Gen-Z knows an e-boy when they see one. Like grunge rockers of the '90s and scene kids of the '00s, e-boys are easy to spot in a crowd. At the same time, defining an "e-boy" is anything but simple, with differing opinions on the trend making the e-boy identity confusing — even for e-boys themselves.
While the e-boy aesthetic was largely popularized on TikTok, it also hinges on K-Pop style that developed long before the platform’s emergence. Though it’s largely a fashion-based fad, the e-boy identity also involves a broader lifestyle that teen boys have been latching onto in the last year. In fact, videos tagged with the term #eboy have a cumulative total of more than 1,883,000,000 views on TikTok.
With middle-parted hair, silver punk jewelry and skater clothes, e-boys are close cousins to the moody emo and scene kids of the mid-2000s. The mostly-white subculture has the same black nails and long-sleeve-shirt-under-T-shirt style as the emo boys of 15 years ago. In fact, e-boy stands for “emo boy” to some, while others claim it stands for “internet boy.” Regardless, e-boys are both fluent in internet culture and unapologetically in touch with their emotions, somewhat challenging the traditional bounds of masculinity.
Like their emo cousins, a main part of e-boy subculture is music. Some call it “sad boy” music, like music by the late Juice Wrld and Lil Peep, which fuses emo-influenced lyrics and hip hop delivery. Other e-boys grasp on to Soundcloud music and remixes, which are wildly popular on TikTok.
Popular e-boys, like Chase Hudson and Noen Eubanks, have gained explosive popularity on TikTok with more than 8 million followers. With an estimated 80% of U.S. teens on TikTok and more than one billion downloads worldwide, the Gen-Z demographic has made e-boys what they are: trendy, swoon-worthy and untouchable.
But, as Vice points out, the subculture isn't always innocent and has oft sexual undertones. E-boys are the “hot teen boys,” labeled “daddy” by those who desire them. And while e-boys challenge masculinity with dangling earrings and unabashed emotion, they also conform to it. Many e-boys feed on the “daddy” attention, licking their teeth in TikToks and winking flirtatiously at their audience. There’s also a sexualized fascination with choking in the culture, with e-boys posing with their eyes rolling back into their head and feigning choking motions to the camera.
But e-boys want you to know that they are not playboys or chronic partiers looking to seduce. In a YouTube video by Anthony Padilla delving into e-boy culture, self-proclaimed e-boys including Hudson say those assumptions are incorrect and insist that being an e-boy is largely about fashion. And that's all.
While some characteristics of an e-boy can be subtracted, one cannot be an e-boy if they don’t dress the part. If you love the look and want to collect some e-boy approved jewelry, consider the items below.
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