Probably the longest argument in subcultural history. Goth internally functions on a kind of mob-rule, cod-democracy where what is ‘legitimate’ is whatever enough people can agree on, or at least successfully argue until everyone gets sick of even discussing it.
It might have started with The Doors and Velvet Underground in the Sixties. It more likely began in the late Seventies with the formation of iconic bands like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Bauhaus.
Throughout the Eighties, as more bands clambered into the genre of ‘gothic-rock’ and the British music press began lionizing, then lambasting them, the scene gathered strength. It was a time of huge hair, personalized leathers, fishnets, clove cigarettes, Batcave nightclubs, chasing bands, drinking snakebite and black and looking good doing it.
Then, the Nineties hit and the Dance clubs took over. Goth shattered and fragments and factions took over, birthing such disparate descendants as cyber-goth, trad-goth, gothic metal and a whole host of other goth-sounding subgenres that angry old veterans of the Eighties dismiss on every subreddit and Facebook group.
Goth remains a haven of petty contradictions – those titans of the Eighties continue to tour the world for devoted fans, but not a single headline act will ever associate with the ‘goth’ tag. The next wave of young people, the beating heart of any subculture, introduce a new style they call nu-goth and are roundly chastised for creating a lightweight, casual style that doesn’t involve wearing three corsets, two cowboy hats and an authentic Sisters t-shirt from 1981 all at once.
At the same time, a bevy of beautiful YouTubers teach each other flawless makeup techniques and ruminate on if one can look witchy and darkly interesting without wasting valuable makeup time listening to dull old bands full of white straight man whinging about pissing off their girlfriends.
It’s a huge, noisy, incomprehensible argument of a subculture that is alternately plundered by unimaginative fashion designers every Fall – and stitched-up by deluded lawmakers and frothing, racist tabloid editors whenever a sad, bullied kid with a metal band t-shirt marches into school with a semiautomatic rifle.
Goth is all of this, and so much more. It’s a vast, warm, friendly, funny family that stretches around the world. It’s full of entertainment and education, imagination and excitement. It dresses well, drinks heavily, and dances furiously.
It never truly dies, only rises again in some weird new form to bewitch a whole new generation of kids, whilst their parents vaguely recall and pull old records from the loft or dredge old t-shirts from the cupboards.
Goth is a grand old cliche and therefore will ever remain, undead….