When Did Emo Get So Stylish?

In a sea of Lil B lyrics and 2 Chainz tweets, I'm out here paddling a raft built on '90s emo and punk adaptations of The Beach Boys. I grew up on disco, moved on to hip-hop and rap and found myself in a metalcore band in high school. We had our hair grown to our shoulders and we wore those band tees with dinosaurs fighting zombies. By 17, I realized I looked like a tumbling dickweed, got a haircut and started wearing J. Crew oxfords—chill out, man, J. Crew will still be around when your favorite Norwegian alpaca sweatpants company is bankrupt.

I took a year hiatus from going to shows. I was pretending to be an adult because, you know, supervising a bunch of FIT students at a Billabong hidden by a newspaper stand and a Foot Locker is the pinnacle of maturity. Last October, I made my return to the scene via an emo/indie record label showcase in Bushwick. I was greeted at the door by a group of dudes with pompadours and well-groomed beards and behind them were other groups of dudes with the same look. They all had thick flannels or oxfords, slim dad-jeans and ranger boots—real Tumblr 4,000 note like. I wanted in. It wasn't what I remembered, but it was cool going to a show without getting called a Jonas brother.

What I'm hinting at is the shift in style in the punk/emo/hardcore/musicyouprobablyhatecore community. When I told Lawrence I wanted to write this he told me, "The dudes in the pictures are dressed normal and I'm not sure what this has to do with punk." That's sort of it: they look normal instead of looking like a Hot Topic lookbook. (Is that a thing? Wait, please don't confirm). Musicians are giving a semblance of a shit about what they look like. A friend of mine, Chris, fronts one of my favorite bands and he wears these polos that fit perfectly—they're part of his dad's uniform from the '50s when he worked at a drive-in burger joint. Check your heritage, bruh. In Connecticut's scene, dudes are wearing quilted jackets with Nike Frees. Band tees are printed with grainy black and white photos and political statements in seraph fonts. The bassist in my band is a law school student with the nicest haircut I've ever seen.

So, why the shift? It has a lot to do with accessibility and affordability. There's a level of personal style and credibility attached to each band T-shirt. Bands make multiple tees a season for different tours and shows. We all take pleasure in wearing exclusive jawns ahead of the tip. At $8-15 a pop, who wouldn't partake? We're getting older and black and white is more appealing than turquoise. A simple button down with any shade of denim is the easiest thing to come across at any pricepoint—if you're reading this in your double monks and getting warm, unbutton your spread collar and let your neck breathe. These guys are having fun with their gear instead of spending twenty minutes neck deep in a closet full of unworn clothes.

I find my own style somewhere between what I've learned from older guys and what I've learned from friends in the punk scene. Both groups have a very simple trait in common: dressing for comfort because comfort breeds confidence. Without our poorly-dressed past we wouldn't have a "normally" dressed present. Let's let sleeping dogs lie and move on.

Christopher Fenimore is a photographer living in New York. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter here.

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  • Christopher Fenimore

    Substitute “emo” for “hardcore” because this is mainly a reaction to the hardcore scene more than emo.

  • http://disenchantedyouth.tumblr.com Braeza

    I feel you, man. This hasn’t hit as hard in Australia, but I mean, I sing in a nasty ass Boston ’82 style Hardcore Punk/Oil! Band whilst wearing OCBD’s and some damn Monks. Living proof and shit, bruh.