Most shoegazing bands drew from the stylistic template set by My Bloody Valentine on their early EPs and 1988 debut Isn't Anything. A loose label given to the shoegazing scene and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. In the early 1990s, shoegazing groups were pushed aside by the American grunge movement and early Britpop acts such as Suede, forcing the relatively unknown bands to break up or reinvent their style altogether. In the 2000s, there was renewed interest in the genre among "nu gaze" bands.
Shoegazing combines ethereal, swirling vocals with layers of distorted, bent, flanged guitars, creating a wash of sound where no instrument is distinguishable from another. Most bands drew from the music of My Bloody Valentine as a template for the genre, although co-founder Kevin Shields stated that the band's choice of pedals never included chorus, flanger or delay effects.
"Shoegazing" was coined to describe dream pop bands. It originated in a concert review in Sounds for the newly formed band Moose in which singer Russell Yates read lyrics taped to the floor throughout the gig. The term was picked up by NME, who used it as a reference to the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet—or their effects pedals—while playing, seemingly deep in concentration. Melody Maker preferred calling it "The Scene That Celebrates Itself", referring to the habit that the bands had of attending gigs of other shoegazing bands, often in Camden, and often playing in each other's bands. According to AllMusic: "The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegazing by the British press because the bandmembers stared at the stage while they performed".
The term was firstly considered pejorative, especially by the English weekly music press who considered the movement as ineffectual, and it was disliked by many of the groups it purported to describe. Slowdive's Simon Scott was one of the few important musicians of the scene who found the term relevant:
I always thought Robert Smith, when he was in Siouxsie and the Banshees playing guitar , was the coolest as he just stood there and let the music flood out. That anti showmanship was perfect so I never really understood why people began to use "shoegaze" as a negative term. I think if Slowdive didn't stand there looking at what pedal was about to go on and off we'd have been shite. I am glad we were static and concentrated on playing well. Now it is a positive term.
Lush's singer Miki Berenyi explained: "Shoegaze was originally a slag-off term. My partner , who was the guitarist in Moose, claims that it was originally levelled at his band. Apparently the journo was referring to the bank of effects pedals he had strewn across the stage that he had to keep staring at in order to operate. And then it just became a generic term for all those bands that had a big, sweeping, effects-laden sound, but all stood resolutely still on stage". Ride's singer Mark Gardener had another take on his group's static presentation: "We didn't want to use the stage as a platform for ego ... We presented ourselves as normal people, as a band who wanted their fans to think they could do that too."
The most commonly cited precursors to shoegazing are the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. Each band's music bridged the styles of garage rock, 1960s psychedelia and American indie bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Other artists that have been identified as direct influences on shoegazing include the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, the Cure and Galaxie 500. Siouxsie and the Banshees was also a major influence, initially on Cocteau Twins. Slowdive named themselves after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song of the same name and took inspiration from the group at their beginnings. Lush, a shoegazing contemporary, were originally called "The Baby Machines", a line from a Siouxsie lyric.