What Is An Eshay? The Unofficial Uidegay To Adlays
— Updated on 27 September 2023

What Is An Eshay? The Unofficial Uidegay To Adlays

— Updated on 27 September 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

To the uninitiated, the idea of an eshay may seem like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Hence why we’re lifting the veil by answering the age-old question: “What is an eshay?”

Caveat: I spent my teenage years in the Sutherland Shire — home of Sydney’s most prominent eshay diaspora — before graduating from UNSW with a degree in Criminology & Criminal Justice. There’s no doubt I have the prerequiste qualifications to tackle this anthropological examination of the culture as a whole.

What is an Eshay?

Eshay Definition

An eshay refers to young people — ranging from pre-teen kids to adults in their early 20s — who generally come from a lower to average socio-economic background.

They spend the majority of their time:

  • loitering around public spaces
  • committing petty crimes like theft or vandalism
  • picking fights (or “rolling people”)
  • occasionally taking drugs
  • showcasing poor taste in fashion and music to complement their equally poor social etiquette

Other Accepted Definitions (Derogatory)

What Is An Eshay? The Unofficial Uidegay To Adlays - eshay definition

“The name given to those small dickheads whom [sic.] seem to think they are top shit.”

Urban Dictionary

“Usually white skinny males who like to think they are ‘Roadmen’ or ‘Gangsters.'”

also Urban Dictionary

“A member of an Australian youth subculture favouring sportswear and electronic dance music, and commonly associated with criminal activity.”


“A young working-class person whose tastes are considered vulgar by some.”

Collins Dictionary

“A species of male often seen at train stations asking to bum a smoke from you with his mates. They travel in packs with their matching Supreme bum bags. Most have mullets and are assholes. They often spraypaint with their little gang or shop-lift name brand clothes… They are a very specific sub-genre of young people.”


Exceptions to the “Rule”

Although most get in the ‘game’ between pre-teen and early 20s, there have been documented cases of an eshay developing beyond the age bracket outlined. Like reformed criminal turned social media sensation and entrepreneur Spanian (see below: “elder eshays”).

Additionally, while most are viewed unfavourably by regular society, there have also been instances of exemplary eshays who offset negative connotations by achieving success in their chosen field, e.g. UFC heavyweight contender Tai Tuivasa, drill rap ensemble ONEFOUR (see below: “model eshays”).

The Origins of “Eshay”

The word “eshay” (/ˈɛʃeɪ/) is a Pig Latin derivative of the phrase “sesh” or “session,” which itself is slang for the time-honoured Australian tradition of sitting around, binge drinking, and participating in a bit of drug use — usually smoking weed.

Bastardised Pig Latin is, of course, the lingua franca of eshays.

As for when this delightful slice of youth culture originated in a practical and philosophical sense, urban historians place the birth of the first eshay in Western Sydney (the cradle of civilisation) sometime during the 1980s.

After that pivotal moment in evolutionary regression, pockets of the Harbour City have been producing eshays ever since.

Anatomy of an Eshay

The Lifespan

Like the common fruit fly, eshays doesn’t live an awfully long life.

Not just because of the occupational hazard associated with reppin’ the esh life. Said lifestyle becomes exponentially more embarrassing after the age of 20 and downright tragic after that, meaning some simply outgrow the identity.

Broadly speaking, the pipeline can be broken down into five key stages:

  1. Either a proper rough upbringing or a perfectly ordinary middle-class upbringing.
  2. Early exposure to wannabe gang culture; hardstyle and/or local rappers like elder eshay Kerser.
  3. Misguided rebellion, expressed by deeply unfashionable clothing, excessive swearing, and assaulting unsuspecting civilians for no other reason than to engage in random acts of violence, occasionally larceny.
  4. Mating with a fellow eshay (see below: “lads” and “ladettes”).
  5. Incarceration, reformation, or death.

Eshay Behaviour

Eshays are a pack animal and seldom stray from their designated group.

Contrary to popular belief, your garden variety of eshay is actually timid in nature and only becomes the aggressor when they form a collective and are completely certain of their safety in numbers. A fair fight, in their eyes, is a minimum of five against one in the collective’s favour.

As we’ve alluded to above, a day in the life usually involves being small-time criminals — activities ranging from theft and assault to breaking + entering and drug dealing (rarely high-end substances, usually garbage pills or “pingas,” skunk weed, meth).

You’ll generally find an one or two lurking around shopping malls, parks, parking lots, train stations, and other public transportation hubs. On the odd occasion, you’ll spot an upper-class esh in the Netherlands during their annual pilgrimage to Defqon.1 Festival.

Eshay Wardrobe

What Is An Eshay? The Unofficial Uidegay To Adlays - eshay fashion

In terms of an aesthetic, suffice it to say, the “look” is quite distinct.

Brands favoured by eshays include Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Stussy, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, and Ellesse.

What you have to understand is that money is no issue to an eshay. At least not when there’s a five-finger discount available.

A typical outfit will involve some variation of Nautica polo shirts with the collar popped, tracksuit pants or athleisurewear shorts, a hoodie or puffer jacket of some sort for the colder climates, a bum bag strapped across the chest, and a Nike Dri-FIT cap, the shoes are a non-negotiable element.

Nike TNs are universally acknowledged as the eshay staple. Alternatives will require justification amongst the group.

Additional eshay accessories:

  • rat tails
  • gold chains
  • Speed Dealers
  • loose cigarettes (carried on an ear)
  • loose pills (carried in shit-streaked underwear)
  • cracked iPhones
  • Beats Pill or some kind of Bluetooth speaker
  • Gatorade or Powerade bottles
  • spray can
  • varying lengths of garden hoses (if you know, you know)
  • pocket knife

Eshay Vocabulary

Common phrases you might hear at shopping centres and train stations all across Australia include the following:

  • Adlay
    (Pig Latin) Meaning lad; an affectionate term for the boys/fellas derived from the word “lad.” Also see: “Eshlad,” “Cuz,” and “a bunch of cunts.”
  • Itchbays 
    (Pig Latin) Meaning… females; not so affectionate term for women derived from the word “bitch.” Also see: “Gangas.”
  • Gronk
    A derogatory label for an annoying person considered less intelligent, unsavoury, and a waste of life/oxygen thief.
  • Opps
    (Pig Latin) Meaning police officers; unlike the American definition, which refers to “opponent” or enemies, this derivative of “cops” is specific to law enforcement.
  • Rack or Tax
    Stealing. To steal. Theft.
  • Ark Up
    To “ark up” is to lose one’s temper and become hostile.
  • Staunch 
    To intimidate; usually involving a pose wherein one’s fists are between their legs, posture is drawn at full height, accompanied by a (hilariously) intense stare.
  • Eetswa 
    (Pig Latin) Meaning sweet; positive affirmation.
  • Illchay
    (Pig Latin) Meaning chill to relax, hang out, or “sesh.”
  • Red Hot
    High-risk or suspicious.
  • FTP
    “Fuck the police.”
  • FTA
    “From the area”; is an expression of pride in one’s “hood,” usually in reference to Western Sydney.

What is an eshay — Frequently Asked Questions

Why are eshays popular?

Like many unsavoury urban cultures, eshays became popular due to the hypermasculine need to prove one’s manhood with acts of crime and violence; amplified by the local “lad rap” and drill offshoots.

How to be an eshay?

Don’t. If the article above isn’t enough of a deterrent… look within.

Why are Australians on TikTok so obsessed with eshays?

Australians on TikTok are obsessed with eshay culture simply because it’s an easy target. As demonstrated by the likes of Swag On The Beat, you can mine eshay stereotypes for comedy.

Recently, eshays have partially been back in vogue thanks to Netflix’s teen drama Heartbreak High.

How to spot an eshay?

Eshays are easily identifiable by their horrendous fashion choices and even more horrendous social etiquette. Dead giveaways include Nike TNs, buttoned-up polo shorts, and a bum bag strapped across their chest.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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