The difference between emo and Goth.

This post has become even more urgent since the upload of 40 Years of Men's Goth Style. If anything, the title of this story should be "What are the similarities between emo and goth?" because they have extremely different backgrounds / histories and sounds when compared to each other.

Chapter 1

The difference between Goth and emo.

Updated 17th April 2017.

Edits [1]: I have removed different "goth types" from the description because all of them actually have different individual backgrounds. Most of them are not connected to the subculture.

Since emo has different fusions and sub-genres, I will start from the beginning and then get onto emo pop punk (what you know as "emo" today).

Like I said in the description, emo and goth have completely different histories and backgrounds when compared with each other. The only reason people compare the two today is because they both wear dark colours (primarily black), seem to be "mopey" or depressed or kids going through a phase.
The only accurate stereotype in the last sentence was that they both wear a lot of dark colours, but they're not even the same type of garments (emo pop kids tend to wear skinny jeans, band shirts and converse whereas goths may tend to wear fishnets, boots and corsets).

So moving onto actual facts instead of visual factors, I'll explain the roots and backgrounds of both.


- Goth is a sub-genre of post punk which originated out the UK in the late 70s / early 80s (1979 to be exact).
- Goth is categorized by its baritone vocals (most often heard in men), flanging / atmospheric guitar, prominent bass, introspective lyrical themes, 4 / 4 post punk beat and usually, a drum machine.
- Goth bands include Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, some The Cure albums, The Sisters of Mercy and Christian Death (the latter is deathrock but I'll get to that later).
- Goth wasn't goth in the beginning, but was termed "positive punk" instead.


- Emo is a sub-genre of hardcore punk which is a sub-genre of punk originating out of Washington D.C in the mid 80s (1985 to be exact).
- Emo is categorized by its fast hardcore punk riffs, shouting vocals and confessional and expressive lyrical content.
- Emo bands include Rites of Spring, Embrace (U.S band), One Last Wish and Dag Nasty.
- "Emo" was actually an insult given by punks, to people who listened to emocore. Emo was a response to the heightened violence in the hardcore punk scene and many punks who wanted to stay true to it used to go to emo bands shows and shout things at them.

Extra emo information

While goth has stayed with the same style over the years, emo has developed more sub-genres / fusions and has been reinvented.

An example of this is 90s emo, when it was reinvented as a style of indie rock. Instead of the harsh, shouting hardcore punk sound, emo came back with whiny vocal techniques and melodic guitars. There was a small subculture around this style, but it didn't last very long and most of the bands in this genre were short lived.
Some examples of this are Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas is the Reason and Jawbreaker.

In the 00s, emo was becoming so popular that the sound had changed so much and "emo pop punk" was born. This is where it stops being "emo" and turns into something else. The fusion genre was pioneered by Jimmy Eat World (who broke the mainstream with their song The Middle), The Promise Ring and The Get Up Kids.

This is what bands like My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco were or are classed as today (it differs with individual albums and the direction of the music they are making today).

The characteristics of emo pop punk are high pitched melodies, rhythmic guitars, and lyrics based on adolescence, relationships and heartbreak. The sound of emo pop is softer, which appeals to a wider audience (note on how it's so popular).

Back to the difference between emo and goth

So now you know what happened in that period, you will know that people aren't comparing emotive hardcore and goth, they are comparing emo pop and goth which makes it a whole lot harder to explain when you're trying to make it short.

The key differences in fashion are listed below. Emocore did not have a specific dress as it as more about the music than anything, but sweaters, messenger bags and horn rimmed glasses were among the look. Original emo fashion and music was not "dark" so they didn't incorporate anything dark coloured / themed into their look. They dressed "normal", or like punks, you could say.

Emo pop punk fashion:

Emo kids are most commonly known for wearing
- Converse / vans
- Band shirts / hoodies
- Skinny jeans (in dark colours)
- Eyeliner (make up)
- Their hair to one side, swept into "bangs" or a "fringe"

Goth fashion:

- Siouxsie Sioux and Jonny S*ts make up; both s*es wore make up.
- Fishnets
- DIY (Goth is a DIY subculture)
- Leather
- Winklepickers (but some more common types of footwear today include platforms, creepers, boots and combat boots)
- Back combed, often dyed hair
- Anything the original goth musicians wore in the early days

If you look back at what the original goths wore in the 80s, you will see that there is nothing "specific" to the look (besides obvious things like fishnets), but yet kept it in the same style anyway. The objective was to dress similarly to your idol, but not directly copy them. Goths are individuals, but need to keep a similar fashion style going otherwise there is nothing in common.

So there are loads of differences, you just have to dig to find answers. Simply looking at a group of goths and then emos won't tell you much at all.


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