Aesthetics Wiki

Emo is a subculture that originally branched off the Hardcore Punk scene, characterized by Hardcore music with introspective lyrics and a distinctive fashion style featuring dark clothing, piercings, and expressive hairstyles. It generally revolves around the themes of vulnerability, heartbreak, and self-discovery often reflected in music and art. The meaning of the term "emo" has undergone significant changes over the years, leading to varying definitions depending on the context and time period.


In the 80s, emo first developed in the D.C. hardcore punk scene from the straight-edge scene as a name for the fans of the music genre known as "emotive hardcore" or "emocore" in short. The hardcore punk scene of that time was dominated by a "tough guy" mentally, and a whole new scene emerged - aka "Revolution Summer" - as a protest from violence at local shows. People started to use the term "emocore" to distinguish bands from that scene from others. Not only most of them were against violence and drugs, their music became more challenging and, actually, it was not just hardcore - they were pioneering in post-hardcore. They were adding emotional lyrics to the more melodical hardcore punk sound. The songs are commonly dealing with past, loss and angst, and are characterized by overly dramatic vocals, akin to crying or screaming. While the initial genre is still not forgotten today, it's more obscure then other subgenres.

Over a decade later, the word has been adopted by a new generation of emotional music within the hardcore punk scene and spawned a cultural phenomenon that is known as the nowadays emo subculture. Just like how punk itself has changed over the years, emo also has evolved to beyond the initial version, but still firmly holds on its roots in emotional music within the hardcore punk scene. Also, different "eras" were distributed by "waves" - commonly, there are four of such.


Emo often somewhat overlaps with other subcultures visually, such as Goth (much to the chagrin of the Goths, who absolutely detested the Emo Kids at the time of their rise in popularity, likely due to the confusion between the two scenes) and Scene, due to dealing with negative emotions as its major topic.

Obvious connotations to negativity and cynicism are a common theme in many of the visuals, and often reflected in the form of texts. Characters are usually looking a bit empty or spaced out, saying lurid things. Common motifs also include broken hearts, skulls, guns, splatters, and music notes.

It also overlapped and continues to overlap with animecore and weeaboo due to the popularity of anime among many emos. Anime fan emos tend to listen to many diverse genres of rock and metal moreso than other kinds of emos.



An example of Emo art.

Another notable example of Emo visuals is the typical art style that they shared in common with the Scene subculture in the 2000s to early 2010s. The style is characterized by its often sketchy line art. This may be to mimic traditional pencil drawings, or to create a jagged, edgy feel to the artwork. The proportions of the characters were usually thin or stick figured bodies with caricature-like heads and large eyes, comparable to the likes of Tim Burton or the character L from Death Note. The large circular "blank" eyes are reminiscent of a particular "chibi" design style that was popular during the 2000s. The overall appearance of the characters is heavily based on on the popular trends of scene during its peak, meaning straightened opaque high-volume hair, black tees with splashes of bright colors, low waist bottoms, stripe pattern details, and sneakers.


Outfits are dark and mainly consist out of band tees, skinny jeans, oversized hoodie jackets, and Converse or Vans shoes. Some of the more popular accessories are razor blade necklaces, rubber bracelets, stripe arm warmers and tights, as well as studded belts that often feature a check pattern. In the past, the most common places for people to shop were Hot Topic and Claire's, but since the rise of the internet among the mainstream, online shopping has become more popular.

Many members of this subculture will also spot various body mods, the most popular ones being stretched ear lobes, facial piercings, and tattoos. The hair is usually kept long regardless of gender and features side-swept bangs and choppy layers, usually dyed in a deep black color, occasionally with additional colorful sections or streaks. Black eyeliner is iconic for the makeup and sometimes enchanted further with a matching eyeshadow.

Emo aesthetic is all about expressing your emotions through dark and edgy fashion. Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect emo look:

  • Dark Colors: Black is the primary color in emo fashion. Other dark colors like navy blue, deep purple, and dark red are also popular.
  • Band T-Shirts: Band t-shirts are a staple in emo fashion. Look for t-shirts featuring your favorite bands, especially those from the emo and punk rock genres.
  • Skinny Jeans: Skinny jeans are a must-have in the emo wardrobe. Look for distressed and ripped jeans for a more edgy look.
  • Hoodies: Oversized hoodies in dark colors are perfect for an emo outfit. Layer a band t-shirt underneath for a more personalized touch.
  • Studded Accessories: Studded belts, wristbands, and chokers add a punk edge to your emo look.
  • Dark Makeup: Emo makeup is all about creating an edgy and dark look. Black eyeliner, dark eyeshadows, and concealer lips are popular choices.
  • Piercings: Piercings, especially facial piercings, are a popular trend in emo fashion.

Remember, emo aesthetic is all about expressing your emotions through fashion. Don't be afraid to experiment and mix different pieces to create your unique emo style. Embrace the darkness and have fun with your fashion choices!


Besides the original Emocore, many other types of punk subgenres have become associated with the subculture due to the vague definition of the initial genre. Most of the music consists of bands that sing and/or scream about the various emotional hardships in everyone's life, and the vocals are often combined with harsh guitar riffs and heavy drums for the typical sound.

Many subgenres have developed over the years, which can be found below.


Emocore is a type of post-hardcore, but more emotional and somewhat melodical. Also known as "Revolution Summer" or "first wave". Notable bands include Rites Of Spring, Embrace (US), Moss Icon, Gray Matter and Dag Nasty. This term was highly rejected by the bands, but now it is used to distinguish them and emo bands of other waves.

Midwest Emo[]

Main article: Midwest Emo

Often considered the more light-hearted, math-rock influenced variant of Emo, Midwest Emo tends to go for more of an Indie/Geek vibe than the darker, angsty Emo original recipe. 90s stuff is commonly known as "second wave", and 10s or 20s - "fourth wave" or "(midwestern) emo revival".

Emo Pop[]

Main article: Teenpunk

Emo-pop is a genre combining emo and pop-punk. Emo-pop features a music style with more concise songs and hook-filled choruses. Well known emo-pop bands are Fall Out Boy, Paramore, My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco. This music genre is not the same as emocore. However, one can still identify as emo if they tend to listen to more emo pop, since emo-pop is a type of emo music. Also known as "third wave".


Screamo (also referred to as skramz) is an aggressive subgenre of emocore that emerged in the early 1990s, emphasizing "willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics". Screamo is strongly influenced by hardcore punk and is characterized by the use of screamed vocals. Lyrical themes usually include emotional pain, death, romance, and human rights. Popular bands in Screamo include:

  • Antioch Arrow
  • Circle Takes the Square
  • City of Caterpillar
  • I Hate Myself
  • iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook (I.W.H.A.C.I.Y.Y.B.)
  • Old Gray
  • Orchid
  • Pg. 99
  • Poison the Well
  • Saetia
  • Blessthefall
  • Alexisonfire
  • At the Drive-In
  • Story of the Year
  • The Used
  • Silverstein
  • Greeley Estates
  • Underoath
  • Senses Fail




External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.