So You Want to Dress: Emo

A drawing of three emo people wearing three different outfits. They are wearing all black, ripped jeans, and have shaggy hair.
(Lucia Marquez-Uppman • The Student Life)

Stop the music! Is that My Chemical Romance that I hear? Welcome back to “The Black Parade.”

Are you feeling nostalgic for your middle school days, for shopping at Hot Topic and hanging out at the mall? Do you want to heal the inner child within you that has always wanted an emo fringe and lip piercings that your parents forbid you from getting? Then you have come to the right place. Get ready for a blast from the past with all the emo style tips and tricks from a proud current emo.

I have a confession to make. If my home country of Russia had a Hot Topic when I was in my tweens, I would have saved myself from a lot of embarrassment from being a 20-year-old emo kid in college. Alas, here I am, and I have to make up for the lost time and make the most out of being a late-emo-bloomer.

A few columns ago, I wrote about the goth subculture and goth fashion. You may be thinking: How is emo different from goth? Mainstream culture often misunderstands the alternative subcultures, and to outsiders, they may seem similar. But to the well-versed eye, they are all very different. 

There are three main characteristics that define subcultures: music, fashion and political views/beliefs. These areas all intersect and inspire each other, with political stances infiltrating the meaning behind music and lyrics and fashion taking their meaning as an inspiration in the form of individual artistic expression. 

Just happening to dress in an emo style does not make you emo. Style is the last –– and perhaps least important –– piece of joining a subculture. You have to share and engage with the ideas that the group represents and uphold emo values. You have to listen to the music genre that corroborates these ideas. Fashion then comes after this, and it is definitely not a requirement to be a part of the subculture. The way of dressing is more important for a sense of unity and identification with a particular community, externally signaling to the world that you support and believe in their views, ideas and purpose.

So, what do emos stand for and believe? The emo community was born out of the punk subculture in the early 2000s which embraced a younger audience and a new generation of alternative people. Although a central belief of the emo subculture is acceptance of all, the emo community is not as focused on political activism as punks are. Being emo is about embracing your differences and not succumbing to conforming. It is about being in your feels and getting in touch with your more introverted, romantic side. Finally, emo fashion is totally different to goth, punk or scene.

Now that we’ve explored the meaning and motivation behind emo fashion, let’s blast some Pierce the Veil and get ready to show the world our best emo selves.

Lets begin with an emo staple: ripped black skinny jeans. Although skinny jeans have long been out of fashion, scavenge through your closet to find your old pair that we all had and if they are not ripped, you can always do it yourself! Then, grab your favorite emo band tee like Sleeping with Sirens, Pierce the Veil or Panic! At the Disco and you are ready to move on to accessorizing!

Stick with a monochrome theme that matches the print of your T-shirt for your accessories. A pair of striped arm warmers always does the trick. Then, throw on a couple of colorful studded belts and bracelets, a pocket chain for your jeans and all black jewelry. If you’re going for that emo princess look, grab a tiara or a bow to put in your hair.

The most iconic pair of emo shoes that one could come by are the black knee high Converse which have long been out of production. So if you have not saved a pair from the 2010s, some black high top Converse will suffice. To spruce them up, grab a Sharpie and decorate the toe and sole with some of your favorite emo band logos or get your friends to draw something!

You could really go either way with your makeup: all black everything or something colorful that matches your outfit. Whatever you do, focus on the waterline and under eye area and really smudge out that liner. As for the lips, a pair of faux lip rings are the best option here.

Now the hair is where we can go all out. Emo hair takes volume and length to a whole new level, with the iconic emo side bangs being a classic. Go crazy with the colors! Or if you’re not ready for a commitment, use some clip-ins. Or even better, get a little strand of black and white stripes. No matter what length your hair is, you can find the perfect emo hairstyle for you.

After all, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in; you should feel free to explore any style that you wish. It took me a lot of time to build my confidence to be able to dress the way that I want and to experiment with emo fashion, especially after discovering emo music. People’s judgment should never stop you from having fun with your look, and I know that 12 year old me would be mesmerized by –– and proud of –– my outfits today.

Elizaveta (Lisa) Gorelik CM ‘25 is from Moscow, Russia. She adores raspberry filled donuts, going on evening walks and listening to rock music on full volume.

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