E-boys are eye-rolling their way into our hearts

By Madalyn Watson | Print Managing Editor

Fingernails and black nail polish; sleepy eyes rolled back in indifference; dangly cross earrings. Put these pieces together and you have yourself the makings of an “e-boy.”

E-boys are identified by their signature style on TikTok that only seems to exist on the social media video sharing app. Their style combines goth and skater boy style with the male equivalent of the “not like other girls” attitude.

An e-boy displays his chains, black nail polish and one cross earring. His hair straight parted down the middle with a beanie or slick like Leonardo DiCaprio’s hair in “Romeo + Juliet.”

Although the origins of the e-boy are unknown, the trend is now entrenched in the TikTok and meme saturated culture of the generation Z population. TikTok—which some describe as the “new Vine” but probably shouldn’t—is an app for creating and sharing short videos.

Most of the videos feature users filming them self while lip-syncing or acting out sketches using songs, effects and sound bites from just about any other medium they want. This may sound familiar to its predecessor, Musical.ly, that was acquired by the Bejing-based tech company, ByteDance, that already owned TikTok and absorbed it in August 2018.

Soon after I became curious enough about the social media platform to scroll through a friend’s feed, I encountered this weird phenomenon of lip-syncing and eye-rolling teenage boys and became obsessed with understanding their sudden rise in popularity.

The first thing that stood out to me about these e-boys was that they felt extremely familiar. Even while watching compilation videos of them winking at the camera and pretending to choke themselves, a hazy feeling of déjà vu compelled me to continue watching.

These boys knew that they were hot. In some of their most popular videos on TikTok, e-boys show off their good looks, highlight their bone structure and other features many of their peers would find attractive. They smirk, roll their eyes and touch their faces in ways that are extremely suggestive.

As they present their handsome features to their fans, they have a “who cares” attitude that makes them seem like they don’t care as much about their looks; they want to look effortlessly attractive.

If you didn’t have these kinds of guys at your high school or notice them, the perfect example I can think of from the media is Timothée Chalamet’s character in “LadyBird.” The first time viewers are introduced to Kyle, the mysterious bad boy is playing bass in a band at a house party.

Of course, no one really accredits the invention of the e-boy trend to Timothée Chalamet. My familiarity with the e-boys is possibly just because trends are recycled over and over again with a slightly different filter and shared on a different social media platform.

The style that e-boys are sporting is clearly not brand new and even the meaning of the title e-boy has changed over time, so we should investigate their female counterparts in order to understand them better.

The concept of “e-girls” existed for a while before the creation of TikTok. Between the ‘90s and ‘00s, the “e” in e-girl or e-boy would stand for “electronic” and would refer to young men and women online. However, by the early ‘00s, the word would be used in reference to people online who were interested in the emo aesthetic as well as other alternative styles like goth, skater and grunge.

Now, e-girls are taking back the identity and making it into something new and different. Almost meshing all of these concepts together into one type of women, E-girls are now the cool girls of the Internet, well at-least, TikTok.

An average e-girl on TikTok is first identified by their makeup. They are an expert, probably watched a lot of beauty bloggers growing up, with dramatic eyeliner and cute little shapes drawn under their eyes. Hearts are the most common but sometimes they are dots or x’s, similar to the style of makeup made popular by the teen drama “Euphoria.” Highlight and heavy amounts of pink blush are also key to their look.

Their specific style is influenced by goth, K-Pop and cosplay fashion. An e-girl usually has her hair in youthful pigtails or pulled back with colorful hair clips. The actual outfit can be very different depending on each and every e-girl’s closest style inspirations, but black and white striped long sleeves under black T-shirts are a staple. She also can be found wearing tight denim, mom jeans and (surprise, surprise) lots of chains.

The style has become so common with frequent users of TikTok that in early 2019, a meme spread on TikTok known as “the E-girl factory.” The meme features users entering a “factory” and exiting dressed like a stereotypical e-girl. A similar trend happened with the e-boy community, but it was not as popularized.

Because modern e-boys and e-girls are characterized by their emo fashion sense as well as their presence on social media, we can look to the evolving emo culture for some possible answers to our burning questions.

The e-boy and e-girl movements are the counter movement to the Instagram influencer, showing off their perfect lifestyle: flawlessly Facetuned skin, vacations to exotic places with very blue water and brand deals with wildly popular fitness and fashion brands.

Many argue that these new TikTok driven aesthetics emerged in direct response to the overly curated mainstream aesthetic on Instagram. They believe that the newer video sharing app could be killing Instagram and influencers along with it by providing a more supportive community. And as the e-girl takes the influencers place on the Internet, they expect our beauty standards to change.

Influencers probably won’t be going away anytime soon. But e-boys and e-girls probably won’t either, the two subcultures will continue to coexist on separate platforms.