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15 Must-Have Items for an Edgy, Rocker-Chic Wardrobe (Plus 45+ Outfit Ideas!)

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Rocker chic header
Photo Credits: 1. Pacific Coast News 2. Pacific Coast News 3. ELLE 4. Pacific Coast News

Another week means another wardrobe essentials list and today’s post features a style that I hold very near and dear to my heart.

Rocker-chic wardrobes are sexy, free, badass, and just a little unexpected. Gone are the days of baggy, frumpy grunge costumes or ghoulish caked-on Gothic makeup. Nowadays, fashionistas who like to wear a rock-and-roll aesthetic mix fresh faces with one dramatic feature, then mash up oversized tees and jackets with skin-tight pants and high ankle boots.

One of my favorite modern rocker fashion idols is Demi Lovato. I love how she wears tons of studs, spikes, and leather, but softens it all up with glamorous hair and makeup. Demi also frequently incorporates retro elements into her look, from ’80s Madonna-esque jewelry to ’40s pin-up girl hair. Zoe Kravitz is another awesome example – the way she mixes street chic staples with one or two edgy pieces is totally inspiring.

You know the drill — let’s get right to the list!

(If edgy rocker-chic isn’t your style, check out our posts on street-style staples, classic and traditional basics, sophisticated feminine preppy pieces, boho-chic items, and electro-urban essentials.)

1. Black Skinny Jeans

Black jeans
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Whether you prefer coated, mineral-washed, shredded, or plain, you just can’t rock-and-roll without a trusty pair of skinny black pants. If the hem of your pants doesn’t hit right at your ankle, cuff them two and a half times to elongate your legs and show off your killer footwear.

  • For a fast and easy outfit that’s perfect for class, wear a pair of black skinny jeans with a (#12) concert tee, (#14) canvas sneakers, and a military-inspired anorak or utility jacket.
  • For a night on the town, black skinnies will look great with a pair of sky-high ankle boots, a party top, and a high ponytail. Finish with a cool (#6) cat eye or some smoky eye makeup.
  • Wear black skinny jeans with a white tunic top, a (#4) leather jacket or a boyfriend blazer, and a fantastic pair of boots.

2. Studded Boots

Studded boots
Clockwise from the top left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Every girl needs both knee-high and ankle boots in their closet, but a studded pair of boots will do wonders for giving your wardrobe an edgy vibe. As for what type to buy, it’s totally up to you! Whether you prefer flat boots, wedges, stilettos, knee-high, ankle-length, or somewhere in-between, they all look great in my book.

  • Wear studded boots with black leggings, a loose-fitting tee, and an oversized, distressed cardigan or (#15) denim jacket.
  • Roughen up a dainty dress with a pair of studded boots and a (#13) rock-chic hat.
  • Wear rocker boots with a pair of skinny jeans, a striped shirt, and a (#4) cropped leather jacket. Finish with an edgy multi-finger ring or other cool (#9) jewelry.

3. Shredded Denim Shorts

Frayed denim shorts
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Shredded, vintage-esque denim shorts were all the rage this summer, and – as all trendy girls know – they can last throughout the fall when worn over an opaque pair of black leggings or tights. The other great thing about shredded high-waist denim shorts? You can pick up a pair from a thrift shop and DIY the shreds!

  • For a cute and laid-back look, pair shredded denim shorts with a (#10) flannel shirt and (#14) canvas sneakers.
  • Wear denim shorts over opaque black tights and pair with (#2) studded boots, a tee, and a utility jacket.
  • These babies – especially the high-waisted varieties - look fantastic with (#12) concert tees tucked into them! Finish with tousled hair, (#8) combat boots, and a (#6) deep lip color.

4. A Cropped Leather Jacket

Leather jackets
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to score a fantastic-looking cropped leather jacket. In fact, mine is a faux leather version from Forever 21 that’s buttery soft and cut perfectly! Keep your eyes peeled for the perfect jacket and you’ll be glad you did.

  • Toughen up a lace, tulle, or floral dress with a cropped leather jacket. This also helps stretch your wardrobe through different seasons!
  • Leather jackets are fantastic layering pieces. Mix up a jacket and a simple pair of skinny jeans with a leopard blouse, a striped boatneck shirt, a (#10) flannel shirt, or a graphic tee. Add a scarf for bonus points!
  • Have a loud pair of harem or patterned skinnies that you aren’t sure how to style? Throw them on with a white v-neck and your trusty cropped leather jacket.

5. A Little Grunge Dress

Grunge dress
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Channel the ’90s and find yourself a versatile grunge-style dress. Look for skater cuts, floral patterns, or dresses made from lace or velvet.

  • I absolutely love the look of a dress with (#8) Dr. Marten combat boots. Add a (#13) signature hat for an extra dose of style.
  • Grunge dresses look fantastic with cropped denim vests and (#14) canvas sneakers.
  • Go all out and wear a grungy minidress with a pair of over-the-knee boots.

6. Rocker Chic Makeup

Rock makeup
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

The key to looking rock star chic is to not look like you’re trying too hard. That’s why when it comes to makeup, looking a little undone is all the rage. Go for black mascara and eyeliner, but keep the rest of your palette pretty neutral. Save the deep lipstick shades for surprise dramatic moments!

  • Urban Decay’s Naked Palette is a best-selling cult makeup item for a reason – it works perfectly for both day and night looks! Throw on nude-colored shadow for class, then layer on brown or gray tones to create a smokey eye for a night out on the town.
  • Hot pink lipstick will look fabulous with a (#3) leather jacket. Keep your eye makeup understated for maximum effect.
  • Cat-eye liner is a really cool shout-out to retro rockabilly pin-ups.

7. A Corset Top

Corsets
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Part of having a rocker-chic ensemble is looking sexy. Therefore, a corset top is a must-have, even if you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable showing a ton of your midsection.

Here are a few of my ideas to rock a corset without showing a ton of skin:

  • Pair a corset top with high-waisted jeans or shorts for extra coverage. Finish with huge (#11) sunglasses, and a cool kimono-style cardigan.
  • A corset top will look faboosh with a hi-lo skirt and a utility jacket.
  • Wear a corset with (#1) black skinny jeans and a chambray top layered over it, leaving it buttoned down halfway to let the corset peek through.

8. Dr. Martens

Dr martens
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

If there’s one item that you splurge on, make it a classic pair of Dr. Marten combat boots. I bought a hot pink pair of Docs almost two year ago, and I love them so much that I still wear them three or four times a month. Can’t bring yourself to drop that kind of cash? Don’t worry – there are tons of lookalikes out there too!

  • The heavy-soled, clunky nature of these boots makes them look fantastic juxtaposed against feminine pieces. Try them with a girly dress, a lace blouse, or a skater skirt.
  • One of my all-time favorite cozy winter outfits? Wear an oversized sweater (I prefer slightly dorky patterned versions from – shhh – the men’s section) with a pair of skinny jeans and your combat boots.
  • Pretend you’re Kurt Cobain for a day and throw on some Docs with (#1) black skinnies, a (#12) concert tee, and a (#10) flannel shirt layered on or tied around your waist.

9. Edgy Jewelry

Edgy jewelry
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Some well-stacked edgy jewelry can make all the difference in making your outfit look intentional and awesome rather than haphazard. Look for inexpensive jewelry from Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe with a heavy weight and don’t be afraid to layer several pieces at once.

  • My signature jewelry look is wearing lots of cool rings, so I have several knuckle rings, knuckle shields, two-finger rings, and more. Pick a piece that you love, and go crazy with it!
  • Leather wrap bracelets and chunky bangles have a rock-and-roll vibe to them. Look for ones with brass, copper, or gold embellishments.
  • Long, skinny earrings are a favorite of Demi Lovato and are flattering to every face shape.

10. A Flannel Shirt

Flannel shirts
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

If you don’t own a flannel shirt yet, stop what you’re doing and pick one up immediately! These babies are cozy, warm, and can be styled so many different ways. If you’re tight on cash, you’ll easily be able to find a good one at your local thrift store.

  • Tie a flannel shirt around your waist with a (#5) little grunge dress for an on-trend look.
  • A flannel shirt will look awesome when buttoned up and tucked into a bandage or hi-lo shirt and worn with (#14) canvas sneakers.
  • Wear a flannel with a (#4) leather jacket, scarf, skinny jeans, (#2) studded boots, and plenty of (#9) edgy jewelry.

11. Rock Star Sunglasses

Sunglasses
1, 2, 3, 4

Whether you stayed out late at a concert (or woke up super early to cram for an exam), every good rock-and-roll girl needs to have a huge pair of sunglasses readily available.

  • Ray Ban Wayfarers are classic and timeless, no matter what style you identify with. They look great with every face shape and are so thick and sturdy. Definitely worth the investment!
  • Aviators are another cool alternative. The cheap pairs from Walmart look just as good as designer styles!
  • I’ve been really into retro cat-eye sunglasses lately as well. Small round John Lennon-esque styles are fun, too.

12. Concert Tees

Concert tees
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Vintage-y (or, better, authentic original) concert t-shirts are a staple for girls with rock-and-roll style. The great thing is that they’re available everywhere – seriously, everywhere! From Gap to Forever 21 to Hot Topic to Target, you’ll never run out of inexpensive places to pick up band tees. Bonus points for rocking shirts you bought from concert merch booths!

  • Tuck a concert tee into a bandage skirt and finish with high-heeled (#2) studded boots.
  • Wear an oversized concert t-shirt with black leggings or (#1) skinnies and a boyfriend cardigan or blazer.
  • Wear a concert tee with a pair of harem pants and a (#13) signature hat.

13. A Signature Hat

Rocker hats
Clockwise from the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that my brain has much more tolerance for wearing hats than my body actually does. That doesn’t mean I’ll quit trying though. I love the look of a Panama, bowler, or Heisenberg-esque hat with, well, pretty much anything. Break out of your comfort zone and wear one today!

  • Bowler hats look great with t-shirts, (#5) grungy dresses, and (#4) leather jackets.
  • I love wide-brimmed Panama and Madrid-style hats with heavily layered outfits. Try one with a chambray shirt/(#4) leather jacket/scarf combo.
  • Beanies are a classic rocker-chic staple. For class, wear a beanie with a t-shirt, skinny jeans, a messenger bag, and (#14) canvas sneakers.

14. Canvas Sneakers

Canvas sneakers
Clockwise from the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

Converse, Keds, and Vans are among the comfiest shoes on the market and canvas shoes have such a cool, model-off-duty vibe to them. I love how you can style them to fit almost any aesthetic, but they’re especially crucial to rock-chic wardrobes.

  • Pair these suckers with skirts and dresses! You’ll look like the most stylish yet laid-back girl in the room.
  • Ankle-length canvas sneakers are extremely flattering for your legs and calves. They’ll look great with (#3) denim shorts, a (#10) flannel shirt, and a (#4) cropped leather jacket.

15.  A Denim Jacket

Denim jackets
From the left: 1, 2, 3, 4

I remember being in middle school, begging my mom for one of those cool denim jackets with Sherpa-esque lining on the collars and cuffs. Sure, the one I got was from Abercrombie, but nowadays that same style of jacket is incredibly cool in a rock-and-roll throwback sort of way. Get one minus the lining for maximum versatility.

  • Extend the seasonal life of a dress or skirt by wearing it with black opaque tights, (#2) studded boots, and a denim jacket.
  • A denim jacket will look awesome paired with leather-like black leggings or (#1) coated black skinnies, a (#12) concert tee or tunic, a scarf, and a (#13) signature hat. Finish with (#6) cool makeup.
  • In middle school, I used to pin pieces of flair to my jean jackets. Do the grown-up version of this and attach cool vintage brooches or patches instead!

What Do You Think?

Do you identify with rocker chic style? What items on this list do you have? What’s on your wish list? Is there anything we left out? How do you like to wear the pieces on this list? What other styles would you like to see CF cover?

Let’s keep this discussion going, girls…leave a comment and let’s chat!

Posted on on October 10, 2013 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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21 Responses to “15 Must-Have Items for an Edgy, Rocker-Chic Wardrobe (Plus 45+ Outfit Ideas!)”

  1. 1
    October 10th, 2013 at 9:15 am

    This is pretty much the entirety of my wardrobe. Apart from Doc Martens…they are not flattering on short people.

  2. 2
    October 10th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Can you do/have you done a must have list for a preppy wardrobe?

  3. 3
  4. 4
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I love this essentials series. I hope I’m not the only one who falls into more than one category of these styles

  5. 5
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Leah, you’re not the only one! I’ve been taking inspiration from all of the posts and making a shopping list with pieces from all of the styles. Obviously my outfits are all over the place, but I don’t like being defined :)

  6. 6
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:32 am

    @ Leah and Claire, I take elements from all the different styles I’ve written about too! I like to look a little unexpected every day…

    Glad you enjoy the series! I’m taking a break for a couple weeks to write about halloween costume ideas, but I’ll be back with a few more lists after that!

  7. 7
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    This is basically my wardrobe-so glad there CF decided to make a post on my style :)

  8. 8
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:46 am

    This is hands down my favourite article ever on CF! I thought the street style one was very me, but this one basically describes everything in my closet to a tee! Awesome work Chelsea!

  9. 9
    October 10th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I just love these lists! They’re always so inspiring! :)

  10. 10
    October 10th, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    leah and claire i can totally relate. I always have problems when it comes defining my style. But i really love rocker-chic and i tend to tilt towards it most of the time

  11. 11
    October 11th, 2013 at 12:08 am

    IN LOVE!!!!!!!

    only thing I think is missing is wild patterned black tights.

  12. 12
    October 11th, 2013 at 12:54 am

    I love the high waisted shorts trend, but I feel like only women who are a size two can actually pull it off (and I’m a size eight.) Does anyone have advice for which styles I should go for–or how to feel more comfortable in them?

  13. 13
    October 11th, 2013 at 10:40 am

    @Anne- Totally wear them, especially if your curvier. (Im a curvy size 6) I actually get them at Urban Outfitters specifically by BDG because they have a more generous waist/butt ratio. They are kinda pricey but the fit is totally worth it.

    In general, I try to make sure there is stretch in them.

  14. 14
    October 12th, 2013 at 12:25 am

    @chelsea I wonder if rustic is a type of style, maybe equestrian or southern…hmm I don’t know. I would love an essentials for that I wear lots of boots, button downs, plaids and casual tops.

  15. 15
    October 13th, 2013 at 4:44 am

    This has actually been the best post I’ve ever read about rock chic, and I’ve been searching for something like this for months! Than you CF, xoxo :)

    PS What about a tutorial for hot red lips or cat eyes?

  16. 16
    October 14th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Love all the essentials lists…;) I can relate to all of them except the boho one…

    What about intern and working girl essentials? Lately I’ve been going out of town and don’t wanna pack too much but still wanna look professional.

  17. 17
    January 9th, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Hola! I’ve been following your weblog for a while now and finally got the
    bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Texas!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic work!

  18. 18
    February 2nd, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Wow, thanks so much for this article! I’ve been struggling with my wardrobe and I love the punky rocker style but I want to look put together. This is perfect!

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