Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>Goth subculture
Subject: Goth (various styles)
Culture: Goth
Setting: America, Europe
Evolution1975 Anglo-American punk > Goth subculture

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Baddeley 2010 p6
"[J]ust what constitutes Goth remains one of the subculture's enduring controversies.  It's a debate so well-worn that many scene veterans prefer simply to sigh, shrug and move on to more pressing concerns.  As an author on the topic, however, that's not a luxury I can afford.  So, put succinctly, Goth refers to the exotic, eerie, romantic and atmospheric -- all things dark and beautiful.  Recent developments, such as cyberpunk, have stretched such spooky definitions to breaking point, but I'll try to tackle those on a case-by-case basis.  Goth suffers from an unusually vocal and active contingent of 'style police' who seek to impose their own vision of 'authentic' Goth on the scene at large.  There's a tendency for certain such individuals to extol the subculture's tolerance, before launching into a lengthy list of who you are or aren't 'allowed' to listen to, or wear, or whatever."

* Roberts/Livingstone/Baxter-Wright 2016 p178
"Like many other teenage subcultures, the original Goths evolved from the demise of an existing style tribe that was beginning to lose its authenticity.  By 1981, the British punk scene had been superseded by the New Romantic movement, which in itself became increasingly acceptable in mainstream culture, permeating popular media through pop music, new magazines and fashion.  Street-style fashion purposefully swings like a pendulum, blasting away what has become acceptable and clichéd and choosing instead to embrace what is predictably considered a polar opposite.  In direct contrast to the cross-dressing, art-school Blitz kids, who were colourfully camp with their ruffled pirate shirts, knickerbockers and floppy hair, a select few, bored with this extravagant glamour, set upon the idea of finding something much more subversive.  The darker aesthetic of gothic was seized upon.  It cultivated a preoccupation with discordant thoughts, grotesque stories, romantic brooding and a general obsession with the darker side of life, all of which could be appropriated not only into a deathly look, but also a lifestyle."

* Siegel 2005 p12-13
"It is hard to distinguish early manifestations of Goth as a particular style, since everything from The Cramps' clownish fusion of Punk and horror to Kiss's stadium shock rock could retrospectively be described as Goth by some fans.  For example, in Julien Temple's 2000 documentary on The Sex Pistols, The Filth and the Fury, John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon describes the style of Sid Vicious when he joined the band as Goth.  To many Gen-Xers and also rock historians, amateur and professional, Goth began in the 1970s with bands like Joy Division representing the 'art' side and theatrical acts like Alice Cooper's representing the 'pop' side.  As Baddeley point out, 'certain sounds would become recognizable trademarks [of Goth rock] in the 1980s -- deep, icy vocals, tribal beats, mesmeric melodies -- but the defining characteristics would remain thematic or visual rather than musical, and a bewildering range of bands who evoked bizarre, melancholy or macabre moods would find themselves dubbed 'Goth.'  So it may make more sense for anyone not deeply invested in identifying as Goth to think of it as a style, if we can take 'style' to mean a manner of becoming, in the sense Deleuze uses the word.  Deleuze opposes 'becoming' to 'being,' the latter signifying fixed identity, the former shifting identifications.  He asserts that style is the mode through which identities are expressed, because 'there is no subject, there are only collective assemblages of enunciation.'  What he calls minoritarian style -- in other words, that which departs from the sign systems expressive of the majority's consensus -- is the style that inhabits becoming.  Goth style is minoritarian.
    "...  To me, then, Goths are people who try to do something interesting, and usually something sexually exciting, with that sense of being dead to the straight world.  In the sense that Goth appropriates the mainstream's designation of everything that does not fit into its systems of signification as dead or deathly, Goth cultures are death cults extraordinaire." [references omitted]

* Venters 2009 p7 
"The Goth subculture as it is known today began as an offshoot of punk rock that mixed a flair for the theatrical and a fondness of campy horror movies.  While every cultural movement or phase has cast its own dark shadows (vampy flappers and sinister rakes, noir femmes fatales, black-clad occult types reading tarot cards by candlelight), those shadows never really seemed to flow together into a glorious tapestry of velvet-edged darkness in the U.K. and U.S. until the late '70s and early '80s."

* Croll 2014 p86
"In the wave of punk's theoretical selling out, goth delivered the kind of depressed, apolitical subculture the disenfranchised youth needed.  Springing from the music scene led by bands like Bauhaus, the goth look was all-black, romantic, sometimes involving Victorian or Edwardian garb, and often religious or occult symbols.  As a subculture without a real cause, besides being a refuge for depressed youth, goth hasn't suffered quite the same identity crisis as punk, and when its looks appear in collections by people such as Alexander McQueen or Jean Paul Gaultier, it's just another ebony feather in goth's black hat."

* Siegel 2005 p31-32
"In Goth's first wave, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, styles that would come to define the movement were adopted by a relatively small number of people in a few major cities, most notably London.  These early Goths were usually involved in rock and roll scenes informed by the Punk anti-pop ethic but might also be enthusiasts of Gothic horror literature, especially the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.  Intellectualism was on of the salient characteristics of Goth's first wave, and it was expressed primarily through an emphasis on literature and high art.  Dave Thompson credibly argues that 'today's Goths, the black-clad, white-faced, ghoulishly gave individuals for whom Bela still remains undead, have little to do with the Gothic Rock that was created and christened in the first frightening years of Thatcher's Britain'.  In place of the early Goth 'ideal of 19th-century Romanticism and beauty,' the American Goth wave that began with Trent Reznor's 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine's fusion of Goth and Industrial gave severely disaffected young people a sound expressive of their rage and pain. [references omitted]
    "The second wave of Goth did not directly follow the discovery of AIDS in the early 1980s, as is often speculated, but instead paralleled the rise of abstinence education in the United States, which became dominant in the late 1980s, due to legislators' support of the Christian Right agenda.  By the mid-1990s there was hardly a town in America so tiny that it did not have at least a few teenagers with black-dyed hair and black-painted fingernails who referred to themselves as Goths.  The association between this style and a refusal to get with the abstinence program is made in innumerable books, magazine stories, television shows, and films of the period."


* Kilpatrick 2004 p29
"Goth fashions have a range.  You can wear black, or you can wear black."

* Roberts/Livingstone/Baxter-Wright 2016 p182
"Much current gothic fashion is based on a somewhat arbitrary version of historical dress, and for many contemporary Goths it is enough to simply play the part of dressing up in costume that derives inspiration from the broadest of historical, literary and cinematic sources.  They are able to draw from the romanticism of traditional medieval dress, the Victorian passion for elaborate black mourning dress, the elegant dandyism of nineteenth-century poets and the fragile beauty of the women portrayed in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites."

* Young 2016 p151
"Goth culture was a dark and macabre offshoot of the original punk movement, capturing at its heart the theatricality of Victoriana and the occult. In the late 1970s, encouraged by Siouxsie Sioux's DIY fashion, it fused the symbols of Gothic literature and film with glam, punk and the new romantics, creating a distinctive style of its own.
      "Gothic fashion developed its own language, inspired by nineteenth-century Gothic stories by Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, gothic horror films, and medieval and Victorian rituals, creating a form of beauty from death and the dark side of life. Goth is considered more than just a subculture -- it's a state of mind that references an obsession with darkness, from the Eye of Ra symbol, used on the Sisters of Mercy Vision Thing album cover, to the pagan pentacle and the crucifix. While edgy and extreme, there's a misconception that goths are devil worshippers and Satanists, when in fact it is the romance that lies at the heart of it."

* Calasibetta/Tortora 2003 p214
"goth/goth look  A style, originating in a London club called the Batcave in 1981, that was inspired by the gothic literary works of the 19th c. such as Dracula. Followers mixed black, bloodred, and purple colored velvet and lace with fishnet and leather. Hair was dyed black and makeup featured black accents at the eyes and lips."

* Wilson 2008 September 17 online
"[G]oth fashion is not just for maladjusted latchkey kids.  A recent proliferation of Haute Goth on the runways of designers like Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh and the spidery crochet webs of Rodarte (not to mention variously darkly inclined Belgian designers) suggests, once again, that black still is, and probably always will be the new black.
    "The goth subculture, however, for those who live it, is more than the sum of its chicken bones, vampire cliches and existential pants.  It remains a visual shortcut through which young persons of a certain damp emotional climate can broadcast to the other members of their tribe who they are.  Goth is a look that simultaneously expresses and cures its own sense of alienation."

* Young 2016 p152
"The first wave of British post punk bands -- Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cure -- mixed a fetish look of punk and glam rock, twisted into a dark, horror style. David Bowie referred to his 1974 album Diamond Dogs as gothic in its styling and five years later, in 1979, Joy Division's manager, Martin Hannett, described their sound as gothic -- the musical equivalent of Nosferatu. Bauhaus created the blueprint for gothic music, with their 1979 hit single 'Bela Lugosi's Dead', which used glam vampire imagery. But Siouxsie Sioux was the originator of what became known as the goth look, with her black back-combed hair, red lips and white skin, and she would continue to be the influential fashion icon for goth culture."

* Goodlad/Bibby eds. 2007 p3 (Lauren ME Goodlad & Michael Bibby, "Introduction" p1-37)
"Goth fashion was and remains a mix-and-match melange of black and retro garments fashioned from leather, buckles, velvet, silk, PVC, chains, or lace.  Goths may wear spiked heels, pointy-toed lace-ups, shiny thigh-high boots, or clunky Doc Martens.  They may accessorize with sunglasses, top hats, capes, corsets, cravats, riding crops, or lunchbox purses.  They may dye their hair black, white, red, or purple and wear it back-combed, teased, shaved, crimpled, or spiked.  Goths may sport tattoos, body painting, piercings, purple contact lenses, fangs, or decorative scarring; applying makeup, they may favor whiteface, mascara, eyeliner, Kabuki-inspired face paint, or red, black, or purple lipstick or nail varnish.  Goth fashion may incorporate elements of ancient Celtic, Christian, pagan, Egyptian, or Asian iconographies.  The overall style of any gothic ensemble may evoke high chic, antique, retro-kitsch, punkfetish, second-hand trash, or some combination of the above."

* Spooner 2006 p133-134
"... Goth is, itself, a look that recycles other looks -- period costume, fetish wear, fancy dress, (for example, fairy wings or cyborg goggles), even elements of punk.  The high-street appropriation of Goth style was therefore not only about the desire for the new, but also about a relationship with the old, with past looks -- another kind of revival.  Goth style did not provide the usual frission of empty rebellion or packaged nostalgia provided by the appropriation or recycling of subcultural looks, but enabled a rather different set of sartorial meanings to be put into play."

* Steele ed. 2005 v2 p151-152 (Paul Hodkinson, "Goths" p150-152)
"In spite of its variety of influences, goth fashion is a contemporary style in its own right, which has retained significant levels of consistency and distinctiveness for over two decades.  Put simply, since the mid 1980s, goths have always been easily recognized as such, both by one another and by many outsiders to their subculture.  Attempts to interpret their distinctive appearance as communicating a morbid state of mind or a disturbed psychological makeup are usually misplaced.  What IS symbolized, though, is a defiant sense of collective identity, based upon a celebration of shared aesthetic tastes relating primarily to music, fashion, and nightlife." [reference omitted]

* Young 2016 p152
"Through the 1980s goth found international popularity with the music and style of the Cure and Sisters of Mercy. It worked as a dark antithesis to the sugary pastels and pale denims of 1980s mainstream fashion with male and female goths wearing dark eyeliner, black nail polish, occult jewellery and borrowing from the EdwardiansVictorians and punk. Goth also overlapped with rock culture with the wearing of band t-shirts, and the indie and crustie scene with tattoos, piercings and combat trousers. Later, goths would dye their hair red, purple or bleached blonde.
    "Doc Martens were the favoured footwear of goths, just like punks and skinheads before them. But any black boots would do, buckled, heeled or with a pointed toe. A black coat was worn to be bulky and encasing and goth girls had laddered tights or fishnets, an easy and accessible way of dressing. In cities like London and San Francisco goth fashion suited the young and poor -- it could be bought in thrift stores, and if tights had a hole in them, they could be ripped further into cobwebs. A writer for the New York Times recalled that in San Francisco the Haight-Ashbury crowd 'turned as abruptly and completely black as if a wall of ink had crept up from the Pacific and saturated everything, save for occasional outcroppings of little silver skulls."

* Goodlad/Bibby eds. 2007 p390 (Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, "Gothic fetishism" p375-397)
"The goth subculture has incorporated elements of fetish fashion since its beginnings.  As Ted Polhemus puts it, 'The Goths continued the Punks' interest in fetishism and translated it into a more dressy, extravagant style.'  However, in an observation that holds true for the American goth scene as well as the U.K. scene, Hodkinson comments that in the 1990s, 'aspects of the 1990s fetish scene and, indeed, the sex industry generally became popular.  Goths of both sexes were increasingly likely to be seen in black and sometimes coloured PVC and rubber trousers, skirts, leggings, corsets, tops and dog collars.'  Baddeley observes concerning the contemporary goth scene that 'corsets, bondage-wear and black leather have become favoured evening-wear for female Goths.'"

* Young 2016 p153
"Gothic culture was given a new lease in the 1990s, with the release of film adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Ann Rice's Interview with a [SIC: 'the'] Vampire. They inspired a new goth look for men, with long hair, frilled shirts and heavy coats; a replication of the Victorian dandy, where a pale, thin body was desirable."


* Roberts/Livingstone/Baxter-Wright 2016 p181
"Costume jewellery fashioned to resemble imagery of dismembered body parts completed the look.  Silver skulls, human skeletons and bats were worn hanging from silver chain necklaces or made into chunky rings, and brooches shaped as human bones were pinned onto dresses.  Religious iconography in the form of ebony and jewelled crucifixes or rosary beads were draped around the neck, all sourced from vintage markets or bought from the shops of new young designers who recognized the emerging trend.  The demand was growing among this young subculture for darker and more perverse clothing and jewellery.  The gothic ideology and a wardrobe based on funereal black provided an extreme visual style that separated the defiantly moody teen from all that had gone before."