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The Definition of an “Alt Boy”

The Definition of an “Alt Boy”

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It seems that everything from the early 2000s is making a comeback.

From the fashion atelier to the recording studio, the looks and sounds of two decades ago are returning in a major way. 

Something else is having a comeback too: The aesthetic of the moody, angsty young man.

This was exemplified in the early 2000s by members of emo rock bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. 

But just as the Y2K style trend is a new and improved version of the low-cut jeans and baby tees we once knew, today’s alt boy is not the same his predecessor. 

The “scene kids” or emo boys who ruled the internet and radio airwaves during the Myspace era have been transformed for the TikTok age, and the outcome is the modern alt boy. 


What is an “alt boy”?

An “alt boy” is a rebellious male teenager or young man who dresses in a non-traditional way. Alt boys do not conform to typical masculine expectations and usually have colorful dyed hair, piercings, and wear eye makeup. The term is primarily used on the social network TikTok.


What is the history of “alt boys”?

The predecessors of today’s alt boys were the grunge, scene, punk, and emo kids who dominated internet culture at the turn of the millennium. 

In the early 2000s, the internet increasingly became a place for social interactions and personal expression. Its aesthetic became increasingly influenced by alternative punk and emo rock musicians

As Myspace gained in popularity, the followers of subculture bands like Dashboard Confessional and Panic! At the Disco grew to occupy a substantial corner of the site. 

The emo style of the 1990s was characterized by artificially straight, dyed hair, slanted bangs, and heavy eye makeup.

This in turn eventually transformed into what became known as 2000s “scene culture.” 

“Scene kids” were teenagers with brightly colored layered hair, neon-colored clothing, and wrists full of jelly bracelets. 

Scene kids were typically fans of bands like Breathe Carolina, Cobra Starship, and 3OH!3.

Their aesthetic featured heavily on the blogging site Tumblr for much of the late 2000s and early 2010s. It began to appear on TikTok in the late 2010s. 

The appetite for the alternative or edgy boy was also fed during the 90s and early 2000s by romantic comedies featuring an “unpopular” male lead. 

The film 10 Things I Hate About You, for example, features Heath Ledger as a heartthrob who was not the typical sports star of earlier Hollywood high school movies. 

This movie and others, like Bright It On, have viewers rooting for the outsider to win the popular girl’s love.

They contributed to the rise of alternative online culture and the glorification of the “weird kid” in the late 90s and early 2000s.


Alt boys on TikTok

Alt is shorthand for “alternative” and is antithesis of the mainstream. 

The modern alt boy aesthetic developed on TikTok. Alt boys are characterized by their dyed hair, piercings, all-black clothing, and heavy eye makeup. 

Their clothing usually recalls punk or goth style. They also frequently wear sweatshirts and flannel shirts. Old rock or metal band concert T-shirts are a popular look among alt boys. 

Alt boys also tend to wear jewelry, including rings and neck chains. 

While the emo alt rock musicians of the first decade of the millennium were usually artistically creative, modern alt boys are more likely to have a niche sense of humor than by a particular artistic talent. 

Alt boys feature on what is called “Alt TikTok,” which stands in contrast to mainstream or “Straight Tiktok.” 

Straight TikTok is characterized by the kind of creators who live in the so-called Hype House, and dress in typical clothing, such as might be found in the popular stores Brandy Melville and Urban Outfitters. 

Alt boys frequently post videos which are either comedic in nature or in which they are lip syncing to alternative rock or heavy metal music. 

Many famous alt boys are also so-called e-boys. E-boys are part of the internet subculture that developed in the late 2010s and which features short flirtatious video performances by online stars. 

The term e-boy is a shortening of “electronic boy”, which comes from their presence on the internet. 

It is the male alternative of “e-girl”, which was coined in the early 2010s to refer to women who were perceived as seeking attention over the internet.

E-girls are described as being “very online,” and their look is heavily influenced by K-pop and Asian style. 

Off of TikTok, an alt boy is anyone who adopts the aesthetic of dyed, unkempt hair, eye makeup, and piercings. Alt boys do not strive to conform to a typical lifestyle. 

Alt boys have a reputation for being rebellious and having an “I don’t care” attitude.

They are supposedly unconcerned with mainstream opinion.

Part of the alt boy identity is going against social norms and not being ashamed of being anti-social.

Alt boys may have long-ish or long hair, and may sometimes have e-boy hair, which tends to be cut above the ears and parted in the middle. 

E-boy hair is inspired by the hairstyles of 90s heartthrobs, such as Heath Ledger and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Alt boys frequently wear baggy, thrift-store clothes. Wearing second-hand clothes is an important part of the alt boy aesthetic. 

Alt boys and e-boys also frequently listen to what is known as “sad boy music,” which features lyrics about the experience of mental illness.

Popular artists among alt boys and e-boys include Lil Peep, Jaden Smith, and Juice WRLD.


What is an “alt girl”?

Alt boys share their aesthetic with alt girls. Alt girls also frequently have dyed hair and piercings. Their clothes are usually somewhat brighter than those worn by alt boys. 

Alt girls are an alternative to the VSCO girl, which is a look commonly found on the more-filtered platform Instagram. 

VSCO girls are hippy-like, frequently wearing shorts, Birkenstocks and sunglasses.

Alt girls, on the other hand, are grungier and have more of an e-girl aesthetic, which features bleach-striped hair and re-vamped pop punk looks.