Aesthetics Wiki

Midwest Emo is an aesthetic and music genre that originated in Illinois in the mid-1990s. The genre is separate from typical Emo, but has similar roots. Midwest Emo began with small, local musicians as an emotional blend of Garage Punk and Indie Rock with bands such as Cap'n Jazz, American Football, and The Promise Ring. It died down, still relatively unknown, by the turn of the century. Both the music and the aesthetic are centered around low-budget, DIY qualities. In the early-to-mid-2000s, the Emo genre evolved past the Midwest Emo sound into the more Pop Punk-based Emo made famous by My Chemical Romance.

Midwest Emo regained relevance in the early 2010s with the period known as the Emo Revival, as bands such as Algernon Cadwallader, Modern Baseball, and Mom Jeans attempted to recapture the sounds of those earlier bands.

The Midwest Emo aesthetic consists of college towns, suburban houses, skateboarding, cheap beer, sports, friendships, and failed romances. It is over all based on nostalgia and missing the "good old days", freely hanging out with your friends, long field trips, the local 7-11, teenage romance, riding your bike around the neighborhood...

Midwest Emo and Emo

Midwest Emo and Emo are two distinct genres. A common misconception is that Midwest Emo is just normal Emo that happens to be in the Midwest, but it is its own separate aesthetic. Normal Emo is a much darker, edgier aesthetic that deals with more serious, melodramatic topics such as suicide and grief. Midwest emo is a nerdier, indie aesthetic that deals with topics like interpersonal relationships, commitment issues, and weed. The genre still keeps the sadness that is implied with the word "emo", but in a much more light-hearted and fun tone than its counterpart.

The light-hearted nature of Midwest Emo is often shown through song titles, as artists will include jokes, puns, and pop culture references in their names. Some notable examples of this are: Olympic Cryathlon by Closure, Mt. Chilimanjaro by Jimmy Mayo, Why Not Piss Outside?, by Olde Pine, Cwasont by Dusty Cubby, and Pepe Silvia by Perspective, a Lovely Hand to Hold.


Midwest Emo Fashion

Midwest Emo fashion is similar to Indie fashion in general. It utilizes flannel shirts, muted colored logo t-shirts, cuffed jeans, chuck shoes, pins, and dad-style baseball caps. Vests and collared shirts are also common.


There are two sonic sides of Midwest Emo, with most of the genre falling somewhere on the spectrum between these two points. The first side, the wild, loud Punk style, was introduced by Cap'n Jazz with the release of their 1995 album, Shmap'n Shmazz. This side finds its influence in some of the earliest Emo music from the D.C. scene in the 1980s. Cap'n Jazz's sound is defined by distorted power chords, whimsical yelling, and surrealist lyrics.

The other side of the genre, the soft, melancholy Indie Rock style, was introduced with the release of the first self titled project by American Football in 1998. This style finds its influence in the music of the minimalistic, contemporary classical composer Steve Reich. American Football's style sound is defined by interweaved guitar parts, jazz-inspired trumpet solos, and straight forward, sad lyrics. There is some overlap between Midwest Emo and Math Rock because of the complexity in American Football's guitar parts.





  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • Superbad (2007)
  • Juno (2007)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
  • The Edge of Seventeen (2016)


  • Catcher in the Rye (1951)