|A brief guide to Goth|
|What is goth?|
|Goth is an alternative subculture; it
is both a style of music and a fashion, like Punk. People
who listen to the music don't necessarily dress in the
style, and people who look like goths don't necessarily
like the music either - a lot of metal fans have adopted
the goth look, making for a great deal of confusion.
However, on the rare occasion that someone looks like a goth and likes goth music, chances are they're actually a goth.
Especially if they deny it.
|Where did the name come from?|
|The name originally came from a
Germanic tribe (ie the Goths). The Romans regarded them
as barbaric and uncultured, much like the Vandals.
"Gothic" was later applied to a style of
medieval architecture by critics who regarded it as
similarly barbaric and uncultured (something similar
happened with the term "Vandal"). The term was
later applied to a late 18th/early 19th century style of
literature which had a fascination with death and the
The term "Gothic" was first applied to the music which is now considered "goth" in about 1979- see the name page for details.
Later on, the term "Goths" or "Gothic Punks" was applied to fans of the music, particularly those that had the gothic look.
|What is the "Gothic Look"?|
|The early goths looked similar to
punks, except that the predominant colours were black for
hair & clothing (with the occasional outburst of
white, red or purple) and silver for jewellery. Thus they
had ripped clothing, and even mohicans, though the
"Goth Mohican" was usually black and much wider
than the punk version (shaved at the sides only). They
also tended to spout a lot of fishnet (more usually on
the arms for men) and had a distinctive style of makeup,
with very white faces and lots of black eyeliner (for
both men and women). Hair was usually dyed black, crimped
At first the hair was usually fairly short for men, backcombed up, but by the mid-to-late eighties long black hair became fashionable and it's now more usual to see hair long & down than shaved at the sides & spiked up. Makeup remains an integral part of the look, but clothing has diversified so that some now wear clothes influenced by 18th or early 19th century styles whilst others wear PVC, leather & fishnet. (crushed velvet tends to be another goth favourite). And some of them wear both, though not usually at the same time. Black and white remain the predominant colours, with red or purple still making an appearance. Distinctive fabrics tend to be silk, crushed velvet, leather & PVC.
|What does Goth music sound like?|
|The first goth music grew out of punk,
and some of the early bands were very lively,
characterised by tribal drumming. Things changed in the
mid-eighties, mainly due to the rise of the Sisters of
Mercy, probably the most well-known goth band. The
Sisters were characterised by deep vocals, simple yet
prominent basslines, and simple drum machine rhythms.
Unfortunately they came to typify the "Goth
Sound" and too many later bands followed their
Later on, there was some crossover with the Industrial scene, and a lot of bands now use electronic sounds as well as the archetypal guitar/bass/drum machine/vocals.
In the late 90s, "cybergoth" became very popular, essentially a mix of goth-style vocals with a dancey backing. Whether this is a subgenre of goth, a subgenre of industrial, or a mixture of both is a vexed question, but overall the scene seems to lean more towards the industrial side of things.
There is also a fair bit of "ambient" goth, characterised by subtle instrumentation and haunting female vocals.
Lyrically, goth tends to be on the doomy side- dark lyrics and a doomy sound are fairly typical of most (but not all) goth these days.