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What It Means To Be An 'E-Girl' Or 'E-Boy'

Photo: Getty Images, Trendify, capturenow via Canva
egirls with colored hair

The digital age has given rise to a whole new vocabulary that many of us had never even heard of until a couple of years ago. E-girls (sometimes spelled egirl) and their male counterparts, e-boys, are just another addition to the roll call of allusive descriptive terms that decorate our social media platforms.

This Tumblr-inspired, TikTok-obsessed internet subculture is difficult to pigeonhole if you didn’t grow up with a smartphone permanently attached to one hand. But despite how it looks online, this trend didn’t happen overnight.

This might be difficult for you to hear, Gen Z, but since the mid-20th century, each generation has had their own version of what is now known as an e-girl, so your extremely uncool parents might have dressed kind of similar to you back in their day.

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In the 1970s it was British punk and tartan skirts; the 80s goths backcombed their hair and wore black lipstick; in the 2000s, emo teens blasted My Chemical Romance and made angsty Facebook statuses. 

Since the dawn of pop culture, there has been a subculture of teens ready to dye their hair in crazy colors, slam bedroom doors, and shout, “It’s not a phase, mom” over their blasting music.

While in the past they were rejecting cheesy boy bands and kitsch fashion trends, today’s e-girls are in opposition to the influencers pushing teeth whitening kits and weight loss teas on their young, impressionable audience.

It's an aesthetic-driven identity that cultivates a different style than that advertised by the Madison Beers and Kylie Jenners of the Instagram world.

What is an e-girl?

An e-girl, also known as an electronic girl, in a basic definition is a hot girl who is essentially very much online. She's a hip young person whose defining quality is that she's hot and... online.

They are the typical social media influencers or Instagram models, but rather than being an online persona out in the world taking vacations to Barbados, e-girls are in their bedroom chatting with people online. E-girls are even into video games and may have a Twitch account.

It is a term used to describe a certain look many girls have on platforms such as TikTok, but there are subcategories of an e-girl:

  • The TikTok e-girl: Described as cute, fun, and manga-like girls on TikTok, she will post videos of herself in her bedroom while she applies too much blush and has her hair dyed in non-natural colors. Belle Delphine is a great example.
  • The emo e-girl: Described as tending to wear black and striped t-shirts underneath another small t-shirt, this type of e-girl will wear chokers and dark makeup.
  • The gamer e-girl: Described as an online gamer girl, she's passionate about separating female gamers from the male-dominated gamer demographic and trying to popularize the style.

E-girls can also be a mixture of all three and still be considered part of the e-girl community.

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What is an e-boy?

The term e-boy, or electronic boy, is the exact same thing as an e-girl but with a boy. E-boys are the male counterparts to the e-girl. They are good-looking and only truly exist online, specifically on social media. Sure, he is a real person, but his persona may be different in real life than online.

Urban Dictionary defines e-boys as, "A boy that probably skates, has his nails painted w/ rings, wears beanies, maybe has a cute egirl girlfriend, always wearing vans and long sleeves or hoodies under T-shirts, their hair is sometimes parted down the middle."

E-boy style is very much inspired by skater culture, anime, K-pop, and hip-hop. They are male active internet users who are often stereotyped as emo, and are gamers who are trying to get attention on social media. They are also characterized by having an e-girl girlfriend.

What do e-girls and e-boys look like?

The prototypical e-girl aesthetic is probably not someone you see walking around in real life; she’s far too busy perfecting her winged eyeliner and making TikToks in her room to be out in the world.

If you’re scrolling on Tumblr, you'll likely see an e-girl wearing striped long sleeves, layers of chains, and hearts drawn with black eyeliner under the eyes like influencer Eve Fraser, or popstar Doja Cat.

Her clothes are probably thrifted from Depop, or ripped straight off a Dolls Kill model. Her hair is never her natural color, or any natural color for that matter. It’s probably lime green, pink, or half blonde, half black colored hair.

   

   

For the e-boy, the style is much the same, with a little more skater influence, and doesn’t necessarily denote a different gender. Any gender orientation can dress as either an e-girl or e-boy, provided they own a dark shade of nail varnish and part their hair in the middle.

   

   

If you’re familiar with TikTok’s Chase Hudson, AKA Lil Huddy, you know exactly what an e-boy is.

The style is heavily influenced by Asian culture, specifically anime. An e-girl is what you get if an emo was sent on a shopping trip in Harajuku and then told to learn a TikTok dance.

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Where did the terms 'e-girl' and 'e-boy' originate?

The terms e-girl and e-boy have a derogatory connotation due to its roots in gaming culture.

Women who dress in this style are often slut-shamed and criticized for invading the male-dominated world of online gaming.

Men who can’t bear the thought that a woman might be interested in gaming, and might also happen to dress in a way that's attractive to them, mistakenly assume that they are only adopting these habits for male attention.

Unfortunately, the terms don't come from a very pleasant concept.

The term "e-girl" was first used in the late 2000s as an objectifying insult for women who are perceived to seek out male attention specifically online. For these men, an e-girl is a promiscuous woman who flirts with men online.

Do e-girls and e-boys exist outside of TikTok and social media?

They do, but they don't.

People who identify as e-girls or e-boys are real people, but they are only considered e-girls or e-boys online. Outside of social media and TikTok, they are nonconforming youth who freely express themselves.

So, in a way, they do exist outside of social media, but they also don't exist outside of social media.

The real distinction here is that the "E" in e-girl and e-boy means electric or electronic, meaning you can't be "electric" in real life. As the name suggests, the slang terms e-girls and e-boys are inseparable from the internet.

An e-girl and e-boy’s identity is as much based on their online persona as it is on their hair color. The "e" is for electronic. If there wasn’t a device on which these teens could post images of their out-there fashion choices, they probably wouldn’t do it at all.

They make TikToks of themselves applying heavy amounts of blush while looking angsty in front of the camera. Some play in online gaming forums or cry in their social media stories.

The persona of an e-girl is really just a restyling of the exact influencer culture it rejects, since they’re all chasing the same internet currency: clout. You'd most likely be considered emo girls/boys or scene kids outside of the internet.

Is 'e-girl' or 'e-boy' an insult?

The popularization of the term has opened it up for a new wave of criticism that's less derogatory but equally as mocking as the sexist tirade against gaming e-girls.

Someone who wears a "Sailor Moon" t-shirt or tweets out Lil Peep lyrics might joke about being an e-girl to mock this trend. Search #egirlfactory on TikTok or Instagram, and you'll see thousands of videos of people stereotyping the style, and many e-girls themselves poking fun at the style. (These hashtags are known as e-girl factories.)

Anything that makes someone appear obsessed with online expression and being sultry is sarcastically seen as e-girl behavior. But while these jokes aren’t exactly complementary, they are a welcome shift away from the cruel harassment experienced by women in the gaming world.

The language and tone surrounding e-girl and e-boys have softened significantly since the style became popular on TikTok.

Its weight as an insult depends on whether or not you're consciously adhering to this trend.

If you're deliberately painting your nails black and pouting to look cool online, then it shouldn’t offend you at all. If you’re someone who has chosen to dye two blonde streaks at the front of your hair for style, but otherwise don’t associate with e-culture, you might be insulted by being called an e-girl.

But really, e-girls or e-boys are just synonyms for being young and obsessed with being online. Because as long as there are people using the internet, there will be e-girls and e-boys.

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.

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