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Pray for the Dudes Growing Out Their Emo Swoops in Quarantine

Should you, a thirtysomething sellout, try to relive your glory days and grow out your bangs like you’re watching Poison the Well at Warped Tour 2003? (Short answer: no)

One of the many revelations about American life to come out of the coronavirus pandemic: Adult (typically white) men have secretly made getting a haircut their personality. Gone are the days in which now–middle managers, fathers and Everlane shoppers can feel comfortable experimenting with style. 

Becoming set in one’s ways starts with the hair. You find a haircut you like that suits your face and you stick with it. Goodbye, ’90s-heartthrob wingtips, frosted tips or even the slight increase in volume on top. Hello, skin fades, bougie Oribe styling creme and $40 crew cuts. The less notable your hair is, congrats, the more adult you seem (or so you’ve convinced yourself).

But thanks to the pandemic, guys are reconciling their penchant for constant haircuts with the closing of barbershops. As hair grows, new styles emerge (and reemerge). The ’90s butt cut has been reappropriated as the eBoy cut; jaggedy DIY buzzes your mom would give you as a toddler are trendy. 

For punk and hardcore “scene kids,” now taxpaying gears in a corporate machine, they’re realizing their long hair is looking a lot like the emo bangs of the early 2000s Myspace era. For three months on Google Meet, I watched my 32-year-old editor, Cooper, struggle to adopt Thursday singer Geoff Rickly’s Warped Tour bangs before he finally, mercifully, gave up the ghost this week.

Nathan Mann, 33, from Merced, California, realized in late May that his post-shower hair, combed in front of his face, made him look like he could’ve been in a band signed to Victory or Equal Vision. In the early and mid-aughts, when Mann was in high school, he was a hardcore kid who rocked out to Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza and Circa Survive CDs. 

The side-swept bangs made him nostalgic for 2005 — but not sentimental enough to commit to reviving his teenage look. “I cannot bring myself to do emo bangs,” he tells me. ”I just knew I was gonna regret it.” 

It appears most thirtysomething men aren’t ready to pull out the hair straightener and commit to looking like a young Pete Wentz or Brendon Urie while on Zoom calls with their corporate bosses. “I think some aspirations are better left in 2004,” Mitchell Brooks, 30, tells me. 

Punk and metal are revival trends that began pre-quarantine thanks to hip artists like Lil Uzi Vert, 100 Gecs, Rina Sawayama and Billie Eilish, as well as the casts of HBO shows Euphoria and Betty. Still, today’s trends skew more eBoy.

New-wave emo-rap producer Chris Thorne, known as Horse Head, rocks a long side-swept bang past the ear. 

Jacob Lopez, 22, from California’s Bay Area, started his quarantine attempting Thorne’s look. He quickly realized his hair was too curly for bangs. “I just wasn’t willing to put in all the product and possible damage,” Lopez tells me. So he opted for a fade and short pompadour.

If you’re committed to the side bangs, a la Mean Girls’ Janis Ian, pull out hair clippers and a straightener. “The keys are a deep side part, the patience to coax them to lie straight, and plenty of lightweight pomade to keep them in place,” Allure says of achieving perfect side bangs. Which is why people who’ve kept their hair short for two decades are discovering that growing it out isn’t as chill and low-maintenance as it sounds. If you have even slightly wavy hair, that emo swoop is more likely to make you look like Lisa Rinna than dreamy, Lifted-era Conor Oberst.

After all, maybe some trends are better left in the trash heap of ’00s culture — along with the abusive men who exploited and profited off its misogyny for years to come. It’s okay to burn that Brand New poster. “The music then was about being a fuckup, and the relationships in songs were always very abusive,” Mann says of emo’s third wave, when jangly post-hardcore guitarwork blended with sophomoric pop-punk from the late ’90s through the aughts. 

Regardless of hairstyles, social distancing has left many of us stressed-out and moody. It’s prime time to return to the petulant sounds of the Fall of Troy, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down. That’s what Hunter Moore, 20, of Morgantown, West Virginia, has been doing. He rocked bangs for most of May before cutting it all short. “It’s hard to say if I was moodier from the hair or the world ending,” he tells me. Now, that level of angst is more hardcore than any hairstyle could ever achieve.