What is Goth – Gothic Definition

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Well, if you want to be really technical, gothic actually refers to either a type of architecture, or to the goth people people from the 4th to 6th centuries.

However, if you have come here, you are probably looking for information on the modern day social group.

The goth culture dates mostly to the 70s, although if you looked hard enough you can probably find examples of Goths existing before hand.

The classical, TV show and movie, viewpoint of goth is just people who wear all blacks, see white foundation as the best thing ever, and listen to dark and depressing music.

In reality, there are many different kinds of goths, and it’s not only about the clothes. If there is one simple definition I can give of what “gothic” is as a subculture, it’s this:

“People who are artistic in being themselves”

So, it’s not about wearing just black, PVC, or anything else. It’s about being not just comfortable in your own skin, but showing the world who you are, and expressing it in an artistic manner.

What might be better, though, is giving a very short history, and then delving into the different subtypes of goth.

The history of goth music

If you are here as someone who knows nothing about goths, you might be surprised that you probably already know some of the bands that really kicked off the goth movement (as such):

  • The Cure
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • The Cure
  • Clan of Xymox
  • Strawberry Switchblade
  • Joy Division
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • David Bowie
  • Gary Numan

Yes, all of these bands and people can be said to have had a massive influence on the scene. Even the very colourful Strawberry Switchblade, who actually inspire the more multicoloured goths today.

The Cure might be one of the biggest examples. Sure, songs such as “Lovesong” and “Friday I’m in Love” can be seen to be very happy if you look at them superficially, there is something amazing in the way Robert Smith sings, that sounds like his heart is breaking with every syllable.

In fact, my second favourite definition of gothic is “Seeing the beauty in ugliness, and the ugliness in beauty.”

Other relevant bands

A complete list of bands vital to the goth scene is hard to pull out, as there are so many in so many different styles of music, but as a short summary:

  • ASP
  • Dead Can Dance
  • Diary of Dreams
  • IAMX
  • Marliyn Manson
  • Nightwish
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Rasputina
  • Switchblade Symphony
  • The Birthday Massacre
  • The Cr├╝xshadows
  • Theatre of Tragedy

The different styles of goth

So, what are the different styles of goth that you can find, “out in the wild”. Well, here is a short summary of some of the main types, but for a full over view of the different types visit the “Types of Goth” section.

EBM Goth

The common thing you will see with this list is that, of course, these categories drop down into many different other categories. For example, within the EBM (Electronic Body Music) goth I would include Industrial Goths, Rivetheads, Military Goths, etc.

This goths tend to be united by a love of music with massive electronic beats. Imagine if heavy metal bands suddenly put down their guitars one day and started playing around with synthesizers.

Fashion wise, this type of goth is all about the heavy. You will see baggy trousers. Chains. Studs. Every now and then you will see flashes of uniform like stylings, including military style hats.

These are also the kinds of goths you will see dancing as if they are beating up an invisible person next to them.

Cyber Goth

I would almost put this as a sub genre underneath EBM Goth. They tend to listen to the same music and dance the same way, but the way they look is different enough to warrant their own category. If you are looking at a crowd of otherwise goths, these will be the ones you eyes are drawn to.

Cybergoths are all about the bright colours. Think layered hair extensions, neon orange and green clothing, furry leg warmers, bright coloured googles, etc.

Historical Goths

Here I also include steampunk goths, a somewhat modern invention but still worth talking about. Fashion-wise, these goths are all about the historical clothing. Typical stylings include Victorian and medieval, and the music can also reflect this.

One of the most common cross-over medieval goth songs, which almost everyone can listen to is Lindsey Sterling’s Crystalise. For the Victorian area, it’d be bands such as Rasputina.

Many of these goths are the ones with the sewing machines and who will spend their time making their own clothing, fully showing how goths are artistic in showing their own self expression.

Classical Goth

These are the black trousers, black t-shirt, and slight bit of makeup goths. Those who you can’t really pin down into one particular genre. They might occasionally wear a military styled jacket, or something with frills, but on the whole, they have a more restrained kind of look to them. Think like Neil Gaiman’s death.

That isn’t to say that they are looked down on the scene for not going all out though. For what is probably one of the reasons why so many people are attracted to the goth scene, is that it is one of the most welcoming and warm communities.

Why goth?

As stated above, some of it is because of the community. It’s about finding both your kind of people, and the kind of people who are warm to everyone.

It’s also very much about the self-expression, being able to display yourself to the world in a way that celebrates having your heart on your sleeve.

And, lastly, it’s also about having fun. So much fun.

(Header Image By GothEric (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr).

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