For whatever reason there are tons of people right now asking the same basic questions about the goth subculture. Who am I kidding, we know exactly why so many questions are being asked right now; being ‘goth’ is a huge trend train that lots of people who have no clue about the actual subculture want to jump on. All of these questions are ones that I have seen asked online over and over and over again. So they are real, not anything I have made up. All aboard!
Am I goth if I wear the colour black?
No, because the goth subculture doesn’t own the colour. Plenty of people outside of the subculture also wear black, such as metalheads, priests, nuns, etc… Go forth and wear all of the black you want, nobody should be stopping you for doing so. However, it doesn’t magically transport you into the goth subculture or make you a member of it. It’s a music based subculture, not one based upon the colour of clothes that you wear.
What clothes do I have to buy and what music do I have to listen to in order to be a Victorian/vampire/trad/cyber/mall goth?
This is the one question that really gets my knickers in a twist. Those ‘goth types’ were started as a joke in the 90’s, making fun of the stereotypes found in goth clubs. That is all it was meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be a roadmap as to how to belong to the subculture. There are some self described ‘elder goths’ who have actually argued with me about this, saying that people used to take it seriously back in the day. No they did not. In the area that I lived during the 90’s somebody even made stickers based on the stereotypes and I found some in a vending machine in a Pizza Hut in San Francisco in 1998. I only remember that because I was the assistant manager of a Spirit Halloween store during that time and would always get pizza for lunch. If you want to tick all of the boxes off to become a certain stereotype within the subculture nobody is going to stop you but you will get a massive amount of eye rolling. Instead of wanting to be a stereotype just be yourself. Announcing to the world that you want to be a certain type of goth is never a great look.
Do I have to listen to only goth music to be a goth?
Of course not. The only group of people in the goth community who have ever believed that are the uber goobers, who have always been boring as hell. I listen to goth, metal, thrash, punk, disco, 70’s/80’s soul, old school rap/hip-hop, classical, new wave, blues,etc… I have always been into multiple forms of music and I have no shame in admitting it. Goth music has many styles, such as deathrock, goth rock, darkwave, ethereal and cold wave. If you try out each style and don’t like any of them you are more than likely just darkly inclined and there is nothing wrong with that. If this pisses you off then you should be asking yourself why is being goth so important to you and as to why you want that label so much in the first place.
Do I have to buy clothes from expensive online dark alternative stores to be a goth?
The answer to that is a huge no! There are a bunch of younger people running around right now looking like wannabe witches and slamming onto the gates guarding the goth community wanting in even though they don’t listen to the music. It is a music based subculture not one that is totally based on how you look. The people saying otherwise are straight up liars. If you are starting out just buy black basic clothes from a regular store, or even a thrift store, and get some accessories off of Etsy to jazz them up. Some regular stores, such as New Look in the UK, are known for carrying some goth friendly clothes. Every single time I go to the one near me I walk out with something.
Do I have to buy clothes from thrift stores in order to be a goth?
One of the main ways I used to get clothes back in the 80’s/90’s was by going to thrift stores. I lived in an area that had a lot of good ones so I was very lucky. Where I live now the thrift stores are hard to get to and are very overpriced so I just avoid them. If there are no thrift stores near you, or if they suck where you live, don’t worry about it.
Do I have to learn DIY skills to be a goth?
I have been doing DIY type clothing projects for decades and I am completely self taught. I learned to hand sew back in the 80’s and I can hem, dart, add buttons,etc…I have always upcycled clothing. I have even bought Killstar items on clearance in the past and made them look completely different. I can also do stud work and paint on leather/pleather which is a very easy thing to learn. There are a ton of tutorials on YouTube showing you how to do all of these kinds of projects. By learning DIY skills you can curate your own style so that you don’t look exactly the same as everybody else, plus it’s a lot of fun!
Do I have to be skinny and white to be a goth?
This question always breaks my heart. White skinny women and men have always been the go to for the goth aesthetic look that some directors, subculture magazines and others have been pushing since the 80’s. I would say it has only been within the last five years that you see people of colour being more visually represented within the subculture. It should have happened way sooner than that. You do not need to be white or skinny to be a goth. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Why is metal music not considered goth?
Metal music has historically never been considered goth. One of the main reasons being that metalheads, back in the 80’s, used to threaten and beat the crap out of punks and anybody else who looked ‘alternative’. That includes goths. I personally never got jumped, BUT a whole lot of male metalheads used to give me crap all of the time. Also, the music developed totally separately from it. Goth music developed out of punk, while metal developed out of 60’s rock and psychedelic music. You can, of course, like metal music and goth music at the same time. I have always loved the hell out of early Danzig and even saw them play in 1992.
When and how do I become an elder goth?
An elder goth is considered to be somebody who has been into the music for decades and still supports the subculture in one way or another. I started getting into the music in 1986 and have always been a goth-punk weirdo so I am considered to be an elder goth. I have seen some people around my age who just got into wearing black clothing who claim they are elder goths. Yes, I have personally seen that happen online and I find it really annoying and fake. You can dress in expensive clothing and wear a ton of make-up but just because you are older doesn’t mean you are an elder goth. It takes a decade or two, not a credit card, to be considered one.
How do I become a goth influencer?
This question does my head in. Seriously. Younger people see ‘goth’ influencers online getting a bunch of free swag and want exactly the same. For them it is not about the music, instead it is about curating an image; one in which they think will make them more ‘goth’. Nothing can be further from the truth. I call this the Kardashianization of the goth subculture and it is just gross. Not all goths with a YouTube, or other social media platform, push clothing, but so many do that it just becomes a blurry mess of pentacles, platform boots and loads of over the top make-up. They give the impression that all goths dress to the nines every single day, when in fact we don’t. I’m laying around in my Star Wars pyjamas right now typing this.
Do I have to dye my hair, or get tattoos and piercings to be considered goth?
Sometimes it trips me out just how ‘in’ it is these days to get tattoos, piercings and bright hair colours. All three have become totally mainstreamed so you won’t really look ‘different’ doing so. You don’t have to do any of this to be goth because it is just window dressing. These days if you see somebody dressed in all black with green hair walking down the street chances are you won’t have anything in common with them because they are just following a trend. It’s sad but it’s the truth.
Well, that is it for now. Whomever you are I hope this helps you on your journey into the goth subculture or at least points you in the right direction. Always be you, not a stereotype that you think people want to see.