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The Emo and Alternative Revival and Its Place in Cumbria

It's clear to see that in 2022, the fairly common grunge and gothic styles of the 1990s aren't as popular as they once were, with the majority of bands that trail-blazed mainstream emo culture choosing to retire or take hiatus; think Yellowcard or My Chemical Romance, prior to their reunion tour.

It’s arguably unclear what significance alternative culture holds in small Cumbrian towns, but I’m here to reiterate that the fashions that were so loved in the ’90s are still as prevalent as ever, even in our area, if a little more swept under the rug.

With TikTok being a powerful source of mainstream media, style trends from the past are revived quickly, and killed just as fast, but of course, this leads to style identities like ‘emo’ and ‘scene’ gaining more traction and recognition in a modern day context, particularly with the youth of today.

These trends repeat themselves, of course, because the music defining the emo experience is making a comeback.

The return of icons like My Chemical Romance and Avril Lavigne sparked a nostalgia-fuelled emo revival, with the MySpace-era music flooding in, as raw and as impactful as ever to its audience.

This reflection on the angsty music of our youth isn’t the only positive outcome of the emo revival, with Gen Z pioneering a more diverse style and a modern sound, modernising emo music for the youth of today and embracing the diversity of the culture surrounding it, bringing black artists like Willow Smith onto the mainstream scene.

As somebody who has dressed alternatively since my early teens, I think the emo revival is an extremely positive thing. Getting back nostalgic, riff-heavy tunes is amazing, but having them delivered from a source that isn't the typical white, male-fronted band is even better.

New My Chemical Romance make-up that hit the shelves back in January

My experience of dressing alternatively in Cumbria has not always been a positive one, sometimes due to lack of resources in terms of fashion, but primarily due to the judgement of others.

The underground scene in our area is more prevalent than you would originally think, though sadly a lot of that awareness lies in cities like Carlisle as opposed to our towns.

This, naturally, leads to judgement from others who are unfamiliar with styles different from their own, and sadly often leads down the route of bullying.

I spoke to a close friend of mine, Sophia Chambers, 17, surrounding this topic; and this is what she had to say:

“When I used to dress quite alternative (2020/2021) I used to get a lot of hate from people, mainly boys my age. People would shout abuse at me for wearing black clothes and eyeliner, not understanding that we gravitate towards that style because we are hurting inside.”

Picture courtesy of Sophia Chambers

We recently asked our Instagram audience whether or not they would consider themselves to be alternative or not in order to get a bigger picture of the impact of awareness like this in Cumbria. 62% said they would identify as alternative themselves, and 15% said that they knew somebody who does.

In reply to our poll, Caysie Ray, 17, quotes:

“Peoples reactions to it definitely depend on how attractive they perceive you to be I knew someone in secondary school who was constantly called a ‘scruff’ and all sorts for dressing alt, whereas girls and boys that they thought were attractive were suddenly these pioneers of fashion.

"It has a lot to do with trends as well- I remember dressing slightly alt since about 2016 and getting rinsed for it, whereas during and post-lockdown it was suddenly the *in* thing, which sucks for the people that suffered for their style.”

Further to this, I discussed this topic with local metalhead Lyden Procter to get a perspective from someone who began dressing alternatively in a different era to my own. Here’s what he had to say:

How would you have described your style in the past?

“I would have described my style as a metalhead, I tended to have long hair, a beard, band t-shirts, hoodies (usually black), army camps and large heavy boots. The time period was early to mid 2000s to present day (bar the long hair)”

How do you feel your experience was dressing like this in Cumbria?

“Growing up and committing to a style you feel true to regardless will always attract attention, like most ‘alternative’ people growing up I was met with some negative attention, but generally my experience was positive.”

Do you feel this style is still relevant in the modern-day, or do you think alternative fashion has been particularly ‘revived’?

“Metal will never die!!! Absolutely, I fully believe metal/emo music, style and culture is just as strong now as it was in its origin days. Metalheads are scary on the outside but the most kind-hearted, awesome humans you will ever meet, and they look like badasses on the daily.”

What do you think? Are you alternative in Cumbria, or feel strongly about the ‘emo’ revival of our generation? Let us know!

If you loved this story, make sure you check out this Friday's article on a Cumbrian Lass’s experience of a My Chemical Romance gig.


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