Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What Is Goth?

Yes, I'm going to go into this. I've gotten a lot of very basic questions lately, so I thought I'd address this. Now, there's nothing wrong with not having knowledge about things you're not familiar with / interested in, but I think that if you actually are, you should be. So let me help you with that.

I'm gonna start with traveling back in time, to something pretty unrelated: Goths.
I mean the germanic tribe from around 2000 years ago. You might have heard the terms ostrogoths and visigoths? They sacked Rome and shit and helped kickstart the medieval period.
They spoke the Gothic language (which had its own alphabet), and everything they did and things inspired by them are classified as ''goth'' or ''gothic''. Now why do I bring this up?

That's because in the middle ages (about 1100),  that's when gothic architecture and art started to spring up. The reason it's called gothic is because it was said to be ''barbaric german style'', cause the goths destroyed the old buildings and erected new ones in this style. A lot of people hated it. So in the 1600's ''goth'' essentially meant ''vandal''. No wonder the word still can be viewed negatively today. But nonetheless, there was a gothic revival starting in England in the 1700s, and it became highly popular - about time in my opinion. I think it's incredibly beautiful! And that led to...

Gothic fiction / gothic horror. In 1764 Horace Walpole's ''The Castle of Otranto'' came out, and that is considered to be the very first gothic novel. Other notable works are Ann Radcliffe's ''The Mysteries of Udolpho'', and Matthew Gregory Lewis's ''The Monk''.
Just like with the architecture, the romantics of the 1800s also led to an explosion of the gothic. In the Victorian age it wasn't VERY popular, but a lot of good literature came out around then. Click here to read my favorite gothic novels.
By now, the gothic was characterized by supernatural elements, a setting in gothic buildings, and macabre themes. They would often feature main characters like a young maiden and a brooding tyrant. I don't want to go too much into this, this post is just meant to be a very basic overview.

Now let's talk closer to modern day. The 1900's took inspiration from these novels and brought us comics, role-playing games and video games. But most importantly: Movies, TV-series and music.
Everyone is familiar with gothic horror movies and spooky TV shows. Most of us grew up with them.
Hammer Horror, Universal's Classic Monsters and Edgar Allan Poe movies, for example, and shows like Dark Shadows, The Addams Family and The Munsters.
The gothic has also influenced different metal genres, and of course: gothic rock.

Gothic rock / goth rock / goth is a music genre that sprung out from post-punk around the late 70s / early 80s. Post-punk and goth rock is pretty tied to english punk rock, but post-punk was / is more experimental, what I mean is that it could be very punky, very 80's and could have lots of synth (listen to the difference between early Joy Division and New Order's dance hits). Other bands are The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen, Killing Joke and Gary Numan.
Goth rock was / is darker and more romantic. Post-punk and goth rock can often be the same bands, so Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie can be called goth rock as well, but some examples of goth rock bands are Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, The Birthday Party, Dead Can Dance, Southern Death Cult and The Mission. Sorry, I went a little overboard. I ALSO want to mention The Damned! They're a punk band, but they do have some really gothy albums. Check them out!
It's very hard to describe things simply and keep it short in this post, I realize now. If you really are interested in this, you probably know a little already, and I strongly encourage you to read about it and actually delve into it yourself.
I would also like to mention other related genres like deathrock, industrial, ''waves'', ethereal, EBM... Some might not agree with a couple of those, but most are played at goth clubs and festivals.

Now let's talk about fashion. To me (and many others) style is closely related to your taste in music. Goths (fans of the music) and goth icons (band members) tend to dress in dark colors, with high contrast make-up, and often teased hair. Some elements are definitely very punk, some are borrowed from the Victorians / Edwardians (just look at the mourning garb!). Again, it's very hard to describe so many individuals as a whole, as goths are very creative and unique with their looks. There are also many associated music genres with their own specific looks, so goths can look very different.
One thing I have to mention, as it is a common question: NO, YOU DON'T HAVE TO PICK A ''GOTH STYLE'' AND STICK TO IT. Wear whatever you want. Dress like a cybergoth one day and a victorian the other. Mix and match, it doesn't matter! Just be yourself. But I strongly advise you to listen to the different music genres and see what you like. Cause if ONE thing has got to be weird within all of this, it's dressing in a style associated with a music genre you don't even like (like wearing a band shirt of a band you have never listened to). So that's just my advice.
I think I also have to add that you don't have to ''look goth'' to be one. We all have lives, and it's not always we are able to look super amazing. That's why I post every outfit I wear on this blog, to show younger people that ''a real goth'' doesn't look like whatever they've seen online all the time.

Goth/gothic can be described as a lifestyle. Just look at all the things mentioned above! All of that plays a big part in a goth's life. I should also mention that ''goth'' and ''gothic'' are different things, but I hope that you caught on to that if you have read this far. Anyway. Our hobbies can include what I mentioned above, we go to clubs and festivals, and we even decorate our home all spooky.
So I definitely agree it's a way of life - but it of course doesn't mean it's the ONLY part of your life.

Goth can also be described as a culture. Some say SUBculture, but a lot of people agree that we have grown so much that we are an entire culture in ourselves. You can google that if you want to learn more. In addition to interests and aesthetic taste we also have other things in common, like being very open when it comes to topics like gender, sexuality and religion. We don't shun anyone because of things like that, probably because we already know what it's like to be judged by others.
We see life in a certain way, and we find beauty where most people don't. We are big nerds, socialize a lot, aren't into ''bad things'' (drugs, violence, etc), and often are highly educated.
There is a pretty big misconception that goths are violent. This is especially a thing in the US, where the media has basically blamed school shootings on goths and misinform about goth in the media in other ways. Another big misconception is that goths are depressed, self-harm and / or are suicidal. Just like in the normal population, depression is a pretty common illness within goths, but it doesn't mean that it's BECAUSE of being goth (though being bullied for being different can be a contributing factor). There has been a few studies about this, but as far as I've seen they haven't been very thorough. Goths are some of the happiest people I've met! We know how to have fun. And all of our interests make us happy, that's why people have interests in the first place.

I think that's all I have to say for now. I tried to write this in an easily understandable and casual tone, so that it isn't such a bore to read through. I hope I accomplished that! I felt like I needed to take you down this journey, and hope that I helped someone understand how all of this came to be and what it is. If you are someone who thinks this whole thing might be for you, definitely check out what I've mentioned and see if it is! And no, you don't have to use labels if you don't want to. I just use it for simplicity's sake to quickly let people know what I'm into. As the internet has grown I've found that the label is getting used more and more, and I'm still trying to get used to that. I've accidentally become this person people look up to, admire and ask questions to. How weird.

I just looked at the title and my head went ''baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more'', hahah.
Anyway, I'm gonna stop rambling and leave you now! For a while, actually. Tomorrow I am leaving for Wave Gotik Treffen, and I'm staying in Leipzig for a week. So I won't be posting here or on social media for a week - So don't worry, I'm not dead! I'll be back, with TONS to share.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read my Ultimate Wave Gotik Treffen Guide here.
Take care everyone, bye!


  1. Found this linked in your Voltaire book review, which in turn I found on r/goth. Nice write-up.

    Admittedly I only skimmed your Voltaire review, but that's no indication of what I thought of your review. More a reflection that I think of Voltaire as probably a nice guy I'd get along with maybe, but a bit of a joke in terms of his output. (I do enjoy his only-sometimes-cringe-inducing home makeover show on youtube though!)

    But this one I read. It's certainly as comprehensive as a 1000(ish) word explanation of goth can get I would think. And, not to suggest you need me, some stranger, saying so, but obviously you 'get it,' and seem to know your stuff! That's nice to see. When encountering the word "goth" on the internet these days more often than not it's not but a workout for whatever the muscles are called that are responsible for rolling my eyes. And a source of exasperated sighs. Lots of exasperated sighs.

    But not here. Not today! So thanks. Take care!

  2. Gothic architecture actually has nothing to do with Gothic tribes. It started in France but was later (wrongly) attributed to Germanic invaders by Renaissance Italians.


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