Turn Emo Without Anyone Noticing

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So, you have finally discovered your inner emo…but you don’t want to be labeled as a poseur for changing your look too quickly? Or maybe there are people who you interact with that wouldn’t approve of your emo self? Want to know how to change without people noticing? Read on!


  1. Learn about emo. Research and knowledge is the path to discovering who you truly are. You need to make sure that the emo subculture is right for you and to do this, you need to make sure you understand it. You don’t have to worry about anyone finding this out, as it is not possible to know how much someone knows about emo from looking at them. Some key facts to help you get your footing include:
    • Emo stands for ’emotive hardcore’ and was born from the Washington D.C hardcore scene in the mid 80s. A misconception is that it stands for ’emotional’ although everything and everyone has and uses emotions.[1][2][3]
    • The first emo band was Rites of Spring and then later on, Embrace and One Last Wish. Guy Picciotto and Ian Mackaye are important figures in the emo brand, even if they do not like or use the label themselves.[4]
    • Ian Mackaye’s goal was to turn the idea of punk back to the individual, after the hardcore punk scene had become so violent. He did this by forming Rites of Spring and using melodic guitars, varied rhythms and personal, impassioned lyrics.
    • The term ’emo’ was originally used, usually by punks, as an insult towards people who listened to this music. Those opposed who saw emo as a lesser genre use to go to emo gigs and scream insults at the band members.
    • Emo has also been defined as a loosely defined genre as the second wave, named Midwest emo, used more melodic and softer indie/alternative rock approach to the genre.
    • The emo we know today is actually a fusion genre of emo and pop punk known as emo pop punk, it is made to appeal to a mass audience and widespread appeal by turning the sound into an ear friendly genre. The genre is pioneered by The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World, whose single The Middle bought emo into the mainstream.[5]
    • Emo records were put on small, home-run labels or the band’s private label and they were sold cheap, however inflation has driven up the price in more recent years. Bands were not long lived and many emo bands only had one or two EPs, maybe even a single album before they broke up. Plus bands were lucky to get petrol/gas money so they could tour; prices of show tickets were less than $5.[6]
    • Screamo is a subgenre of emotive hardcore and hardcore punk, but contrary to popular belief, it is not any band who uses screaming vocals. Screamo is a faster, more aggressive style of emo, dealing with romantic interest, emotional pain, politics and human rights.
  2. Listen to emo bands. If anyone asks why you’re listening to them, shrug it off and say that you want to. A lot of people might not question it anyway, considering these bands are not popular and most won’t have heard of them. They might ask you, but you don’t have to give them any major details. They might even like those bands themselves. Now you know some background information and history on the subgenre, you can explore some bands. Some very popular emo and screamo bands are as followed:
    • Rites of Spring
    • Embrace (American post-hardcore band)
    • Indian Summer (American post-hardcore band)
    • Braid
    • Moss Icon
    • Gray Matter
    • Soulside
    • Fire Party
    • Shutter to Think
    • Sunny Day Real Estate
    • Texas is the Reason
    • The Saddest Landscape
    • Pg.99
    • Orchid (make sure it is the screamo band, not the metal band named Orchid)
    • Funeral Diner
    • Circle Takes The Square
    • City of Caterpillar
      • Eventually, you should be able to go off and research your own bands. Use all types of music platforms such as Soundclick, Last.fm, Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube. You can always use their recommended videos. If you know anyone else who uses your devices such as your laptop or computer, you can clear your search history so no one can see you’re looking at ’emo bands’ and information on the ’emo subculture’.
  3. Start on your appearance. At least for the original emos, fashion was not at all important, but the emo pop punk subculture changed that, with its trademark skinny jeans and layered, dyed hair. Your appearance is going to be the most noticeable, especially towards those who really know you, so start slowly and make small changes as you go. With your hair you may want to:
    Turn Emo Without Anyone Noticing Step 1Bullet2.jpg
    • Part it to the side. No one will think you are emo if you do that, as many different styles have this.
    • Get it layered. Emos tend to have lots of layers, but layering your hair isn’t going to make people think that you’re emo.
    • Dye it. Try dying it a shade darker (or lighter) than your natural hair color and then keep doing that until you achieve your desired hair color. You do not have to dye it if you do not want, although may members of the subculture tend to dye it a darker color than their natural hair.
    • Remember to look after it. Using any type of products or dye on your hair can have long lasting damaging effects. Also, do not wash your hair everyday or it can cause your roots to overproduce oil, making it greasy.
  4. Incorporate emo clothing into your wardrobe.
    Turn Emo Without Anyone Noticing Step 4.jpg
    • The original emo style consisted of flat shoes including converse and vans; sweaters in plain colors such as beige and grey; skinny jeans and messenger bags. The original emo style is less likely to scream ’emo’ than the modern day emo pop style, considering emocore was not supposed to be oriented around dark aesthetics anyway.
    • Do not wear skinny jeans all of the time. This is an emo “trademark”, and will give you away instantly. Try out some other styles of jeans and work them into your wardrobe. Bootcut, flared, and denim leggings work well.
    • Get some shirts with your favourite bands on them. If you buy band shirts associated with Rites of Spring, Sunny Day Real Estate, Gray Matter or another hardcore punk/emo/screamo band then you’re setting off a great example to the sub-genre. Hoodies match extremely well with band t shirts, and keep you warm.
    • Accessorize. Do this slowly and do not wear anything that screams “emo” or people will notice, but start wearing thick horn rimmed glasses, sweat bands, rubber bands, studded belts and so on. Try and stay away from anything that includes studs, spikes and chains as they could make you look more dark.
    • DIY. Since emo came from punk, we can assume emo is DIY. Start shopping on Etsy and paying attention to handmade/craft stalls, make your own band badges or patches and become creative. In the day, not very many bands had their own shirts and a lot of the time, it was due to poor promotion.
    • Wear makeup. Emo is also known for wearing thick eyeliner and nail polish, you can incorporated these into your outfit if you wish, but it is not a necessity.[7]
  5. Learn an instrument. Emos express themselves best through music and poetry, so this should be more important then how you look. Anyone can start learning an instrument at any particular time, so it is not exactly a staple ’emo’ thing to do. No one should question this, but if they do, you can just say you have been wanting to learn a new instrument for a while. You never have to give too much information away. Good instruments for emos are:
    Turn Emo Without Anyone Noticing Step 3.jpg
    • Flute (especially something that sounds mournful, like the ocarina).
    • Guitar (especially the electric guitar)
    • Bass (it is a deep emotional sounding instrument)
    • Drums (good for expressing anger)
    • Vocals (become a singer, or even, a screamer, just remember to properly learn how to do this because it can damage your vocal chords!)
  6. Don’t follow the emo stereotypes. Emo is around supporting, appreciating and following emo and its subgenres. It’s about supporting emo bands and being creative, most of all, being part of something you are truly about. Emo is not about:
    Turn Emo Without Anyone Noticing Step 5.jpg
    • Being extremely emotional
    • Self harming
    • Depression
    • Suicide
    • Wearing dark colors or all black
    • Crying all the time
    • Doing drugs


  • Do these steps gradually in order for the change to be less noticeable.
  • Don’t wear band shirts of bands you’ve never listened to before, only wear band shirts of the bands you’re a genuine a fan of.
  • Bands such as My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, etc are emo pop-punk bands and while they are not considered properly ’emo’, you can listen to these bands if you wish. Just note that they are part of an entirely different subculture and you should refrain from calling them ’emo’ and instead ’emo pop punk’ if you can.
  • This is a guide, so you don’t have to follow word for word but just remember that it is a music scene and the music is most important. Fashion does not and luckily, it is the most noticeable thing about being ’emo’. You could completely miss that step out and still be emo – it is all your music taste.
  • You can listen to other music too! It’s the same with any subculture, your music taste should be primarily your subculture’s music (if you are to consider yourself that) but that doesn’t stop you from listening to any jazz, metal or folk.
  • That goes for any interests you may have, if you want to play sport or watch a chick flick then go ahead. It makes you more of your own person instead of one note. You can be other things as well as associate yourself as part of the emo subculture.
  • Don’t feel like this is a chore. If you feel limited while being this then stop and ask yourself, is this really you?
  • Emo was never really about being dark, being just dark would make you darkly inclined. Many people think that would automatically make you goth, but goth is about listening to goth music as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Sisters of Mercy.
  • Make sure to learn about the sub-genre most importantly. You can’t really label yourself something you haven’t properly researched/have no understanding of.
  • You should listen to the music that you like, not what other people tell you to listen to, it is not their life.


  • Do not cut yourself. Contrary to popular belief, this does not make you “more emo” and will probably get you labelled as a poseur. It is also dangerous to your health and can cause mental health issues in the long run.
  • These steps are not infallible. It is possible that someone will notice at some point. You can just plain and simply deny it, even go as far to say that you do have similar interests to the average emo, but you don’t consider yourself one.
  • If you have not seen a person for a long time, and then see them after you have made your gradual transition to emo, they will probably notice.
  • If you do not want anyone to find out, don’t tell anyone you’re emo. The majority of people who listened to emocore did not label themselves as ’emo’ anyway, rather more hardcore or punk.
  • To the mainstream, emo is something completely different and there are a lot of misconceptions on emo music, as well as screamo music. People believe that bands such as Bring Me the Horizon, Suicide Silence and Black Veil Brides are ‘screamo’, however they’re incorrectly labelled and are, in fact, usually metalcore or deathcore. Don’t get confused by this, if it sounds like metal, then it will be metal. Emo is a subgenre of hardcore punk. Learning the characteristics of the genre will help you understand which bands are part of the genre, and which bands are not.
  • If someone does find out that you are emo, ignore them. They may end up telling everyone else, but they are just attention-seekers.

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