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What is Emo Fashion?

By Kerrie Main
Updated May 21, 2024
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Emo is a style of music that originated in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s and is a combination of pop punk and indie rock. The name “emo” is short for “emotional hardcore.” More than just music, emo is used to describe a particular fashion style popular with the emo subculture — typically teenagers. Emo fashion usually includes tight T-shirts, hoodies, skinny jeans, sneakers, punk accessories and specific hair and makeup styles.

Most emo outfits include a band T-shirt that is often wore tightly. The band has to be considered “cool,” which means it should be an emo band or a band that emo fashion followers think is ironic, such as Journey. The T-shirts are usually short-sleeved and paired with hoodies, another name for sweatshirt jackets. The hoodie should have the name of an emo band, skulls or stars on it or be in a plain, dark color. In emo fashion, hoodies are acceptable year round, no matter the climate.

One of the most important aspects of emo fashion is skinny jeans. These types of jeans are tight from the hips to the ankles, and males can wear girls’ jeans. The goal is that jeans should look painted to the legs, and they can be dark indigo, black or even bright colors, but never the color of regular blue jeans. Black Converse sneakers or skate shoes, such as Vans, are the common shoe choice in emo fashion. Females can wear black buckle shoes, but the main key is to wear simple, flat shoes.

Emo fashion includes many fashion accessories, such as fingerless gloves, studded bracelets, studded leather belts and backpacks or totes with emo band logos. Many people add pins to them. Males and females often wear thin, long and striped scarves to complete an outfit. Multiple ear piercings are part of the trend, and many males wear thick black horn-rimmed glasses, as well.

Hair is an integral part of emo fashion, and the main look is straightened, black hair with long bangs. The bangs usually are swept to the side and cover one or both eyes. Many people add blue, pink or bleached-blond chunky highlights to their hair. Both males and females usually wear black eyeliner in emo fashion, with males creating a smudged look and females wearing straight, clean lines on the top and bottom eyelids. Both sexes also sport black nail polish on chipped nails to compete the overall emo look.

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Discussion Comments
By DentalFloss — On Sep 29, 2011

@elizabeth23- I agree, while people can dress how they want, the people I knew who were really into this music or other music types dressed however they wanted. And while I wore a lot of black in high school too, even now I do, though I never dressed quite like this description of emo, though I listened to a lot of it. Just remember that not everyone's definition of a type of fashion will be the same, or should be. I knew people in high school who were very vocal about what "real" emo, punk, or goth fashion was.

By elizabeth23 — On Sep 28, 2011

I was still in middle school and high school when this kind of thing was becoming more popular with teens in the US. While there were people trying to do the whole emo punk thing, the people who really were into the music who I knew did not feel the need to dress this way. To me it's like goth and other music-related fashions- emo fashion and style is not really the same as the music, and the people who listened to the music that started it all dressed however they wanted.

By bluespirit — On Sep 27, 2011

Everyone is different and unique, so lets embrace our differences! The one thing I don't understand though is when people try to be different. You shouldn't have to try. You are who you are, no effort, no certain outfit, no hairdo, or nothing else required!

In other words, if this style is a part of who you are and/or what you like, then wear it. But if you really don't like the style or do not identify with it, or you are just trying to be different, don't wear it. Wear whatever makes you feel the best inside and out.

By Tomislav — On Sep 27, 2011

If you like the emo fashion, wear it. If you do not like it, don't wear it.

I don't identify with a certain style or fashion myself, but if you feel like it makes you more you to wear certain clothes, or you just like a certain style best, more power to you.

I have some things that I wear that I guess would be considered "emo", but is not emo to me because I just like some clothing that fits into the emo criteria.

For instance, I like wearing hoodies a lot in the fall and winter. I also like to wear generic chucks sometimes.

One thing I don't think I will wear, because I don't think it would look right on me, is skinny jeans. I am not pencil thin, so I don't think they would look or feel right on me. I do love jean leggings and regular leggings though.

I don't like wearing fingernail polish because it chips almost as soon as I coat it on, but I do like putting on toenail polish, although I normally wear different colors, not just one color.

I love dying my hair different colors and shades, although I personally prefer to stick to the more natural colors and shades.

I am not into make-up, so I don't do the eyeliner thing, but if you like, go for it!

I think as long as this or any other style isn't hurting anyone, let bygones be bygones. There is enough to worry about in this world, we don't need to add styles of clothes to the long list.

By candyquilt — On Sep 26, 2011

I agree that emo fashion is a lot of fun. It is also getting a lot of attention outside of the U.S. even though it has originated here.

When I was in Asia, I saw a lot of young Asians dressing in emo style. In fact, I think it has even influenced Asian Kawaii style. Kawaii means 'cute' in Japanese and especially many girls in Asia love to dress very girly and cute in Kawaii style.

In the last couple of years though, there has been a whole new trend in Kawaii and it's a lot like emo fashion. It's the combination of cute and cult style with a lot of pinks, cute dresses and the addition of black colors and accessories like skulls. I think this new trend has gotten its inspiration from emo style.

A friend of mine from the Middle East told me that some of the young generation in Arabic countries have also started picking up emo fashion. I think it's great that lots of people all over the world are loving this unique fashion trend.

By Azuza — On Sep 26, 2011

@sunnySkys - Well, to each their own but I think metal is just as dramatic as emo music.

Personally I don't see anything wrong with this look. Everyone likes hoodies, right? I have noticed that this look is usually sported by younger people, which makes sense. It's certainly not very appropriate.

But anyway, if the kids want to wear hoodies and black eyeliner, I say let them! It's not hurting anyone.

By sunnySkys — On Sep 25, 2011

Emo music and emo fashion is just plain awful! Those clothes! That hair! And it's even worse if you sport a somewhat similar look.

When I was high school I was pretty into the goth look, and I was so upset when stores like Hot Topic started carrying emo clothes. Emo and goth and just not the same thing! They should definitely not be lumped together.

A lot of people who are into goth like metal music. Music that is actually good, in my opinion. The whiny music that emo followers like is just way too overblown and dramatic for my tastes. This is one trend I hope goes away pretty soon.

By nextcorrea — On Sep 25, 2011

Does anyone know a good place online where I can shop for emo fashions?

I have kind of a dilemma. I live pretty far out in the country and there is just no place anywhere near here that sells anything like this. I have tried to put the look together using stuff from thrift stores and Wal-mart but it looks really silly.

I love this music and this scene and I know this is who I am. I want to be able to show that to the world and feel like I'm being myself when I am with others. Where can I buy emo clothes if I can't buy them in person?

By truman12 — On Sep 25, 2011

I have always found it hard to keep track of the differences between emo fashion and some of the other related kinds of fashion. For instance, what is the difference between emo and goth? And how can you tell if someone is emo or just indie? I feel silly typing this out but I think lots of other people have this question too.

By summing — On Sep 24, 2011

My daughter went through what I guess you would call an emo phase a few years back. That is what she always called it at least.

I have never minded the way my children dress. I wore some pretty crazy stuff back in the day and I think when you are young you have to experiment with your identity a little. So when she started getting into a lot of emo looks I was initially pretty supportive.

But what I soon realized is that this look takes so many clothes and accessories and hair and makeup products that it is really expensive to maintain. We gave her spending money but it never seemed to be close to enough to round out the look as much as she would have liked.

Thankfully she went off to college and she grew out of it. She is now a very pretty and self assured young woman. I'm glad we're no spending our money on emo clothes. Now we have the joy of paying for college.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 24, 2011

There were a lot of people in my high school who were into emo scene fashion and they really stood out from the crowd. I found that emo fashion clothes were actually quite eye-catching, and I really wanted to try it out myself, but as I wasn't into the emo music, I just never went for it.

What I did notice about emo fashion is that there seems to be very different looks to it. Some is more emo goth fashion, while a lot of other people lean towards emo punk fashion. I think that what I like about emo fashion the most is the ability to mix and match to create your own style.

By animegal — On Sep 23, 2011

Emo fashion is still one of my favorite looks, as I absolutely love the emo hair styles. There is something so funky about the asymmetrical cuts that those into emo fashion sport.

If you are looking to try emo fashion yourself a good place to start is by looking at emo pictures online. There are huge albums just dedicated to emo hair and emo fashion.

My favorite look is what can be described as cute emo fashion. I like the mix of girly things like tutus with more punk fashion, like the studded belts and black fingerless gloves. It just looks so cool.

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