Hi, I’m a retired E-girl.
If you’re not sure what this term means (or what identity it insinuates), I’m here to unpack it and give you a personal account of my experience grappling with the internet clout phenomenon that took over a very strange period of my life.
/Ee-ɡərl/: E-girls (the E stands for electronic) are digital personas with a thirst for clout come to life. E-girls (and their counterparts, the equally enigmatic E-boys) exist in a subculture of misanthropic-yet-hip teenagers that possess a specific look. E-girls and E-boys can often be found in their natural habitats: TikTok and Instagram.
I, however, didn’t have the almighty TikTok to embarrass myself on during my E-girl era, so my persona was limited to Instagram, where I innocently posted pictures of my “‘fits” and connected with other Instagram-savvy, fashionable individuals—some of whom were retired inhabitants of Vine (not by choice, RIP Vine) or small-scale Instagram influencers.
However, TikTok and Instagram are now filled with 16-year-olds from Wisconsin who stock their closets with run-down pieces from a random Instagram influencer’s Depop and grunge-y band tees from ASOS. If we’re talking supreme E-girl energy, picture high-waisted pleated skirts with dangling chains and FILA disruptors (you know those monstrous, chunky white sneakers that double as weapons? Yeah, those.)
What makes E-girls and E-boys different from their subcultural predecessors is that they (usually) cannot be spotted in the wilderness (whereas you can easily hunt for hipsters in any number of edgy coffee shops). This was different for me, though, as my E-girl outfits weren’t limited to the internet. I wore my mismatched ‘fits plastered with rococo designs and layered chains on my neck to class; now I just throw on a potato sack for my 11 a.m. and call it a miraculous day.
Personally, I didn’t know the potential I had to soar as an E-girl until I directed an avant-garde/editorial photoshoot as a creative project for a class during my freshman year of college. From there, my identity began to tumble down a dark and bottomless E-girl tunnel.
After getting some traction on social media from sharing the results from my shoot, I found myself ordering heaps of tattered clothing from online consignment shops and contemplating just how severe the situation would be with my parents if I pierced my eyebrows or bleached half my head blonde.
My online personality seemed to evolve—the mirror selfies of my outfits were top priority, and I found myself in a state where I’d willingly sell my soul to Lucifer for an oversized Balenciaga sweatshirt (that’s a whopping $1,300) I could easily make at home.
For me, my E-girl identity was just expressing myself through hypebeast clothing and distinctive makeup looks. I think my friends from high school and family members on Facebook thought I turned into a vampire (or a “gothic heathen” as my mother once put it).
All in all, E-girls and E-boys are just like you and me. Ordinary kinsfolk who just happen to appeal to like-minded, social-media savvy individuals who are on the internet in search of the universal and exclusive metric: clout. It’s truly a phenomenon.
I might sound like I loathe E-girls/E-boys and curse the obsession with TikTok and meme culture (that I’m afraid to admit I don’t 100% get), but to be honest, I think it’s pretty special to embrace a vivid style without fear of backlash. I don’t think I fit in anymore, but it’s refreshing to sit back and watch, like a seasoned professional raising a glass of champagne to the new members and recruits of the E-girl/E-boy kingdom.
What the future of mankind will look like after the reign of E-girls and E-boys remains to be seen. I’m not sure what internet persona or trend will be next, but I’m sure my grandchildren will be around to keep me updated.
A retired E-Girl