Difference Between Goth And Emo


Actually the difference between goth and emo is one of the most annoying mixed-up meanings in modern times. Goth and Emo are both subcultures associated with alternative music, fashion, and aesthetics. In this article, learn the difference between the two in context of definition, music, aesthetic style, attitude, philosophy, evolution and stereotypes.


Goth is a music-based subculture that began in the United Kingdom in the mid 1970s-to-early 1980s. It was developed by fans of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk music genre. It emerged as a reaction against the prevailing mainstream trends and sought to embrace a more alternative, dark, and artistic aesthetic. The subculture drew inspiration from gothic literature, horror films, and a fascination with the macabre.

“Goth” as a term was originally used by music journalists to describe bands with dark subjects (the first of which was The Doors, with their track “The End”).


Goths agree that the most important aspect within the subculture is the music. Goth music started from Post-Punk bands like Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Bauhaus. The UK scene was where the subculture gained the most traction, with locations such as The Batcave enforcing the community’s love of the music (the US and the rest of the world also had their own often overlooked Goth scenes).

In other words, Goth music, known as gothic rock, serves as the cornerstone of the subculture. The music often features melancholic melodies, atmospheric instrumentation, and introspective lyrics that explore themes of darkness, existentialism, and the human psyche.

Aesthetic Style

Goth fashion is usually recognizable from its dark and dramatic style. It often include:

  • Clothing: Goths wear black clothing, incorporating elements of Victorian and medieval fashion like as corsets, lace and flowing fabrics. Leather, velvet, and fishnet are also common materials.
  • Makeup: Heavy black eyeliner, dark eyeshadow, and pale foundation are characteristic of Goth makeup. This creates a ghostly or dramatic appearance, often drawing attention to the eyes.
  • Hairstyles: Hair is usually dark. It can be from black to deep shades of purple, blue or red. Hairstyles can be elaborate and unique having asymmetry, layers and sometimes bold colors.
  • Accessories: Goths usually accessorize with items like chokers, silver jewelry, pentagram symbols, and crosses. They might also wear clothing and jewelry with occult or occult-inspired imagery.

Attitude and Philosophy

The Goth subculture usually has introspective and melancholic attitude. Goths always appreciate the beauty in darkness, embracing themes like death, decay and the mysteries of existence. There’s a sense of romanticism associated with embracing the shadows and exploring the darker aspects of human emotion.

Literary and Artistic Influence

Goths draw inspiration from different forms of art and literature, particularly works from the Romantic era, Gothic novels and horror literature. This influence is usually reflected in their fashion, music and even their worldview.

Subgenres and Diversity

The 80s Goth/Post-Punk scene reverberated around the world, as far and wide as America’s Deathrock, Germany’s Grufti, Spain’s Sinestro/Moldova, and Japan’s pre-Visual Kei Goth rock. It only continued and continues to grow in its influence.

In general the goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. The Goth subculture has evolved into many other subgenres like traditional goth, romantic goth, cybergoth etc, each with its own focus.

Today, Goth still thrives as an underground subculture with many organized events and festivals (most popular is the annual Wave-Gotik-Treffen, or WGT for short, which takes place in Leipzig, Germany).

Events like goth music concerts, art exhibitions, and alternative clubs provide spaces for Goths to connect and celebrate their unique culture.


Emo, short for “emotional hardcore,” originated in the 1980s as a subgenre of punk rock. It emerged as a style of hardcore punk and post-hardcore from the mid-1980s Washington, D.C., hardcore punk scene, where it was known as ”emotional hardcore” or ”emocore” in short. It gained significant popularity in the early 2000s and became associated with a distinctive subculture characterized by its emotional and introspective themes.

In other words, Emo is just a slang term that describe a subculture, which is somewhat derived from the hardcore punk scene. The usage of the term has evolved dramatically over the years. Therefore, the definition of the term “emo” can vary, depending on the subject and decade.


Besides the original emocore, many other types of punk subgenres have become associated with the subculture due to the vague definition of the initial genre. Most of the music consists of bands that sing and/or scream about the various emotional hardships in everyone’s life, and the vocals are often combined with harsh guitar riffs and heavy drums for the typical sound.

Emo music features emotionally charged lyrics and often deals with topics like heartbreak, identity, self-doubt, and personal struggles. The music is known for its raw and vulnerable expression. Early emo bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace set the groundwork, while later bands like Dashboard Confessional, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy helped popularize the genre.

Aesthetic Style

Emo fashion combines elements of punk and indie rock aesthetics with a focus on self-expression and individualism. Some common features of emo style include:

  • Clothing: Emo fashion includes skinny jeans, band T-shirts, and plaid patterns. Attire may vary from dark and monochromatic to vibrant and colorful.
  • Hairstyles: The hair is usually kept long regardless of gender and features side-swept bangs and choppy layers, usually dyed in a deep black color, occasionally with additional colorful sections or streaks. It may also feature asymmetrical cuts.
  • Accessories: Studded belts, wristbands and sneakers are common accessories within the emo subculture. Piercings, tattoos and unconventional jewelry may also be part of the look.
  • Makeup: Emo makeup is all about creating an edgy and dark look. Black eyeliner, dark eyeshadows, and concealer lips are popular choices.
  • Piercings: Piercings, especially facial piercings, are a popular trend in emo fashion.
  • Hoodies: Oversized hoodies in dark colors are perfect for an emo outfit. Layer a band t-shirt underneath for a more personalized touch.

Emotional Expression

Emo places a strong emphasis on expressing one’s emotions openly and honestly. The music, lyrics, and overall aesthetic are all vehicles for individuals to share their feelings, which often resonate with a sense of longing, heartache, and the struggles of adolescence.

Attitude and Philosophy

Emo culture values self-expression and individuality. It encourages the acknowledgment of deep emotions and challenges the societal expectations of suppressing feelings. There’s an understanding that it’s okay to feel vulnerable and to share those feelings with others.

Evolution and Diversity

Emo has evolved over the years to include different styles and influences. While the early 2000s saw a surge in popularity with bands that fit the pop-punk and post-hardcore mold, contemporary emo music can include a lot of genres, from indie rock to hip-hop.

Critique and Stereotypes

Emo has faced criticism and stereotypes, particularly during its peak in the mid-2000s. Some have accused it of being overly melodramatic or promoting self-destructive behaviors. However, these stereotypes often overlook the genuine emotional connection and catharsis that emo provides to its fans.

Goth vs Emo: Key Differences

Historical Origins

  • Goth: Emerged in the late 1970s as a music and fashion subculture, initially associated with post-punk and alternative rock.
  • Emo: Originated in the 1980s and gained prominence in the 2000s as a subgenre of punk and indie rock, focusing on emotional expression.

Music Genre

  • Goth: Often associated with genres like gothic rock, darkwave, and industrial music.
  • Emo: Usually linked to punk, post-hardcore, and indie rock with emotionally charged lyrics.

Aesthetic Style

  • Goth: Characterized by dark, Victorian-inspired clothing, black makeup, and an emphasis on the macabre and mysterious.
  • Emo: Known for more casual attire, often featuring skinny jeans, band T-shirts, and messy hairstyles.

Emotional Expression

  • Goth: Emphasizes the darker and more mysterious aspects of human emotion, often embracing melancholy and introspection.
  • Emo: Focuses on raw and intense emotional expression, dealing with themes like heartbreak, self-doubt, and angst.

Attitude Towards Life

  • Goth: Generally leans towards a more detached and introspective worldview, with an appreciation for the beauty in darkness.
  • Emo: Exhibits a more immediate and emotive attitude, with an emphasis on personal struggles and connections.

Subcultural Influences

  • Goth: Draws influence from literature, art, and historical periods like the Victorian era and the Romantic movement.
  • Emo: Is influenced by punk ideologies, personal experiences, and a sense of individualism.

Social Interaction

  • Goth: Tends to embrace a more exclusive and close-knit community, often valuing a sense of belonging.
  • Emo: Has a more open and inclusive social approach, encouraging emotional expression and empathy.

Fashion Accessories

  • Goth: Often includes accessories like chokers, corsets, lace, and leather, with an inclination towards darker and more elaborate pieces.
  • Emo: Features accessories like wristbands, studded belts, and piercings, typically leaning towards a simpler and more casual style.

Color Palette

  • Goth: Primarily revolves around black, deep reds, purples, and dark hues.
  • Emo: Includes darker shades but may also incorporate brighter colors like neon or pastels.

Mainstream Popularity

  • Goth: Generally has a smaller and more niche following, often associated with alternative and underground culture.
  • Emo: Achieved more widespread recognition, particularly during the mid-2000s, and has seen periods of mainstream popularity.

Goth vs Emo: Key Takeaways

Basis of ComparisonGothEmo
OriginLate 1970s as a reaction to mainstream trends and post-punk music.Originated in the 1980s as a subgenre of punk rock.
Music GenreGothic rock, darkwave, industrial.Emo (emotional) punk, indie rock, pop-punk.
Aesthetic StyleDark, Victorian-inspired clothing, black makeup, dramatic and elaborate.Casual, skinny jeans, band T-shirts, simpler fashion.
Emotional ExpressionEmbraces darker emotions and introspection.Focuses on emotional openness and vulnerability.
Attitude Towards LifeDetached, introspective, appreciation for darkness.Emotional, immediate, expressing struggles and feelings.
Literary InfluenceDraws from gothic literature and historical periods.Less influenced by literature, more focused on personal experiences.
Social InteractionClose-knit, exclusive community.Inclusive, more open to social interaction.
Fashion AccessoriesChokers, corsets, lace, leather, occult symbols.Studded belts, wristbands, piercings, expressive accessories.
Color PaletteDark and deep hues, black, red, purple.Dark shades with potential for neon or pastels.
NatureGoth fashion is often extravagant, complex, and diverseEmo fashion is typically simplistic, casual, and well defined
DemographyGoth has a wide age demographic Resonates primarily with teens and very young adults
PhilosophyEmbracing darkness, mystery, and the beauty within it.Openly expressing emotions, valuing vulnerability.