What is Emo?
I hear this question all of the time. Most of the time it’s people who are 30+ that don’t know the answer. So, for those of you who are still in the dark about what the word ‘emo’ means, I’ll shed some light on the subject.
The word ‘emo’ is short for emotion. Basically, emo people consider themselves to be more in tune or expressive of their emotions than normal people. Typically, emo people are perceived to be angsty or depressed, but this isn’t always the case, and unfortunately this perception has led to one of the many bad stereotypes that emos have been branded with over the years.
Emo started to become a trend in the early 2000s. Emo is a meshing of the punk and goth cultures with a twist, gathering its music influences more from the punk side of things and the fashion style more from the gothic side of things. In the beginning, it’s believed that many of the first emos were originally gothic (including myself).
Emo music hits a wide spectrum of different sounds, from soft pop sounding music to hardcore screamo. Some of the most popular emo bands of all time include Hawthone Heights, My Chemical Romance, and The Dashboard Confessional. Emo music is primarily known for having highly emotional lyrics that typically address the issues of lifelong love, heart break, and suicidal thoughts.
Emo fashion plays a huge part in the emo culture. One of the most recognizable symbols of emo fashion is the side swooping bang that covers one eye. Skinny jeans also play a huge role in the emo wardrobe. The rest of the dress style is typically vintage looking. Other popular emo fashion trends include: messenger bags, eyeliner on guys, lip piercings, hip piercings, generally skin tight clothing, Converse All Stars, and flat ironed hair.
Unfortunately, emos have gotten a really bad rap in the past which has greatly contributed to the style’s decline. Some of the most popular stereotypes associated with the culture are discussed below.
- Being overly emotional - Teenage hormones ablaze, being ‘emo’ gave boys the excuss to cry around their peers, a form of emotional expression for males that’s typically been looked down upon throughout human history. While some looked at this as an advantage, other outsiders saw this as a weakness. And of course, there are a few drama kinds/queens that killed it for everyone.
- Always being depressed or suicidal - This kind of ties in with being overly emotional. Emos have a pretty bad stigma for being depressed for no good reason. This is another thing that I think was largely brought on by over active teenage hormones and dealing with the struggles of finding a place in life. In my opinion, society does a poor job of teaching parents how to cope with their childrens changing bodies. A lack of understanding of the physiological and psychological changes in the human body has given a lot of emos a good reason to be depressed as their parents push pills down their throats or send them to psychiatrists in an attempt to get out of their parental duties of handling emotional changes in their children as they grow and develop from adolescence into adulthood. It also doesn’t help that a lot emo kids, like many other smaller niches, tend to get bullied at school. This has led to an uprise in teenage suicide over the years as many children and teens are unable to find a way to cope. Serious stuff, and if you couldn’t tell by how long this paragraph is, something that I could easily turn into a blog post all on its own. Anyway, moving on . . .
- Self harming – Self harming is definitely the most negative emo stereotype that has helped to cut back on the masses of people referring to themselves as emo. Unfortunately, when the emo style first emerged, self harming seemed to be part of the trend, raising concern for parents all over the world. While not every emo was/is a self harmer, there were enough who were that caused this horribly negative stereotype to stick.
- Writing poetry - Emo people are thought of to be of the artsy type. Many emos have been know to express their emotions, both positive and negative, through writing poetry.
- Tight pants – The big negative with this one was when guys started wearing girls jeans because there weren’t many manufacturers of skinny jeans when the trend first emerged. Now a days, however, skinny jeans are the in thing for quite a few fashion trends, so there are now less emo guys raiding their sister’s closets. lol
- Guys wearing make up – So damn sexy, I think. While some people who believe in the negativity of this stereotype believe that emo guys go full blown with the make up, the truth is that most emo guys (the ones who wear make up, most don’t wear make up at all) typically only wear eye liner and occasionally eye shadow. I don’t care who you are, eye liner makes the eyes stand out. So if a guy has beautiful eyes (I can think of quite a few that do), why not accentuat them.
- Bisexuality – For a long time, being emo almost always meant being bisexual. The emo culture promotes open sexual expression and provides many people with an outlet to test their sexual preferences.
- Flat ironed hair with a side swooping bang – Another popular emo stereotype is the hair style. This really hasn’t changed too much, though there are now a variety of other hairstyles that are also considered to be emo.
- Dying your hair black – In the beginning, if you were emo, you dyed your hair black. That was pretty much all there was to it. Now a days, emo hair styles come in all flavors of colors, though black is still widely popular.
Unfortunately, the negative stereotypes associated with being emo have caused many people to shun the word. Today, many emo people have switched over to calling themselves ‘scene’. However, some would debate that emo is now the clothing style and scene is what the culture itself is actually called.
This theory has changed and evolved over time. For example, a few years ago, ‘scene’ was a different breed on its own. Scene kids were basically emo kids who dyed their hair platinum blonde instead of black and were a large part of the local music scene, which is where the term ‘scene’ originated from. Today, both styles have migrated into being called the same thing.
Many believe that the emo culture is on its way out the door. As more and more abandon the label, the rapid decline indicates that emo may be coming to an end. However, punks and goths have been around for quite a long time and I don’t forsee those trends ever going away. Hopefully this one will linger around as well, no matter what name it turns into.
If you have a question you would like to Ask an Emo, please post it below. I will be answering questions in the order that they are received.
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