In Bullied Teen, Family, Teens

What Does it Mean to be Emo?

Youth subculture has drastically changed from the days of rockers, punks and mods. Self-expression amongst young people has given rise to all sorts of new social groupings and subcultures. One such group is something known as Emo. Emos have a distinctive style of clothing and music taste. Read on to find out more about what it means to be an Emo!


Where Did Emo Come From?

The Emo subculture was originally an offshoot of the US punk-rock scene. American punk-rock took the anarchic elements of British punk and fused them with a more melodic, radio friendly sound. Emo differed from its punk-rock routes with a focus on emotive topics.

By the year 2000 the Emo scene had gone global. The music acted as a vehicle for the clothing, fashion, style and outlook that defined the scene. By around 2010 the movement lost its impetus and began to withdraw.

To outsiders there seemed to be an overt emphasis on angst, self-harm, sadness and depression. Black clothing with cartoonish horror-imagery is also associated with the scene. As with most counter-culture movements, tattoos and piercings are also linked with it.

While the above is the public perception of Emo, many of these characteristics were actually adopted after it went mainstream. Early Emo fashion tended much more towards a clean-cut geek chic look. Thick-rimmed classes, V-necks and fitted dress shirts were the original uniform of the Emo fan. The clothing and style of bands like Jimmy Eat World exemplified this.


What Does Emo Mean?

Emo simply means emotional music. The youth culture associated with it is equally concerned with the emotional aspect of life. Brian Bailey of the University of Rochester describes the importance of this:


“For many youth, Emo subculture facilitates identity formation, social interactions, and emotional involvement. It is a place where many adolescents share their experiences about the world and express their feelings about life through music.”

This identification contributed to both the success and the eventual demise of the movement. Those outside the scene often found this emphasis on emotions to be melodramatic, making fans an easy target for ridicule and derision.


Women In The Emo Scene

The Emo movement has come under criticism for its lack of female icons or role models. Whilst the scene and fashion of Emo had huge amounts of female fans at its peak, there were relatively few female acts or artists. Despite being in the minority, there have numerous female celebrities associated with mainstream Emo, perhaps most notably Avril Lavigne and Amy Lee.

Mainstream Emo fashion for women has many crossovers with Goth fashion. Black clothing, heavily styled hair, dark eyeliner and occult imagery where carried over from the Goth scene, if watered down somewhat.


What Do Emos Look Like?

Emo, as stated above, was originally associated with a clean-cut, geek chic clothing style. Writing on the rise of the subculture in Hawaii in 2002, Paula Rath pointed out:

Goth it is not. […] Goth is characterized by head-to-toe black punctuated with piercings […] This is a far cry from hip-hop, too. While hip-hop features the baggiest pants manageable, emo duds are decidedly form-fitting. No grunge, either: A more clean-cut look is hard to imagine.

Fitted jeans, Converse or Adidas shoes, messenger bags or satchels, buttoned shirts and dyed black hair were all typical features of this early Emo style. However, as the movement went mainstream, the fashion changed too. Black clothing, hoodies especially, became the norm. Black eyeliner, vintage band t-shirts, studded belts and patterns with sculls or stars are all associated with the mainstream Emo movement.


What Society Thinks

The Emo movement has not had wholly positive connotations for those outside the movement. The stereotype of an Emo includes teenage angst, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Withdrawn shyness and introversion are also often assumed. These assumptions are not entirely untrue, and this image became heavily compounded with the rise of later Emo bands such as My Chemical Romance, who played up this image.

The target audience of these bands were, as teens, already a high-risk demographic for suicide, so it was only a matter of time before tragedies were to be associated with the content and imagery of the Emo scene. This issue was thrown into the spotlight by the suicide of Hannah Bond, a dedicated My Chemical Romance fan who appeared to glamorize self-harm and suicide through her social media.


Emo in Mainstream

Emo has found its way into mainstream society. There are many celebrities who’s personal styles could be seen as influenced by the Emo movement. For example Jonny Depp and Tim Burton. These two, who have often worked together on movies, are often derivative of the mainstream Emo movement.

Avril Lavigne is another prime example of an Emo celebrity. She is not afraid to use past emotional events to writer her music. Drawing from a series of failed relationships, Lavigne makes a case for the broken heart and has created songs that have helped many get past personal heart break. Demi Lovato, former Disney sweetheart, is also considered Emo. Not only is she considered Emo for her very personal lyrics, but also because she struggled with self-harming and eating disorders. She is now a strong supporter or all those that are struggling with their own demons.


Emos And Bullying

Whenever someone looks different, by choice or not, they are a likely victim for bullying. During the height of mainstream Emo various articles were written about Emos and bullying. Sam Leeson, a teen in the UK, took his own life in 2008 after being bullied online for adhering to the Emo fashion. Some people feel that the media have enabled the bullying of Emos by propagating negative stereotypes of Emo culture. On the other hand, the subculture could be seen as equipping those who would already be likely targets for bullying with the emotional tools to handle it and to express themselves.


Teens will always find a way to feel unique whilst also being part of a tribe or subculture. This is often just a part of growing up. Adults can find this challenging especially then the subculture contains things that seem strange, new and unusual. However, being allowed to explore new ideas, identities and styles can help children find themselves. By being on the lookout for bullying in all its forms we can make a safe environment for everyone to be who they want to be.

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Comment Here


  • Dessi Sardonis
    Jun 25, 2015 at 04:26 am

    I am a emo

  • Dessi Sardonis
    Nov 02, 2015 at 02:34 am

    I am a emo

  • Danny Wilson
    Feb 18, 2016 at 06:18 am

    This Isn’t at all what emos are, they’re actually fun, nice, only to other emos, society can suck It

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