Goth VS Emo: What is the difference?

Goth VS Emo: What is the difference?

If you put a goth and an emo side by side, at first glance, you might think they’re the same.

That’s because goth and emo individuals share quite a few similarities. However, they have several differences that set them apart - way apart.

If you’re curious about the differences between these styles, keep reading. This article highlights the key dissimilarities of goth and emo culture, ensuring you won’t make the mistake of putting them under the same category.

What is a Goth?

If you found yourself on this page, there’s a good chance you already know what a goth is. 

However, I wanted to give a brief intro to what “goth” and “emo” are to help you get a better understanding.

Goths were born in the early 70s/late 80s. They have a passion for music like gothic rock and other darker tones, dark clothing that emphasizes black from head to toe, and a love for the macabre.

Several goth subcultures carry on their own depiction of what “goth” is. For instance, a cyber goth wears futuristic items and vibrant neon colors, while romance goths blend in Victorian-inspired garments and accessories.

What is an Emo?

Emo is short for “emotional,” which is directly related to the emotionally charged music this group enjoys. Think: crowd favorites like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Panic! At the Disco.

Like goths, emos tend to wear darker clothing. However, they are far more likely to reach for band t-shirts and skinny jeans. They focus heavily on dark eyeliner without the white hues that goths know and love. Hair also differs significantly, featuring plenty of height and side-swept bangs covering the eye.

Compared to goths, emos had a short run that started around 2000 and ended in 2010. Nowadays, it’s harder to find someone embracing the emo trend while goth remains strong. There are also no emo subcultures. 

Differences Between Goth and Emo

Now that you have a general idea of what goths and emos are, we can highlight the significant differences between these two groups.

Let’s take a closer look:

Music Choices

Let’s start by discussing music choices.

A traditional goth enjoys listening to dark-themed music. Some of the typical favorites include gothic punk and darkwave. Goth individuals will likely enjoy tunes from bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, Fields of Nephilim, and more.

Emos tend to enjoy music more closely related to the punk scene. However, the main difference is that the lyrics are confessional and emotionally charged. Bands likely found on an emo playlist include Taking Back Sunday, Paramore, and Rites of Spring.



Goths are known for wearing black from head to toe - and the spookier, the better. They commonly add leather, lace, fishnets, spikes, and gothic motifs to their ensembles. 

Emos also enjoys wearing dark clothing. Yet, their style differs significantly.

The key to every emo style is a pair of skinny jeans with a band t-shirt. This is the most common get-up for someone who considers themselves an emo. They’re also known for being a bit more casual and less macabre than goth individuals.

Emo girls are also open to wearing vibrant neon shades, short skirts, and thigh-high stockings with adorable motifs. 

Unlike goths who wear gothic accessories that may have skulls, bats, or other scary imagery, emos tend to reach for brightly-colored bracelets or an accessory with studs.


Subculture Options

There is a seemingly endless list of goth subcultures to choose from. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular options.


  • Traditional Goths: These goths are known as the “original goths” who created the look. They were inspired by their favorite music artists and based their style on the bands. They enjoy wearing black everything.


  • Romantic Goth: As the name suggests, this type of goth enjoys the romantic side of things. They have a love for all things dark, spooky, and elegant. That said, they tend to add more Victorian-inspired pieces to their aesthetic.


  • Pastel Goth: The pastel goth isn’t afraid to add brighter and perkier colors to their wardrobe. However, this doesn’t make them any less terrifying to the public eye!


  • Nu-Goth: Nu-Goths are essentially, well, “new goths.” They take on a more modern interpretation of what gothic actually means. That said, their style varies a bit, but it’s still dark and mysterious.


Unfortunately, when it comes to emos, it’s more of a “take it or leave it” style. There are no subcultures. 


You can’t talk about the differences between goths and emos without mentioning makeup.


There is one similarity in these two groups’ makeup: eyeliner. Both goths and emos focus heavily on dark and mysterious eyes, with plenty of black eyeliner on the top and bottom lid.


However, emos tend to stop the intense makeup on the eyes. Goths take it a step further by incorporating dark and bold lip colors, including black or rich reds and purples. They may also add white foundation to their face to intensify their appearance.


Finally, let’s talk about hair!


Goths are known for wearing their hair very dark. It will either be black or another dark and mysterious shade, such as red or purple. Their hair tends to be long and symmetrical and may or may not have accessories featuring spooky gothic motifs. Yet, looks can vary widely across the goth subcultures.

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Emo hair is hard to miss. Most emos wear their hair with side-swept bangs that cover their eyes. Their hair can be black, but many add neon highlights to add some pizazz. They tend to opt for asymmetrical cuts with lots of layers and tease the hair so there’s plenty of volume. 

Goth vs. Emo: Understanding Contrasts and Common Ground

Simply put, goths and emos share a few similarities, such as loving darker colors and taking on a spookier appearance. Yet, emos have many differences, such as being emotionally charged and opting for more casual looks featuring neon shades and unique hair and makeup options.

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