What Exactly is Goth? Is it a Culture?
First of all, let’s understand the term and where it originated from. Goth is a loose musical movement, subculture and fashion style that first appeared in England in the early 80s.
In the aftermath of the original punk movement, a new wave of bands — Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, Joy Division, the Sisters of Mercy and more — mashed together a love of glam rock, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, horror movies, fetish wear and goth literature to create what became known as ‘goth’, a sort of dark flip-side to the rise of new wave pop.
The Visigoths or goths, were an ancient people from what is now Germany and Scandanavia, also known as barbarians, famous for the sacking of Rome in 410 AD. Gothic art and architecture thrived in Europe in the middle ages and the word was first used negatively, to describe the work as barbaric or primitive.
The word ‘goth’ became attached to the music of the early 80s by the UK music press — used to mean dark, grandiose and pretentious. But unlike, say, heavy metal, few of the bands associated with the scene ever embraced the name.
One of the reasons goth thrived was its distinctive look and the ease with which anyone could adopt the dress code. Common elements include black leather and PVC, fishnets, crimped spiky hair, black lace, mohair jumpers, brothel creepers, winklepicker shoes and more. Over the years, goth fashion has taken elements from Edwardian and Victorian clothing, steam punk, cyperpunk, rave, fetish wear, cosplay and more.
Goth is now international. The original ‘movement’ — ie the look and sound — grew in the US, too. Christian Death and 45 Grave headed up US goth, while the Cramps ghoulish psychobilly was also a natural fit, and UK bands like Love And Rockets, formed by ex-Bauhaus members, had US hits.
By the late 80s and 90s, the music and look had caught on all over the world: Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Scandanavia. Anywhere there’s internet, basically.Today there’s beach goth (goths in sunny places), health goth (cool black athleisure wear), cholo goth (Mexican gansta goth).