A Treatise on the Goth Subculture
How did the Goth scene first get started?
It arose as an off-shoot of the punk scene of the late seventies and early eighties. When the punk scene first started, the punky look (spiked Mohawks, brightly colored hair, safety pins, and ripped up clothing) would later evolve. So the Gothic style, subculture, style of dress, and music was a development born out of, change, like many things that have come before. And perhaps many more which will come after.
Personally, as someone who prefers and enjoys the Gothic style of clothing the most, I’ve always dreamed and imagined that it would become more mainstream, more accepted, and more commonplace. Even though many alternative-minded people do enjoy being different standing out, and being on the fringes of society, at least outwardly. Many of us do not, or at least we don’t enjoy the attention, but would just like to be accepted and seen as individuals.
While it will likely never become mainstream or trendy to be Goth, you see many more Goth fashion accessories and clothing in mainstream stores today, or as we like to refer to them, mundane. Could it be gaining ground in mainstream society? Or is it simply a trend destined to rise and fall like many trends and styles? Some of my best Goth clothes have actually come from regular stores, not specialty ones.
The Goth fashion is a style that is probably my favorite look on the planet. Why am I drawn to it? Why do I like it so much? What makes someone gravitate toward alternative styles of dress? Why would someone choose to have blue or green or pink hair instead of all the colors that nature allows us to be born with?
I really can’t answer that. I don’t know why we have the preferences that we do. Maybe some of it is genetic. Some of it perceptual. I don’t think that why really matters as much as most people think. What matters is who we are as people, not what we wear, how we style our hair, or what music we listen to.
How Did I Get Started?
I first began going to Goth clubs at the height of the scene in the mid-nineties. 1996 to be exact. There was a time when there was literally a Goth venue for every single night of the week. Yes, even Sunday. I worked at night, but every night that I wasn’t working I went to a club of some kind. My then crush, is the one who took me to my first Goth club. It was a Sunday night, pretty low-key, barely anyone was there, as it was the end of the weekend. But I thought it was the most magical and interesting thing that I’d ever seen. Everyone’s clothes were so elegant, unique, dark, and beautiful.
The crush that I had at the time, whose name I am not mentioning here for privacy reasons, for simplicity let’s call him Toby, also worked at a Goth clothing store. I loved to go in there and look at beautiful clothes, most of which I couldn’t really afford. I think that they had layaway though. I still have a few of my clothing items from then. Sadly, most of my specially Goth store purchased clothes have worn out and/or need to be mended, dyed, or altered in some way. I really miss being able to buy beautiful things. I bought my velvet cape, not from a Goth clothing store, but from a boutique in 1996. The store had silk velvet capes in black, royal blue, and burgundy (I think). It was expensive, but worth it. I have it to this day and it is in great shape. It is also quite warm being made of real silk. Velvet was originally, and still is, made of silk or rayon. Velvet that is not is actually not velvet, but usually velour (synthetic, as well as usually – but not always – stretchy) or velveteen, which is made from cotton.
So when I first started going to Goth clubs and the subsequent years in between, I was often met with stares, insults, and taunts. I’ve been harassed on the subway, even called devil while waiting in line to get into a club. You name it, it’s happened. I’ve even heard from some European acquaintances that when they go out “Gothin’” as an ex-boyfriend of mine used to say, they would have to cover up because they were afraid of physical attacks.
This is probably the most urgent aspect to this discussion: physical taunts and attacks. People, no matter what they look like, do not deserve to be attacked, reviled, or verbally insulted. I’ve found myself, over the years, often toning down my look, mostly because I do not want the negative attention that it brings me. This actually makes me sad. Then there are times when I simply can’t keep it in. I have to get all dolled up, makeup and all. Another reason for toning it down over the years has also been because getting all Gothed up is a lot of work. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for that level of glamor or couture.
The Future of Goth
There is a Goth club in every state of the country, except my home state of West Virginia. There is one in Alabama and Louisiana, but not in WV! I actually thought about what it would take if I ever went back there and opened one. But there really isn’t any market for it there. I hope to bring the Goth scene into the 21st century with understanding and compassion. I’m just like you. I just like to wear different clothes, makeup, and hairstyles than the rest of society.
Some people consider the Goth Scene dead in NYC, but I’m not sure that’s completely true. I have recently relocated to Newark, NJ which has the only Goth club in NJ. I haven’t been in several years. But plan to go very soon, at which point I will probably also write a follow-up piece about it.
I will note any changes to the music, the scene, the crowd, and the venue. I’ve noticed over the years as many other Goths age, get married, have children, and settle into their adult mundane lives, they go out less frequently. But as a childfree Goth, I do not have any desire to leave the scene completely. I wish that I could do it every weekend again. I wish that I could afford all the beautiful clothes that I love and see. Some of the clothing stores that I used to drool over in 90s are sadly gone now. But the internet has become a mecca of Goth fashion. So, even though the scene may have scattered and faded, as people have grown up, the style will never truly be gone from the world. It is my intention, not for others to adopt the style, but for them to be more accepting of it as a whole. Remember, we don’t get to choose what our preferences are, but only whether to express them openly.
*Note* If you’ll check out the links to fun Goth stuff, you’re sure to find something interesting which will lead you even farther into the world of the Gothic subculture. Still being dark without being sinister...
Goth Links & Info:
Fairy Goth Mother Some of the most beautiful and expensive Goth clothes that I’ve ever seen!
Good Goth – more affordable Gothic fashion.
Sophistique Noir – Goth fashion for the mature.
Gothic Style – Jewelry to go with all those lovely clothes!
The Bauhaus Song as the catalyst.
The International Goth Club Listing.
The NYC Goth Scene (what remains): Absolution