Since the internet’s inception, young people have convened online, connecting with likeminded individuals through their screens. Subcultures of teenagers who identify with a particular type of dress emerged on social media, and new and old groups alike–cottagecore, alt, or E-girl/boy, to name a few–continue to thrive on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The popularity of E-girl style has specifically grown in the past year, reviving the aesthetic that first arose in the early 2000s. Unlike its earlier iteration, however, today’s E-girl focuses on the fashion, rather than the behavior, of being an “electronic” girl. She’s recognized for her dyed hair, anime-like makeup, and grunge-influenced fashion. Mainly existing on and for the Internet, E-girls’ simultaneously dark and feminine style has moved out of the shadows of subculture and into the mainstream.
Prior to its resurgence, the E-girl and E-boy aesthetic took inspiration from other outcast groups, namely the emo and goth styles of the early 2000s, which exploded on early forms of social media like Myspace. Beginning as a movement of punk rock music fans and evolving into a subculture of misfit teens, being emo, like many countercultures, was about feeling like an outsider. Fostering an online community offered an oasis of sorts for emos, who didn’t identify with the status quo. Similarly, the E-girl and E-boy subculture rejects the archetype of the typical Instagram influencer that has become the norm.
Unlike these early style cults, though, the E-girl’s identity is mainly apparent through her online presence—she might not necessarily dress like that offline.
For those who weren’t Internet natives when scene kids became famous figures on Myspace, the E-girl and E-boy phenomenon might seem like just another trend churned out of TikTok’s subculture generator. Being an electronic girl whose aesthetic presence primarily exists online, though, means more than just pink hair and fake freckles.
Before it was reclaimed as a style subset by teens on TikTok last year, the term “E-girl” was used in a derogatory way to objectify and denounce female gamers (just look at Urban Dictionary’s definition of the term). Described as promiscuous women who infiltrate male-dominated spaces—like the world of digital gaming—and “flirt” with men online, E-girls were far from celebrated in the early 2000s. Male gamers and online natives might have been attracted to them, but in public spaces, they defined these women as “thots” whose online relationships with men were apparently frivolous and deceiving.
Even into 2019, E-girls faced sexism and objectification. The buzzword made its way back into mainstream vernacular in July 2019 after 17-year-old Bianca Devins, who was active in the E-girl community, was allegedly murdered by a man she met on Discord, a chat app geared towards gamers. Even after her death, some Internet users criticized her E-girl persona and the assumed promiscuity associated with it, a reaction indicative of the misogyny and harassment that many women face online.
And while the Internet’s lack of accountability leaves lots of space for derogatory definitions and comments, the modern iteration of the E-girl doesn’t seem to care. Popularized on TikTok last year, today’s E-girl movement hones in on a particular type of style rather than a specific set of behaviors. Inspired by a mix of emo, harajuku, and anime styles, the 2020 E-girl has dyed hair (usually pink or green) and wears primarily thrifted clothing. Her makeup is supposed to look dark and innocent at the same time, which explains the heavy eyeliner juxtaposed with a flushed pink nose. The E-boy often layers long-sleeved striped shirts under graphic tees, complimented by a ’90s-era hairstyle and similar flushed-face makeup.
For E-girls and E-boys on TikTok, strict definitions and ridicule don’t make up the center of the subculture because for them, it’s simply not that serious. For many users on the app, dressing up like an E-girl or E-boy is a fun activity–an exercise in taking an aesthetic to its most extreme sartorial degree.
In typical TikTok fashion, though, a harmless behind-the-screen activity actually does leave the comfort of home. E-girl aesthetics have seeped into mainstream style discussions as Billie Eilish’s demure demeanor and Doja Cat’s quirky style make them the icons of E-girls everywhere, whether these stars are deliberately mimicking the trend or not. Similarly, E-boys have chipped away at the stereotypical mold of the “attractive” man. Rather than flexing their muscles and workout routines, these men often flaunt their style and dancing skills, capturing the hearts of a sizable online population of teen girls.
The reclaiming and revival of the trend is also indicative of a more general resurgence of early 2000s nostalgia. A fascination with Blackberry phones and thick white desktop computers comes with a longing for the online cultures they fostered on sites like Myspace. And as algorithms of new social media sites become sharper and our iPhones become our all-in-one personal assistants, throwing fashion from the past into today has never been easier. The cyclical nature of fashion trends has never functioned as quickly as it does now.
In quarantine, it’s difficult to investigate whether or not E-girls and E-boys exist in the real world. Their name, however, suggests that their online presence is most important. The subculture started online and continues online, which means that anyone can take part, even if they’re just playing dress-up.END
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createdAt:Fri, 21 Aug 2020 18:30:58 +0000