E-girl literally means “electronic girl”: a style born to exist online, mediated by screens and filters. The e-girl lives mainly on social media, sharing pictures and videos from their rooms. Outside, in the streets, it hardly exists. Perhaps in this sense it is one of the first purely digital trends and it is no coincidence that, from the social niches of TikTok o Twitch, has established itself in the mainstream in 2020, being among the 10 most searched Google trends last year and also capturing the attention of celebrities such as Bella Hadid or Dua Lipa and Vogue, which published an e-girl make-up tutorial featuring the rapper Doja Cat.
E-girl is an idea of style not related to gender (there is also the e-boy, which follows slightly different stylistic codes, but they are both fluid terms) and is a perfect example of post-internet and post-Tumblr aesthetics: a patchwork of seemingly polar opposites, from Emo to Goth, BDSM, Kawaii and al K-Pop with a particular affiliation to the gamer and cosplay culture (a common reference is theHarley Quinn by Margot Robbie).
A picture from the Instragram profile of pop star Dua Lipa.
From definition of Urban Dictionary, the term actually exists since 2009 and was used as a misogynist insult at least until the 2014 Gamergate: it more or less meant “promiscuous gamer girl who uses her sexuality and physical appearance to her advantage.” Like many derogatory expressions (a mechanism is very well explained in the Netflix series History of Swear Words by Nicolas Cage for the word “bitch”) has undergone a re-appropriation process that has weakened it and rendered it harmless.
The time when the term probably started to truly enter the mainstream and become a go-to subculture for Generation Z dates back to the peak of the “E-Girl Factory” meme on TikTok in 2019, where boys and girls open a door and are forcibly transformed into e-girls: brightly colored hair with pigtails and pegs, striped t-shirts, fishnets, winged eyeliner with hearts or shimmering stickers under the eyes, drawn freckles and the inevitable Japanese make-up Igari, or rather hangover, with a bright pink nose and cheek.
Make-up artist @godesosa, known for creating looks inspired by the e-girl style; behind her @Venusbby.
In short, those who thought that the outbreak of the pandemic would have flattened everyone on the athleisure, or on the look halved by Zoom (formal above, pajamas underneath), had not reckoned with the e-girl. And if the main feature of this style is to live a mainly digital life, since the social life of a large part of the planet has moved almost exclusively online, it can console us that, if we want, we are separated only by colored hair and a little heart printed in face from becoming all e-girls.
Opening: artist, e-girl model and make-up artist Eve Fraser @ eve.frsr.