When I was in high school (which wasn't that long ago), being emo wasn't about the way you dressed, it was about your emotions. It was the "no one understands me" mentality, and it generally meant you were a bit on the sad side. I would've been considered emo, but I didn't really dress the part.
The emo fashion was more mainstream. No emo kids actually dressed that way because it was like claiming that you're emo. True emo kids don't call themselves emo. You either have other people telling you that you're emo (and you deny it, like I did), or you come to the realization later on that you were emo (again, like I did).
I can only think of one goth kid who went to my school. She had the emo mentality, but she dressed in dark, baggy clothes--it was all considered an extension of her feelings.
The ones who are into the fashion are just scene kids. Or they were back when I knew the social hierarchy of high school.
i think that it once used to but, like everything in america, its meaning has become distorted. Goth was never actually a style it was a way of life. many people that lived gothic lives took vows of silence to represent the hatred in the world. it was never a solemn thing although, because of the black colors, most people took it that way. then people began to think it was trendy and it turned into a fashion frenzy. the emo style is the modern form of the gothic style.
I think the goth style does defo! They are all depressed and miserable and their clothes match that (all black and boring and depressing). But I don't think the emo style does because even though their clothes are horrible aswell, they aren't all black and depressing. I can't actually stand emos or goths-they scare me and I don't understand them. They always look miserable.
I think a lot of goth/emo people now are just doing to it be fashionable. Just because your emo doesn't mean you are truly depressed and being depressed doesn't make you emo.
I think those that choose to style themselves in such a manner are often doing so for attention-driven purposes. I am somehow "different" than the rest of the crowd, or so they say. I think it is part anti-establishment and part self-esteem issues for most of goth/emo types. Now, there are a few out there that just like the style who are perfectly normal individuals, but one thing that really gets me about the emo kids is that they seem to be really vain and self-centered, or at least the ones I've met. I'd like to believe otherwise, but so far, my experience has not given me reason to.
I love Anime, and sometimes people associate that with the gothic crowd. And I'm quite sure I don't look anything like it. The point is that sometimes people find a style that fits them. It's most likely a personality acceptance. I don't really like that, since it associates with social order and groups that are specific with a personality type. I find everyone to be different in their own right, and to only be stereotyping themselves when they "choose" a group.
So why do they? Peer pressure, stigmas, and some other emotional buildups. In my opinion, the majority of people choose their preferences based on others or groups that they feel associate with their lifestyle.
Therefore it doesn't necessarily represent unhappiness or low-self esteem, but those can be factors.