Four months ago, makeup brand ColourPop released a “grunge collection for all emo babes.” It was an immediate hit then, and it’s still going strong.
“We knew that we hit on something. On launch day, we sold through more than half of what we anticipated to sell over a three-month period,” said Vivian Weng, chief revenue officer of ColourPop parent company Seed Beauty.
The brand’s “Trouble Maker” collection of eye and lip products with a checkerboard design was developed with a mood board featuring images of skater girls, “edgy without being scary” makeup looks, Vans shoes, Travis Barker and Megan Fox. The collection’s eyeshadow palette is still among the top five sellers on the site and has sold out 10 times since its launch. “We can’t keep this collection in stock,” said Weng.
With a wave of Gen-Z musical artists dabbling in pop-punk and early aughts songs trending on TikTok, the “teenage dirtbag” revival is upon us. ColourPop is one of a growing number of beauty brands tapping into a nostalgia-fueled “scene” aesthetic that has been on the rise this year. Rock band makeup collabs, colorful hair dye, and emo-style black “malepolish” are among the beauty products that have taken off alongside the fashion and music comeback.
“Almost 20 years later, we’ve come full circle; we’ve come back to that being such an ‘it’ thing — that sweaty, dirty, grungy, ‘you care, but you don’t care’ look. And we’re trying to pay homage to it without being so precise on the nose,” said Brian O’Connor, the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Good Dye Young, the hair dye brand he runs with Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams.
Founded in 2016 and launched in Sephora in 2018, Good Dye Young saw a sales surge during the hair-dye craze of the pandemic lockdown, said O’Connor. He pinpointed this as a turning point leading to a more rebellious streak in beauty overall.
“People realized that they had the freedom to be themselves. There was no job, employer or office work setting; no school administration; no teacher telling you, ‘You can’t do that because it’s distracting,’” he said.
Early aughts rock styles have made their way into all aspects of beauty. When it comes to makeup, HipDot launched collaborations with Korn and Evanescence last month, following a 2020 collaboration with My Chemical Romance. The resurgence of the black malepolish that was big among emo boys circa 2000-2008 has also been led by musicians, such as Machine Gun Kelly with his brand UN/DN Laqr and TikToker-turned-pop-punk singer Lil Huddy via his Glamnetic collab.
The beauty trends have coincided with the return of pop-punk, as old songs from Paramore, Blink-182 and Simple Plan have trended on TikTok. Aesthetics such as the “rockstar girlfriend” have also gained traction on the platform. A wide range of celebrities participated in the “Teenage Dirtbag” trend that took off in August last year with the 2000 song by Wheatus. Meanwhile, “nostalgia influencers” on TikTok have been recreating MySpace-era “scene” hair looks complete with flat-ironed, side-swept bangs and heavy black eyeliner.
“We were seeing this shift among celebrities, the music industry and our influencer community to this aesthetic that is this kind of grunge, edgy look,” said Weng.
The trend is being amplified both by Gen-Z and millennial celebrities. In the music space, artists such as Olivia Rodrigo, Willow Smith and Jaden Hossler have been influential in introducing a new generation to both pop-punk music and style. This has coincided with a mainstream return to the public eye of celebrities of the original early-aughts scene, such as Willams, as well as Barker, who inspired wife Kourtney Kardashian’s new look.
“I always see the Kardashians as sort of a mark for what has already been happening. They’re just like that stamp of, ‘Yes, this is real,’” said Braelinn Frank, founder of Rave Nailz, a press-on nail brand that offers punk-inspired styles such as matte black nails and designs with piercings and chains. She also made note of Kim Kardashian’s embrace of pierced nails, along with other celebrities such as Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox. “I hope it doesn’t mean the punk wave is over,” she said of MGK and Fox’s recent speculated breakup.
Like the Y2K redux that has taken over both fashion and beauty in recent years, Weng said both millennials and Gen Z are into the trend, albeit for different reasons. “You have the segment who is a millennial who remembers this, and it’s kind of a throwback to the teenage years of an aesthetic you remember, modernized. And then you have this younger generation who may or may not know anything about that and is adopting this for the first time,” she said.
The new music scene has overlapped with the beauty influencer space. Makeup influencer Abby Roberts, for example, has leaned more heavily into rock-star style since launching her music career. She launched a rock-star-themed collection with Morphe last year and has also done sponsored content for ColourPop.
While ColourPop works with “grunge” influencers such as Roberts and Emma Norton, the brand encouraged a wide range of beauty influencers to showcase looks from its collection to help make the style appeal to a larger mainstream audience.
“A big focus for us was the micro-influencers, because they tend to be super into artistry and really focused on what’s coming next and testing and trying new trends,” said Alanna Marder, senior director of influencer marketing at ColourPop.
O’Connor said he’s a fan of the way Gen Z has adopted the trend in both style and music.
“It’s a cool reinterpretation. And honestly, they’re doing it better than the millennials did,” he said. Style-wise, he said haircuts like the wolf cut and butterfly cut are “just vamped-up versions of what was in the scene back then.” And culturally, he has noticed that the scene has become more inclusive.
He noted that Williams addressed the punk scene’s former exclusivity issue in October at the nostalgia-filled “When We Were Young” festival in Las Vegas. At the time, “it just was very toxic,” said O’Connor. “Because she is a woman in this category which was mostly male-dominated, it was like she was being overlooked.”
“But Gen Zers are really doing it. And they’re doing it in a cool way, and they’re doing it in an inclusive way,” he said.