin chic look being used, and most of the famous heroin chic models posed in these campaigns.
Along with the heroin chic models of the time, there were certain figures that were central to the movement as well. One example was the young fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti. He died at the age of 20, and he was a photographer that was specifically known for capturing models who not just looked heroin chic, but often who were on heroin at the time.
When he died, most would say the idea of heroin chic did as well. After Sorrenti’s death, there was a movement toward more healthy models such as Gisele.
Hollow eyes and bones that seemed to protrude were also common with the heroin chic look, and hair was thin and fine.
The heroin chic look was all about seeming unhealthy, extraordinarily thin and on drugs. The models were edgy, and they didn’t look like they took care of themselves. It was very much the opposite of the supermodel look of the 80s and early 90s.
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