Being Emo (with Pictures)

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Being Emo (with Pictures)
Being Emo (with Pictures)

Teens have identified with the “emo” subculture for years, from sunny beaches to snowy peaks and from Mexico to Iraq. But the emo subculture still manages to confuse and baffle the mainstream. What is emo? What does it mean to be emo? The emo culture is based on the melodic-aggressive and intricate hardcore music of Washington's mid-80s heyday. Although the subculture has its roots mainly in the indie, its influence has spread to many different styles, sounds and cultures, from indie rock to pop punk. The emo culture is huge and will not disappear anytime soon. If you want to learn more about the history, the music and the culture so that you can take part in the emo culture yourself, you've come to the right place.


Part 1 of 3: Understanding Emo

Be Emo Step 1
Be Emo Step 1

Step 1. Be open to everything

If you were to ask twenty self-proclaimed emos to define the term "emo", you would probably get twenty completely different answers. For example, for someone who has followed music culture with some interest over the decades, emos might be characterized by the fact that they can endlessly discuss the difference between indie emo, screamo, emo pop and emocore-while this is for the real emo fans. doesn't really matter at all, nor does it get to the core of emo culture.

“Emo” is a term that has been used for an ever-changing variety of music over the past thirty years. It's hard to pin down a precise definition, so don't try. The first criterion for being a good emo? Be inclusive. Don't get caught up in stupid discussions about what "real" emo is or isn't. That doesn't make you emo; that makes you a bully

Step 2. Know what emo is

Emo is not about self-mutilation or self-hatred. Those are normal things that happen to people, and they've been doing that since time immemorial. Emo is short for “emotional hardcore” and is a subgenre of hardcore punk that started in the 1980s. In the 1990s, bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, and Jimmy Eat World happened to be called emo because of their emotional lyrics. Since the 90s, the origins of emo also lie in indie rock and pop punk. Bands like Texas is the Reason, Thursday, Sunny Day Real Estate and Cap'n Jazz are all emo bands.

Be Emo Step 2
Be Emo Step 2

Step 3. Check the roots of the emo tree

“Emo” was first used to describe the hardcore punk bands in and around Washington DC who wrote more emotional and personal lyrics than the traditional hardcore punk bands. Influenced by pioneering hardcore bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag, bands like Rites of Spring and Beefeater began incorporating emotional and personal lyrics into their hardcore punk songs. For this, the term “emotional hardcore” was created, which would eventually be shortened to “emo”. So originally, the emo subculture was a fairly small, local scene near Washington DC that attracted quite a bit of interest.

In the early 90s, bands like Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate began to fly under the emo banner. However, these bands sounded by no means the same as early DC emo. Influenced by California indie rock and pop punk, these bands began incorporating catchy hooks and personal lyrics into their songs, writing songs with compelling structures and melodramatic effects

Be Emo Step 3
Be Emo Step 3

Step 4. Recognize the more recent developments in the sound of the emo

Emo really became popular in the 2000s. Bands signed to Victory Records, such as Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and The Used, started making a kind of “screamo” that harked back somewhat to the hardcore roots of emo. It was big, loud and extremely popular.

At the same time, bands like Dashboard Confessional started to propagate a kind of emo with acoustic guitars and large choirs. However, this kind of emo sounded more like acoustic folk music than Black Flag. Because of these two different directions, it is very difficult to categorize the emo of, say, 2005

Be Emo Step 4
Be Emo Step 4

Step 5. Develop a passion for different types of music

In general, all emo music has two things in common: it's big, compelling, extremely melodramatic guitar music (either aggressive and rough, or acoustic and calm) where the lyrics are often confessional or extremely personal and usually about loneliness and heartache. However, The Used sounds nothing like Death Cab for Cutie, which in turn sounds nothing like Jawbreaker. So what? They are all emo bands. Listen to the music you like; don't listen to the music you don't like.

If you want to dress your emo and listen to Sunny Day Real Estate, do so. By the way, you're no less emo if you also have Lady Gaga, Johnny Cash and Cannibal Ox on your iPod. A real “emo” is someone who has passion and knowledge about a variety of different music genres and is proud of his/her personal taste in music

Be Emo Step 5
Be Emo Step 5

Step 6. Decide for yourself what emo means

Like the terms "hipster" or "gothic", "emo" is often taken as an insult. It's all too often that young people-desperate to fit in-try to join a “cool” movement without even knowing anything about it. Much of the controversy surrounding emo culture has to do with being considered a “fake” or “charlatan”. That's why there is a lot of violence against emo kids in Mexico and Iraq. That's also why the comment box on YouTube is full of immature and nasty discussions about whether Bullet for My Valentine is really emo or not.

While a boy with dyed black hair and eyeshadow listening to Dashboard Confessional in Utrecht can be seen as emo, a blond surfer girl in California who listens to Dashboard Confessional can also see herself as emo. See this as an opportunity for everyone to appreciate the music

Be Emo Step 6
Be Emo Step 6

Step 7. Look at the bands for tips

For tips on the music, definitions of what "emo" means, and fashion, check out the guys and girls who make the music. Look at who they listen to, who influences them, what they read and what they recommend. Learn it first hand.

As with “grunge” or “jam bands”, most bands labeled as “emo” or “emocore” will probably disagree with that label; they probably prefer to just call themselves a rock band. It's an imprecise term used by pop journalists and greedy fans to lump together completely different things in completely different areas at a completely different time. Don't worry about whether something is “truly emo”; rather worry about whether it is really good or not

Part 2 of 3: Participating in the emo culture

Be Emo Step 7
Be Emo Step 7

Step 1. Appreciate the emo music

From Thursday to Jimmy Eat World, from Weezer to Brand New, from Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate(to paramore, all people who identify with emo have an active and passionate passion for emo music. Listen to different bands to find out what you like. If you find something you like in hearing, start exploring sub-genres such as screamo and emocore to find out what you prefer to listen to. It's okay if you don't like the music, you can also express your emotions through your clothing choice and your lifestyle. Here is a short, incomplete list of emo bands that you might start with. You don't necessarily have to like these artists to be a passionate emo listener. No problem. If you have a foot If you want to get in the door you can listen to:

  • Rites of Spring - Rites of Spring
  • Embrace - Embrace
  • Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary
  • Weezer - Pinkerton
  • Dashboard Confessional - Swiss Army Romance
  • The Get Up Kids - Something to Write Home About
  • I Hate Myself - Ten Songs
  • Thursday - Waiting
  • My Chemical Romance - I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
  • Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends
  • Hawthorne Heights - The Silence in Black and White
  • Silverstein - When Broken is Easily Fixed
  • Texas is the Reason - Do You Know Who You Are
  • The Promise Ring - Nothing Feels Good
  • Jimmy Eat World - Clarity
  • Jawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

Step 2. Know the emo subgenres

This can help you map out the types of emo music you like to listen to. Switch to other styles if you dislike a particular style. Here's some genres:

  • Emocore: Short for emotional hardcore, Emocore is a subgenre of 80s hardcore punk. It started in Washington DC with bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace. Emocore mixes punk with emotional lyrics.
  • Indie emo: Indie emo started in the 1990s when emo started to expand into more than just punk rock. These emo bands are more indie than punk, such as Dashboard Confessional, Further Seems Forever, Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral.
  • Emopop: Emopop started in the 90's when emo was reborn and started to mix with pop punk. Bands include The Get Up Kids, Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World, Paramore and The Starting Line.
  • Screamo: Screamo is a subgenre of emocore, where there is a lot of screaming and the tempo is usually high. There is also a lot of dynamics between loud and soft, and there are sometimes unusual song structures. Examples of screamo bands are The Saddest Landscape and Orchid.
Be Emo Step 8
Be Emo Step 8

Step 3. Visit concerts

Emo was originally a small, local scene that at some point came to national attention. Thus began a movement that is now known all over the world. Try going back to the roots by visiting local bands and artists. It's one thing to go to the Warped Tour and watch the big international bands; it's quite another to support the local emo bands that are just getting started.

You can volunteer with local club and community center work associations and youth centers to host concerts. Hand out flyers and befriend other bands. Check out the local "zines" and join the emo community

Be Emo Step 9
Be Emo Step 9

Step 4. Develop a creative persona

In general, the emo subculture cherishes an appreciation for the arts. Painting, making music, writing and expressing yourself creatively are all important ways you can participate in the emo subculture. Find a way to express yourself and dedicate your free time to perfecting your art. Write poems and turn your words into songs. Write reviews of emo music and start a music blog.

Be Emo Step 10
Be Emo Step 10

Step 5. Consider learning to play an instrument

If you can make music yourself or in a band, it will increase your credibility. It's also a fun way to get involved more directly with emo. By writing and playing your own music you will actively participate in this creative subculture.

Learn to play guitar or bass, or even violin. If you put in enough time, the violin can be a great addition to emo songs. Or opt for the drums, because all kinds of bands are often looking for drummers

Be Emo Step 11
Be Emo Step 11

Step 6. Read a lot

Emo is a subculture that prides itself on its self-fulfillment, intelligence and feeling. Start reading modern and classic emo novels and books right away:

  • Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture by Trevor Kelley and Leslie Simon
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. salinger
  • The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Part 3 of 3: Looking emo

Be Emo Step 12
Be Emo Step 12

Step 1. Sweep your hair

Until the mid-2000s, there was no real emo haircut. An "emo haircut" usually refers to a distinct haircut with many layers, usually with a long lock swept to one side and styled. This lock is usually held with mousse. Emo hair is usually dark or dyed, and sometimes there are bright highlights in it too-these highlights can be blonde, as well as pink or any other punky color.

To try on an emo haircut, grow your bangs but keep the hair trimmed at the back of your neck. Pull the bangs evenly along the top of your eyebrow and use mousse or gel. It is also sometimes popular to put the hair in bristles at the back of the head, much like a weather brush (or swirl)

Be Emo Step 13
Be Emo Step 13

Step 2. Go for the “geek chic” look

This look made emo popular in the mid-90s as it became more and more mainstream. Think for example of the Rivers Cuomo cardigans and glasses with a horn frame. This look is basically that of a cool looking boozy. To create this look you will need:

  • Glasses (preferably with sturdy, black frames)
  • Tight jeans
  • (Knitted) Cardigans
  • Converse All Stars
  • band shirts
Be Emo Step 14
Be Emo Step 14

Step 3. Try the screamo look

The genre that gained popularity in the mid-2000s brought with it its own haircut and clothing style. Mainly in black. To create this look you will need:

  • Dark, tight jeans
  • Black or White V-Neck T-Shirts
  • Skate shoes, such as Vans or Airwalks
  • A hairstyle with a swept lock, often painted black with a bright highlight
  • Japanese Yakuza or Koi Carp Tattoos
  • A mouth piercing
  • A white belt or a belt with pieces
  • Your keys on a carabiner
Be Emo Step 15
Be Emo Step 15

Step 4. Embrace androgyny

With emo, the style for men and women is largely the same. The hairstyles, clothing and use of make-up transcend the sexes, creating a characteristic and androgynous look.

Line your eyes with a thin layer of eyeliner, if using. Don't overdo it with your makeup. Emo girls also often opt for red lipstick

Be Emo Step 16
Be Emo Step 16

Step 5. Become best friends with your hoodie

Almost every emo style makes use of that old, trusted everyone's friend: the hooded cardigan. However, you can give your hoodie a distinctive emo flair, which requires no more than a little effort. Most emo hoodies are black and are quite tight. Sometimes there are patches or buttons from bands, or some white details.

Cut holes for your thumbs in the sleeves of your hoodies. In winter you can stick your thumbs through those holes to stay nice and warm when it's cold


  • Don't confuse emo with scene. Scene is a term for people who look like Dot Dot Curve and Brokencyde. They wear tight jeans in neon colors or 7/8 pants, shutter shades, large hoodies, neon colors and an emo haircut (only more styled then). They listen to the music of Blood on the Dance Floor, Breathe Carolina and 3OH!3
  • Also, don't confuse emo with gothic. Goths are people who listen to Joy Division, Samhain, The Cure or Bauhaus. Usually they wear more black clothes and stuff.
  • If someone asks you if you are cutting yourself or are depressed, ignore or deny it if you don't. If you're asked that, chances are the person asking has already formed their opinion, and your acknowledgment won't change that.
  • If you're applying makeup, don't use too much-especially if the makeup is black! You will look like Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons or Marilyn Manson.
  • Know that as an emo you don't always have to dress in black. In fact, emos often wear lighter colors as well.
  • Your friends who are not emo might give you negative criticism. The majority of society can even do that. So just ignore them.
  • When applying eyeliner, don't be afraid to include the inside of the lids. Also apply the eyeliner under the lower lash line.
  • As an emo, it's okay to have fun. It's not just about depression and self-loathing.
  • Opt for layers. For example, you can choose a long-sleeved shirt under your band shirt, a tank top under a T-shirt, or leggings under ripped jeans. You will probably only need to wear the layers in winter, fall and early spring. Hoodies are also ideal if you want to wear multiple layers of clothing.

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