Emily--Shy, Sullen and a Success

Frightened, lonely and socially inept, Emily is a shy little girl with a morose sense of humor. Think Eloise meets Edward Gorey.

By turns impish and sullen, she has no friends except for a couple of black cats. She has no toys except for a handcrafted slingshot. “Emily didn’t aim high. She aimed low,” reads a sticker bearing her image.

An unlikely role model, yes, but Emily is something of a cult figure among nihilistic Gen X slackers, especially young women who see more than a little of themselves in Emily’s reclusive and underachieving character. “You have no idea how many girls I’ve met [who] have that persona,” says Rob Reger, the 29-year-old graphic designer who invented Emily six years ago.

Born in a San Francisco apartment that doubles as headquarters for a juniors clothing line, Emily made her first public appearance via bumper sticker with the simple slogan: “Emily didn’t look tired or happy. She looked like she always did. Strange.”

The rest is history--or maybe just an exercise in market theory. Though printed in bulk, Emily stickers could not be purchased for the first few years. They were strictly giveaways to promote the San Francisco-based Cosmic Debris clothing company. But Emily turned out to be so popular that the company now makes T-shirts and comic books in her image and will soon branch out with additional Emily merchandise--all of it available at the Hot Topic chain of stores.


Reger says he receives e-mail messages “all the time” from women claiming to be Emily--now they can enter a look-alike contest. “I started realizing that people who like Emily I.D. with her more than just as a character. She seems to represent something for these people.”

To enter, send a photo to Cosmic Debris, 185 Clara St., No. 201, San Francisco, CA 94107, Attn: Space Boy. Send pictures by Feb. 1, 1999. Winners’ names will be printed in the Valentine’s Day edition of Cosmix comic book, and winners will receive a set of eight stickers, all six Emily T-shirts and a wallet.