How to wear the new emo look

Priya Elan

When I was old enough to know better, I bought a Nightmare Before Christmas-esque skeleton sweater, complete with peaked hood that had a bell attached. A bell.

Worn with the hood up, I imagined I was piggybacking on the dark and fabulous emo trend that I, at the time, found inspirational. The reality was somewhat different: I looked as if I’d just staggered home from a Lord Of The Rings convention along with my close personal friend Quasimodo and his ringing bell.

How did I get it so wrong? I’m not sure. Although, now that it’s 15-plus years since emo went mainstream, it’s easier to retrace my steps. On the one hand, emo shared a lot of characteristics with goth and indie, so you were pretty safe wearing your staples (Converse, skinny jeans, eyewear that suggested you were a graphic designer). On the other, it mixed the tribal black-centric clothes of goth with a Web 2.0 way of dressing: part anime character, part K-pop star, part Avril Lavigne tribute act. It was a tougher proposition to nail down.

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Today, emo is back. My Chemical Romance are on tour again! Billie Eilish is a slime-green style icon! In this shot, I’m wearing lace-up boots (with buckles), skinny jeans and a short T-shirt over a long one. All black. All three take slightly longer to put on than I’d like but, once dressed, I’m transported to a version of me that I’d long put away in a vacuum-packed bag and shoved under the bed. He’s the guy whose eyes inadvertently roll into the back of his head, whose voice goes up at the end of every sentence, and whose favourite colour is, naturally, black.

All the cliches about black are true: like a cloak of invisibility, it hides a multitude of sins but retains an air of unknowable cool and (in my wildest fantasy) a bit of protective menace. Perhaps this guy – and this look – is irresistible. Or are my eyes just blinded by the imaginary kohl eyeliner I feel I should be wearing?

The problem with emo’s return is that it’s hard to wear and feel like a grownup. (Don’t style it with a T-shirt featuring characters you might see in a risqué graphic novel. And obviously no bells.) There’s nostalgia and there’s “feeling like I should be in Camden Market, necking cider and crying”. I’m not sure I want to go back there.

• Long-sleeve T and jeans, Priya’s own. T-shirt, £22, beyondretro.co.uk. Boots, £169, kurtgeiger.com.