What It Means To Be An 'Alt Girl'

Photo: Eugenio Marongiu / shutterstock
woman with septum piercing wearing sunglasses

Have you seen girls wearing thrift store clothes, with piercings, dyed hair, and wearing colorful, unique makeup?

According to Urban Dictionary, these are "alt girls."

What is an alt girl?

"Alt" is a specific aesthetic that embraces a grungy alternative look and the rebellious attitude to fit.

Social media, most notably TikTok, has made this trend increasingly popular.

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"Alt girls" are yet another subculture/style coined by the internet — "alt" being the clear abbreviation for alternative. Alt girls are the counterculture of the current era similar to the hippies of 50 years ago.

The ironic thing — and alt girls are all about irony — is that this going-against-the-grain, outsider style is actually quite popular. It can be seen all over the internet, particularly on TikTok.

The alt girl style is reminiscent of 90s grunge and early 2000s punk cultures.

Heavy eyeliner, heavy accessorizing, and heavy metal would pretty much sum up the alt girl style. Alt girls also tend to wear lots of fishnets, chunky shoes, baggy pants, and vibrantly colored hair.

Another unique emblem is the alt girl nose. Alt girls tend to color their noses red with blush or eyeshadow giving them a more cartoony look; again, roughing up conventional ideas of beauty.

As for alt girl philosophies, these ladies want to smash the patriarchy and protest all that is mainstream — even themselves, much like hipsters that deny they're hipsters.

The main takeaway of the alt girl image is that they're tough women unafraid of showing their toughness.

Alt girls may feel their 'normal' look is a persona that doesn't depict their true selves.

Some alt girls have two sides to them, one more traditional and the other a darker, edgier version they feel is truer to themselves.

A popular trend on TikTok is when an alt girl creates scripted videos where they're meeting their significant other’s parents and wearing "normal" clothing and makeup. They mimic the adults saying, “Oh you must be the (cheerleader, honor student, insert another stereotyped good girl role here) my son was telling me about!”

And as a punchline twist, they show their alt girl personas to reveal what they're "really" like, versus what's expected of them.

Other girls only wish to be an alt girl. There are a plethora of TikTok videos of girls saying, “How I wish I dressed,” and depicting an alt girl look. These girls seem to suggest that although this culture resonates with them, they don’t feel bold enough to actually walk around in that style.

Like all punks and goths before them, alt girls have a daring style that innately draws attention. One does not present as an alt girl with the fear of being judged; the entire maxim of the alt girl is saying, “Screw what everyone thinks of me, this is who I am.”

Some alt girls depict a double identity with their love for cosplay. Alt girls are often associated with “nerdy” interests like fantasy, anime, video games, and other similar interests.

Their elaborate style may be solely expressed through costumes, or they may use their flair for avant-garde makeup and fashion while being themselves and dressed as their favorite characters.

No matter the occasion, alt girls certainly have a natural inclination toward the dramatic.

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Some alt girls love embracing 'witchiness.'



The girl reading tarot cards in the smoky room of the party is probably an alt girl.

Dark, magic, enlightened — these are all adjectives that a witch or an alt girl would probably be described as, so the overlap of these identities only makes sense.

Not every witch is an alt girl, and not every alt girl is a witch, but it is common for alt girls to be into astrology, have accessories or tattoos of the moon, and not only know who Lilith is but hail to her.

Alt girls either love "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" for its witchiness or hate it for its "Riverdale" cheese.

Like any counterculture, alt girls get a lot of hate from the mainstream.

And like any counterculture, they couldn't care less about the mainstream’s opinions. Alt girls’ boldness, darkness, and sensuality are looked down upon by mainstream observers, particularly older generations.

But part of the alt girl schtick is not caring about outside opinions of their expression of themselves.

Alt girls want to shake things up and give a metaphorical or literal middle finger to naysayers. They want to break the problematic systems that put people into boxes and conformity — although the alt girl style itself is its own conformed box.

Despite the irony of fitting into a particular “type” that claims to defy “types,” the boldness and nuanced variation within the alt girl style cannot be denied, which holds true to this claimed otherness that they prescribe to.

While the image and attitude of the alt girl isn't new or original, it is an adaptation and evolution of the styles they draw inspiration from. The explosion of TikTok, and the accessibility that the internet gives, make alt girls trendy despite their rejection of trendiness.

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Colleen Fogarty is a writer who covers self-care, astrology, and relationship topics.