A standard pair of Levi’s typically fetches around $80, making it quite astonishing that a worn and torn pair from the iconic American brand recently sold at auction for nearly half a million dollars. What adds to the intrigue is that these are not just any jeans; they once belonged to Kurt Cobain and have now found a new home with one of the Nirvana frontman’s avid admirers. Given the cultural significance of Cobain and influential bands like Sonic Youth and Hole during the emergence of the grunge movement in the early ’90s, distressed denim became a defining element of the era, worn both on stage and on the red carpet. This specific pair accompanied the musician from the evocative Anton Corbijn-directed “Heart-Shaped Box” video to the 1994 MTV Movie Awards and a stage performance at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. Customized by Cobain and his friends, the jeans featured sewn-on floral panels at the hems, with additional patches reportedly applied by Babes in Toyland drummer Lori Barbero.
Despite an initial auction house estimate of $10,000 for the jeans, the final bid astonished many. In addition to this legendary denim, other items went under the hammer, including a pack of Cobain’s preferred American Spirit cigarettes—somewhat morbidly salvaged from his rehab facility room—which sold for $5,200, not far from the cost of a cigarette box in post-Brexit Britain. Among the auctioned items were a fuzzy yellow argyle cardigan and the top-selling lot—a Fender Mustang guitar played by Cobain at his final 1994 gig and nearly every night of Nirvana’s In Utero tour. The guitar fetched an impressive $1.58 million, although it fell short of the $6 million achieved by his MTV Unplugged guitar in 2020.