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The Emo and Goth Subcultures Comparison


The paper at hand will attempt to compare the Emo and Goth subcultures. Both subcultures emerged in the 1970s on the basis of punk rock and quickly spread across the globe (Brake, 2013). The present study aims to prove that despite the fact that representatives of these movements seem alike to the overwhelming majority, their ideas, languages, and even visual attributes are quite different at closer examination.

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Emo is a shortened version of “emotional hardcore”. Since they show a particular propensity towards a chaotic kind of punk rock music, it may seem to an outsider that the whole subculture is dominated by the idea of chaos. Yet, there are a lot of aspects in it that are totally mainstream (Brake, 2013). For instance, they do not use any specific language or slang and talk just like other people (with the exception of a few music-specific words). However, they tend to write songs, poetry, and try other forms of verbal expression.

One cannot claim that Goths have their own slang that is drastically different from the commonly used language; yet, their language still features some peculiar characteristics. Due to their cult of Gothic literature, vampires, horror movies, paganism, and mythology (Christian, Celtic, and Egyptian), they often insert archaisms in their speech to make it sound creepier and more elevated (Haenfler, 2013).

Material Objects

Emos typically cultivate their unique geek fashion and style. Although they are typically considered to be suicidal and detached, they are still highly focused on material objects that stress their identity (Brake, 2013). For example, they give preference to cuffed jeans, V-neck sweaters, tight shirts, fashionable dolly dresses, and rimmed glasses. They usually have dyed black hair with some infusion of gaudy colors (pink, red, blue, etc.) to emphasize their moodiness.

Unlike Emos, Goths seem much more profound in terms of their attitude to the material. Their outfits are typically mysterious and dark, featuring a lot of elaborate details. Their hair, makeup, and fingernails are black. The major difference from Emos is that their look is far from being shallow–it combines features of medieval, Victorian, and Elizabethan periods and often features pagan or religious imagery (Haenfler, 2013). Moreover, they pay much more attention to books, jewelry, skulls, bones, art objects, sculpture, and architecture.


It is a typical stereotype about Emos that all their attitudes, conduct patterns and values are connected with teenage suicidal themes. They try to demonstrate heartbreak, despair, frustration, lack of hope, and self-hatred. However, at the same time their actions are not introversive (Baker & Robards, 2016). They try to show their emotional involvement and to attract attention to their grief.

In contrast, Goths are much more reserved. Being generally introversive, they often demonstrate deviant gender and sexual practices as most of them adopt an androgynous appearance and behavior. Clothes, makeup, and speech of both genders are very similar. At the same time, as compared to Emos, their actions are much more self-absorbed (Haenfler, 2013). They tend to be secluded, sullen, and silent.

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Emos do not have any complex symbolic system. Their basic color is black (to show fear, depression, and mysteriousness). Their hair, covering one side of their face, is aimed to stress that they do not need attention (which they actually need). Tight clothes stress heir fragility while glasses make emphasis on intellectuality (Baker & Robards, 2016).

Goths are less diverse in this aspect. The majority of their symbols are connected with death and decay. They prefer black and red, which stand for death and blood (Haenfler, 2013).

Personal Perception and Conclusion

Although neither of the two cultures is close to me, I still believe that Goths are more profound in their approach, despite the fact that they attract less attention of the general public. Their subculture is deep-rooted in history, mythology, and religion, which makes them pay less attention to visual attributes. Thus, it can be concluded that any subculture (no matter how old it is) must be primarily oriented to create its own philosophy before addressing the external aspect.


Baker, S., & Robards, B. (2016). Youth cultures and subcultures: Australian perspectives. London, Routledge.

Brake, M. (2013). Comparative youth culture: The sociology of youth cultures and youth subcultures in America, Britain and Canada. London: Routledge.

Haenfler, R. (2013). Subcultures: The basics. London: Routledge.

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