As a Goth for over ten years, I know how important it is to educate others about our subculture. In high school, only two ignorant classmates called me “devil worshiper,” and joked that I “slit my writs.”
I’ll never know what these stereotypes have to do with my preference for black clothes and bold makeup. Nonetheless, every Goth will hear it.
Isn’t it silly, though? Shouldn’t we all dress in whatever way makes us comfortable: be it Goth, or a t-shirt and jeans? As the Wiccans say, “An it harm none, do as ye wilt.”
Most Goths have occupations such as writers, painters, musicians, and graphic designers. Artists are emotionally expressive, channeling our feelings into art. We Goths show this through our appearance, using clothing, makeup, and/or accessories.
The common stereotypes about Goths are that we worship Satan, suffer from depression, carry a cynical outlook, behave and believe contrary to the mainstream simply to be disagreeable, and above all desperately crave attention.
When wondering why these stereotypes exist in the first place, one only need ask why stereotypes exist at all. “Normal” is defined by corrupt power. Underneath this power is fear and insecurity. When that power is questioned, insecurity boils over, causing false accusations to come out, all to oppress the threat.
In the case of Goths, conformity is socially acceptable. Goths are rebels only because we refuse to follow those rules, not because we seek attention.
Since being Goth is mostly about individuality and mindset, there is no specific religion for Goths. We come from all walks of life: Christian, Muslim, Pagan, atheist, and so on. To place a religion on the Gothic Subculture is like placing religion on artists in general.
A Christian Goth is not an Oxymoron
Each Christian Goth is unique. Some enjoy wearing crosses to enhance their personal style. One could argued that being able to see the beauty in Jesus’ willful sacrifice is a gothic perspective; therefore, the story of Jesus is gothic in nature.
Satan in Literature
Non-Christians, like myself, do not believe in Jesus anymore than we believe in Hell; therefore, Satan is a fictional character. In Christianity, he represents the opposite of obedience. Originally, “Satan” wasn’t another name for Lucifer; rather, “the satan” was used to refer to any character in an Abrahamic story opposing the lesson. “Satan” continues to be used metaphorically in terms of anti-conformity, outside of Christianity. What a shocker when people say that Goths—non-conformists—are “Satanists.”
Philosophical Satanism is not the same as Theistic Satanism or Satan worship. Satanists do not have gods because they are atheist. The symbolic character of Satan filters through their beliefs about life; meanwhile, there is no belief in a deity. Satanism is a philosophy of humanism. It’s the opposite of Christianity. Instead of unconditional forgiveness, they believe in earned respect. The most common version is Anton LaVey’s Satanism: “Do unto others as they do unto you”(LaVey’s Golden Rule).
The Attraction of Morbid Art
A painting of Jesus on the cross intrigues many even though it’s disturbing. Crucifixion is one of the worst ways to die; yet, this type of art is displayed with pride in museums and churches alike. Clearly, those admiring these paintings have not experienced it, but they can relate to pain and helpless; therefore, morbid art pulls you in because of the sympathy it invokes.
The Beauty of Contrast
Depending on the way that shading it is used, dark or light becomes the focus. When a pale Goth uses black or other dark colors it causes those colors to stand out. Rather than having a subtle look, it brings out their features.
Below are a few common types of Goths; however, not everyone fits into a single category. This is not a complete list and not intended to be taken seriously.
Baby Bats refer to young Goths. They’re only beginning the lifestyle, and typically in their preteens/early teens. Usually, they’re inexperienced with makeup, or clothing. So, they keep their look simple.
Corporate Goth is a style for Goths who work in the business world, and can’t dress as they wish. They may keep their style subtle, more natural, but remain dark. Their business attire is often black, or dark. Some may get away with adding Goth accessories, such as skull cuff-links or boots.
Cyber Goths are often found at the clubs, listening to industrial. You’ll find them wearing black clothing with accessories such as googles, gas masks, or lab face-masks.
Note: Gothic masks are a fashion accessory, not a participation in controlling the current pandemic.
Elder Goths have been in the scene since the ‘80s. They’ve watched the subculture evolve for better and for worse. Knowledgeable in everything from music to how to do their eyeliner perfectly, don’t be fooled if they happen to have a conservative appearance or even an overly bold one. Technically, elder Goths also refer to anyone who has been a Goth for several years.
Romantic Goths typically dress the most dramatic and fancy. Women may wear dresses, or blouses with skirts or pants. Men tend to wear suites. The colors are neutral and dark – nothing flashy.
Trad Goth a.k.a Traditional Goth is exactly as it sounds. Although it’s all about the 1980s origin, it doesn’t matter if the Goth started in that decade. They rock the ‘80’s style. Imagine Punk with a creepy edge: Big black hair, leather clothes and boots, complete with skulls.
Some Goths choose not to label themselves. They are Goth because they have always been attracted to the art, literature, films, and music; however, they never take on the appearance.
Goths are artists, and art appreciators.
The following are examples of Goth. These are not complete lists.
Films: The Crow, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Interview with the Vampire
Literature: Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Music: Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure
Symbols: Ankhs, Bats, Cats, Crosses, Dragons, Faeries, Gargoyles, Werewolves, Vampires
If before reading this article, you judged and/or feared the Gothic subculture, I hope that this has opened your mind. Remember, Goths are artists at their core. They’re like anyone else, but with an appreciation for the darker side of life.
Editor’s Note: This was originally posted by this author in 2015 on HubPages. It has since been revised and republished here.