An emo can physically be classified by dark, tight-fitting clothes, fabric accessories (scarves, belts, etc), and typically black hair that commonly covers one eye. Boys wear tight pants that come in at the ankle and very feminine-fitting clothing, while girls typically show a bit more skin and favor more gothic styles. The 'emo' stereotype is different from punk in that punk is much more colorful, and is different from gothic in the sense that their problems are more focused on them than the destruction of humanity.
Emo boys are treated more harshly than girls because of their feminine appearance. They are frequently called 'gay', and the word 'fag' is becoming commonly associated with them. Terrible, terrible hate is directed towards emo people because of their general pathetic appearance. On the flip side, emo is a a near cult; and if one emo meets another, they are befriended. There's only a rare number of people, such as myself, who are against being emo without hating the people.
And then there's 'Wanna-bemos.' These are the people who stumble around, saying "Omg, I'm so emo todayyyy!!!" These are the people who worship lead singers of emo bands, and wish they were 'only just as cool.' I personally believe this is even more pathetic than being within the actual emo stereotype. Why would someone wish to be depressed? It's a very confusing situation.
A young man in a black tee shirt with the title and logo of the band 'My Chemical Romance' plastered over the front, tight black jeans, dark converse shoes and messy, ebony-colored hair walks up to a girl of the same physical appearance. He looks up at her with only one visible, watery eye and passes her a simple "Hi."
She looks back with a sad smile. "Hi. What's your name?"
The young man blinks. "... Kevin," he says sullenly.
"My name's Ella. My Chemical Romance is the best band ever."
A girl with long, dark hair and completely black clothes bounces up to her boyfriend, who looks quite similar. "Hey, sexy," she croons, and stands next to him. "What are you up to today?"
"Soccer practice; it's Wednesday," The boyfriend says back, as if she were an idiot.
The girlfriend looks stunned. "But.. but we were going to see the Fallout Boy concert tonighhhttt!!! Pete Wentz is so hot."
Boyfriend shrugs. "Woops, forgot."
You notice that in the Emo example, both members were very quiet and obviously depressed. In the Wanna-bemo example, both members acted like the 'prep' stereotype; the only difference was that they liked emo music and dressed like such.
1. Girls say they like "sensitive guys" (lie)
2. Guy finds out, so he listens to faggy emo music and dresses like a dork so chicks will see that he is sensitive and not afraid to express himself (lie). He dyes his hair black, wraps himself in a stupid looking scarf, develops an eating disorder, and rants about how "nobody understands".
3. Now an emo guy, he meets Emo chick and they start dating, talking about how their well-off suburban lifestyles are terrible and depressing (lie)
4. Emo guy is just too much of a pussy. His penis is too small, he's too depressed to bathe, and has more mood swings than emo chick, and he doesn't even have a menstrual cycle. Emo chick dumps him, saying "It's not you, it's me." (lie) as she drives off with Wayne, the school jock and captain of the football team.
5. Emo guy goes home and cries, proceeds to write a weak song and strum a single string on his acoustic guitar. Another emo chick sees how he is so in touch with his feelings, and the cycle continues.
This is the sad truth of the emo lifestyle/music, and now that I look at how pathetic it really is, maybe the emos DO have something to cry about!
boyfriend: I'm too sad to have sex.
girlfriend: I'm sad too; lets have sex and cry.
boyfriend: I'm already crying.
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: omg my gf just left me
acidburnedsoul: that sux man
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: i blame myself only i'm such an ass *cries*
acidburnedsoul: dude come over to my house and we can cut ourselves together
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: okay *cries*
acidburnedsoul: omg dashboard confessional has a new cd, i preordered it already
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: dude they're my favorite band to self-mutilate to
acidburnedsoul: i prefer to cut myself while watching Napoleon Dynamite on my bigscreen
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: dude that movie is so deep. i cry every time i see it
acidburnedsoul: me too. i hate myself
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: yeah we're such tortured souls, nobody understands how hard life is for us
acidburnedsoul: yeah we got it tough dude. pass the tissues
I just thought I'd clear that up after all of these "definitions" in which I have encountered an unbelievable amount of people who try to pass off their blatantly false pretenses as fact, and are slowly infecting others with their high-horse, holier-than-thou bullshit. Because honestly, with your ridiculous definitions, Beethoven, George Gershwin, and Britney Spears are/was "emo bands."
Now, onto the real definition.
In the early 90s there was a movement in the hardcore genre that came to be known as "Emotive Hardcore," spearheaded by Rites Of Spring. Harder-core-than-thou kids, who swore by Dischord Records a la Minor Threat, actually coined the term "Emo" as something of a put-down for the kids who really liked Rites Of Spring, Indian Summer and this new wave of "Emotive" Hardcore bands. That's right, "Emo" was once not something kids called themselves. The field exploded outwards from there - Level-Plane Records has always been the most famous Emo label. Acts like Yaphet Kotto, I Hate Myself, Saetia, Hot Cross, A Day In Black And White, Funeral Diner, I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, You And I, and hosts of others came in the next decade. Most emo bands have since broken up, but there's still the occasional hold-out (again, the majority of Level-Plane Records' roster has been a procession of emo acts). Like most DIY hardcore/punk of the time, a majority found its way onto vinyl and not much else. Some people consider bands like Fugazi, and later Sunny Day Real Estate, a progression of emo, but personally, I don't quite follow that philosophy.
Often, more recently, this gets intertwined with post-hardcore, and understandably so - that's nothing to make an issue of, since well shit, at least it's close.
Since the late 90s, though, bands have been emerging in the vein of Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional, and the thousands of their clones. As far as I can tell, some lazy journalist somewhere, writing an article about them, decided "Well, fuck, no one knows what emo is anyways, so I'll call these bands "emo" - sounds more appealing than bubblegum pop rock..." and the spiral continued downwards into the current amalgomation of bands MTV has told everyone is "emo."
Somehow, people decided that "emo" meant "emotional," which is obviously bullshit, as 99% of bands make music to illicit emotion, which would make "emotional" a completely all-encompassing genre from classical to opera to pop to rap.
Hope that helps.
Rites of Spring is emo.