If you’re over the age of 17, you might not be familiar with TikTok, the Chinese app that beams hundreds of millions of 15-second videos around the globe, racking up more than a billion views daily. Beloved by Gen Z and the teens that eschew Facebook and Twitter for apps like Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok has birthed viral trends, like the one tied to the #SKATELIKETHIS hashtag, in which TikTokers do tricks to a pre-recorded soundtrack of someone saying “Y’all sayin I don’t skate, but I ollie like this and you ollie like what is that.” The first trick is done well and the next one is trash. That’s the joke.
While hashtagged trends and viral challenges create TikTok’s economy of attention, a new subculture known as “egirls” and “eboys” are the app’s most famous export. Though egirls/eboys truly came into their own with TikTok, the term predates the app and originally had negative connotations.
According to Buzzfeed, “egirl” first showed up on Urban Dictionary in 2013, where it was used by male gamers to deride young women they perceived as desperate for online attention. Here, the “E” referred to “electronic,” indicating that egirls existed online, where they sought attention on platforms like Twitch and Tumblr.
This usage remained intact as TikTok emerged and flourished in 2017. But as the app gained momentum, things began to change. On this platform, egirls began to embrace the term, adding a dash of irony to flip it on its head as a positive identifier, describing the subculture they were now creating. Now, egirls said: “If you’re going to accuse us of only trying to get attention, we’re going to take that and run with it and actually use the term to up our own clout.”
This shift coincided with the emergence of a new aesthetic, as egirls instinctually combined three generations of mall punk – including ’90s grunge, millennial nu metal and hot topic goth, and 2000s scene kid – to create their look, topping things off with distinctively dyed hair and graphic makeup that often included little hearts or teardrops drawn on under the eye.
Then, as the egirl came to be viewed positively, a male counterpart emerged, adding markers of skater style to their visual mix, which would ultimately include Thrasher T-shirts worn over striped longsleeves, Vans, wallet chains, and black nail polish. Here, the depressing, antisocial aspects of emo and goth became positives, and eboys transformed from objects of derision to enviable online personalities. As Urban Dictionary notes, eboys are “basically goth, but they don’t get made fun of as much as someone who calls themself [sic] goth since their [sic] seen as cute by girls nowadays.”
The eboys’ combination of MySpace scene kid, mall goth, and contemporary skater makes them look an awful lot like the rocker-influenced skateboarders of the 2000s, made famous by companies like Baker and its 2005 video Baker 3. In a world where skaters are wearing cropped, baggy jeans and rappers are the only ones wearing skinnies, it feels fresh to see teenagers embracing the tight emo jeans beloved by skaters of yore.
It’s the eboys’ rampant embrace of skinny jeans that recalls the fashion industry’s persistent beliefs that trends repeat themselves every 20 years. Though we live in a world with numerous trend-forecasting agencies fighting for data they’ll use to predict the “next big trend,” the 20-year cycle theory has never really been proven, at least quantitatively. It remains qualitative, even folkloric. But it also seems to ring true, decade after decade, answering fashion’s most basic question: What’s next?
Well, the answer to that is: whatever was cool 20 years ago. As you know, 20 years after 1999, retro ’90s styles and skater themes have dominated fashion. And looking at eboys today, it also seems clear that what comes next is simply more skater style, this time wrapped up tight in some skinny jeans and a black T-shirt. Though it’s impossible to prove this quantitatively, TikTok, overrun with eboys and egirls, offers plenty of evidence on its own.
It seems that many major designers agree – reams of high-end clothing that look like grownup upgrades to eboy gear are on the ecommerce sites for some of New York City’s biggest stores. Now, it’s not necessarily clear that designers are mining eboys for inspiration just yet, but rather that something new is floating along on the zeitgeist. Trends are mysterious like that, often arriving all at once to infiltrate multiple sectors of society at the same time, with disparate creators bringing a similar aesthetic to the fore simultaneously.
As we approach 2020, the 20-year trend cycle says that all the cool people will be dressing like 2000s skaters, rockers, and hipsters again soon. Hey, eboys agree, and checking the selections below, you’ll see that the design teams at labels like Off-White, Rick Owens, and COMME des GARÇONS seem to be on the same wavelength. After all, the 20-year cycle and its eboy children wouldn’t have it any other way.
This look starts with the graphic T-shirt; a nice rocker look that reveals some hidden imagery upon closer inspection.
You’ll need a striped long-sleeve to go under that tee. Why stray from Comme, the original high fashion pop culture goths?
The contrast stitching on these really nails the eboy look, but most importantly these are slim and not too tight. Wear accordingly.
Black and white stripes? Check. Vulc sole? Yep. A dash of pink? Sure thing. These Off-White sneakers feature all the best bits of oughts scene kid style in a wearable, high end style.
Even eboys get cold.
Tucking your T-shirt in gives you plenty of room to show off your statement belt. Like this one, from 1017 ALYX 9SM.
Might as well go all out. Plus, with a chain wallet, you’ll never lose your credit cards again.
These ’90s style frames are audacious but not overwhelming. Bonus points for the cyber goth wraparound shape.
Goth but sporty, just how an eboy likes ’em.
Hey, can’t have too many chains.
Rockers love bandanas. Plus Kurt!
In case you’re feeling adventurous.
- Photography: Eva Al Desnudo/Highsnobiety