From the catwalks to product releases, how we've gone all emotional for emo
Tight black skinny jeans, smudged eyeliner, asymmetrical haircuts – these are just a few of the signatures of emo style, most popular during the early 2000s and associated with bands like My Chemical Romance or The Used. The style subculture originated in the 1980s courtesy of various bands, but it really went mainstream and global years later. The phrase “emo” comes from “emotional,” often associated with disenfranchised youths who felt like they didn’t fit in with the pack and chose to express themselves through dark poetry, dark music and dark make-up. The Cambridge Dictionary describes “emo” as “a young person who likes this music, wears mainly black clothes, and is often nervous, worried, and unhappy.” Considering how cyclical fashion is, it’s not too much of a surprise that we’re seeing signs of the return of emo almost 20 years later.
Just look at the catwalks, where emo sensibilities were rife. In January, Peter Philips created eye make-up that resembled a single black tear under models' eyes for Dior’s spring 2019 couture show. Gucci sent models down the runway with clear tears punctuating their faces at the label’s fall 2019 Milan show just a month later. At Junya Watanabe, models wore supersized inky black spider lashes, courtesy of Isamaya Ffrench, with Harajuku style pigtails – the look was reminiscent of an angsty emo teenager messing around in front of the mirror at home. Over at Yohji Yamamoto, Pat McGrath applied dark navy – almost black – lips to models, while Marine Serre took things to the next level with a show dedicated to a post-apocalyptic future where brooding models wore silver face paint and expressive black eyes.
Hair was equally emo: Eugene Souleiman created punkish paint streaked hair at Margiela and Julien D'ys created dark wigs with a greasy texture (a signifier of emo taste) inspired by the collection’s theme of finding beauty in darkness and shadows. Over at Prada, Guido Palau took inspiration from a lightly gothic, emo icon, Wednesday Addams by adding in extensions to models hair and leaving it either down or braided at the sides – with minimal make-up and a dark clothing colour palette courtesy of Miuccia Prada, both looks felt intrinsically emo for 2019.
While there were plenty of hair and make-up looks during fashion months that had elements of gothic and punk style (every label from Jeremy Scott to Erdem dabbled in darker, edgier styles) what makes the emo culture stand out particularly as a beauty trend of the moment right now is the emotional edge. The crystal tears created by make-up artist Thomas de Kluyver at Gucci’s fall 2019 show, for example, felt raw and emotive rather than just goth.
Away from the catwalks, emo is emerging as a clearly established product trend too. Take, for example, how YSL just released emo-esque lip balms with black hearts in the middle. Then there’s Rihanna’s Fenty line which released a matte black lipstick late last year. Kat Von D, the closest thing to an emo CEO in the beauty industry, also just put out a vegan rainbow eye shadow palette with her signature dark packaging. And late last year, Milk Makeup also released astrology tattoo stamps, mostly shown applied near the corner of the eye – an extremely creative and expressive product that also verges on emo. Forget wearing your emotions on your sleeve, with these stamps you can wear your starsign on your face.
The fact that the emo trend is back likely has a lot to do with what’s going on in the world right now. With global warming, insane political leaders and one terrible news headline after the next, there’s no questioning why the world and the beauty industry might be feeling more emotional. After all, beauty is one of the easiest and strongest ways we express ourselves. Your face is the first thing people see when you go out into the world, and crystal tears and intense emo liner send a strong signal. We’re all emotional, and it’s ok to to express that.