The goth movement of the 1980’s was one of mystery. Built from the runoff of the earlier Punk movement and the disenchantment of the youth during economic depression in England, the sub-culture was easy to identify. Goths would be listening to bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, and Siousxie and the Banshees. They’d be frequenting clubs and walking the streets clad in a half-DIY, half-secondhand assortment of clothing, backcombed hair, and pointy toed winklepickers. It was easily identifiable as a movement of rebellion against mainstream culture.
But even subcultures get swept up into the changing trends around them. Goth has had many faces since its initial introduction to the world. Its latest incarnation involves heavy doses of social media.
Goths Are Sharing Their Secrets
In recent years, goth has transitioned from an act of resistance to a lifestyle. Goths like ItsBlackFriday and ToxicTears have established a presence on Youtube and Instagram. They welcome the average viewer into the goth community by sharing the nuances of their lives within the subculture. Besides displaying their wardrobes and make-up routines, they also participate in challenges and tags circulating the wider YouTube community and talk about interesting or funny experiences they’ve had. They also discuss social issues regarding the goth community, such as violence and harassment from passers by and other social pressures to conform.
Social media has not only changed the level of awareness surrounding the goth community, but also the dynamic within the community itself. Goth YouTuber Angela Benedict complains about a rising trend in the subculture in her video “Elder Goths Respond to Net Goth Elitists”. She says that many goths don their gloomy attire and high-contrast makeup looks only for the sake of taking pictures or filming videos, not for going out. She attributes this phenomenon to groups of elitist goths who shame others in the community for not being “goth” enough, causing some to fear venturing out into a potentially hostile environment.
From Organic to Organized
Potentially there is an alternative interpretation of this trend. With more goths being open about their habits, mainstream outlets are beginning to recognize it as marketable lifestyle. BuzzFeed has been releasing goth-related posts, such as “This is What Goth Has Looked Like Throughout the Ages,” “These People Tried Goth Fashion For a Week and It Was F—king Epic,” and “19 Truths About Being Goth in the Summer.” There’s even an app available for iPhones and Androids called “Goth Emoji,” which allows you to send tiny ghosts, bats, spiders, and other spooky icons in your text messages.
Goth has become less of an organic movement and more of a calculated brand. Contrasted against the much simpler styles of the 1980s and 1990s, many modern goths put hours into elaborate make-up and outfits. Often they will turn to well-known online goth stores rather than making their own clothes or buying them secondhand. Certain brands will offer compensation or send free samples to popular goths on social media for making a video about their product.
Some goths even claim that you don’t have to dress goth to be goth. Youtubers like Snowy Lowther and ofherbsandaltars have created videos in which they state that goth is not about the look, but about identifying with the movement. If you feel like a part of the subculture, it doesn’t matter whether or not you wear the clothes all the time. What with the amount of time that many modern goth looks require, they claim it is unreasonable to expect people, especially adults, to put this much effort into their appearance every day.
Goth Is Not a Phase, But Trends Are
The shifting of tone within the goth subculture doesn’t make it a less valid lifestyle. In the end, all alternative movements are defined not by labels imposed on them, but by the actions of those within the movement. So even if the modern goth scene seems less authentic, it’s still made up of people choosing to live outside the mainstream. We’ll probably see more changes to the subculture over time, and that’s fine. At least goth’s not dead. Though the death of goth might be the most goth thing ever to happen…
Image via scorzonera at flikr.com