Frequently Asked Questions - The Gothic Subculture
This is one of the questions that gets asked the most. In the shortest definition it is a subculture that evolved from a musical scene to encompass art, literature, fashion and a shared 'dark aesthetic'. For further information about it, please read the "What is Goth?" page on the GOTH.NET site. Also, please refer to the section on the Gothic subculture at <a href="http://www.religioustolerance.org/goth.htm">religioustolerance.org<a>.
There are also historical references to Gothic, including a germanic tribe dating back to the roman era, an architectural style and also a style in literature. These generally have little to do directly with the subculture, though many Goths enjoy the architectural and literary styles bearing the same name and the aesthetic similarities lended the name of the previous styles to the current subculture.
Just a final comment... you will probably find as many different explanations of what Goth is to the many participants within the scene. The scene generally is the sum of these various definitions, and there is no one true definition that will cover what it means to all those who are involved.
Generally if you wear and/or the exterior trappings that go with the subculture, and your musical interests reflect bands that are recognised within the scene and you feel at home within the scene and with it's members and their views and outlooks on life, you might possibly be Gothic.
Please don't get obsessed by fitting the label, truth be told that many people who are Goth or who associate themselves with the scene don't call themselves Goths because they find it too limiting or find that others stereotype them based on that one label, rather than seeing the sum of the parts. Too often there are people that try too hard to fit the label and completely pass by the fact that being Goth is as much about being yourself and finding your own path rather than rigidly trying to fit the stereotypes.
Also, remember that "in the scene" generally means goths who are usually over 18, go gothic clubbing, and have several years experience within the subculture.
This is a question I've fielded from some very young Goths from time to time. The general answer to all of them is NO. As with many things in the scene, or life in general, participation in such behaviour is something you need to decide for yourself as a personal choice... it is NOT a requirement to the scene. If people are pressuring you into doing any of these things when you'd rather not, I suggest you find some other friends/people to hang out with.
There are no real gothic drugs. A popular gothic stereotype is smoking clove cigarettes, but then again, many don't smoke at all. People think that absinthe could be considered a gothic drink, but only in the romantic, poetic, "Walter Mitty" sense. I don't know too many goths who are willing to imbibe absinthe (mostly because the taste is disgusting). As for sex, I don't think there are too many people who have sex because they're gothic. If people have sex it's because they have sex. Gothic people just tend to be more tolerant of certain sexual practices like homosexuality and BDSM. It doesn't mean that all goths are gay or bi or whip eachother, it's just they understand if someone wants to do that with another person and that it's none of their business. Society has taken this out of context and stereotyped goths as all being into 'kinky' sex, a stereotype that has played well recently for the MTV audience. And if someone tells you "all goths do (fill in the blank)" then you should pretty much ignore them, because everyone is different in their own way and groups of people can't be pigeon-holed into stereotypes.
While black is the predominant colour within the subculture, you don't have to wear all black all the time if you don't want to. Many goths wear items in jeweltone colours (dark blues, reds, purples, greens) or grey alongside the black. And there are quite a few Goths who have even made white look very gothic. So don't let that stop you either.
All black is boring. And sometimes, depending on your skin colorations, black is not a color for you. It might even make you look sallow. If black does this to you, then don't wear it. If you're wearing black to be gothic, you're missing the point. You want to look attractive in your eyes. If wearing black close to your face yellows your skin, don't do it. Stick to jeweltones like burgundy, forest green or dark blue. Wear what makes you look attractive. Not what makes you look gothic.
No, it doesn't. If you don't like or don't feel comfortable wearing pvc and vinyl, don't. If you feel silly wearing period clothing, don't. Develop your own style based on what you like and what you feel comfortable in. For some this means historical clothing, for others it's the more industrial stompy boot look and for others again it's black pants and a Bauhaus t-shirt.
Only if you want them. The same advice goes for just about anything else, like whether you need to have black long hair or if you need to smoke/drink/do drugs to be considered a Goth.
Also remember that a lot of piercings connotes to some people that you are a masochist and you do it for sexual pleasure. To some, piercings are not a fashion statement. They're an advertisement. The same goes for tattoos. So get something if you think it will be attractive on you. Highlight areas of your body that are attractive with little bits of metal if you want, but going overboard looks silly. Also, if you are underage, get parental consent. If a studio is busted for piercing a minor, it could put them out of business, so be courteous, respectful, and responsible.
Remember also that a piercing or tattoo studio that will pierce or tattoo minors without parental consent is breaking the law... and stop to consider the fact that if they don't take the law too seriously, then what else they might not be taking too seriously. You really do not want to get body modifications done at a place that is lacking in responsibility for the legal system or hygiene. Get your modifications done at a good respectable place. If you cannot afford their rates wait and save your money! it is not worth running the risk of getting things like Hepatitus for a cheap modification... or a crappy quality tattoo or badly placed piercing.
The obvious answer here would be "whatever you like" as you'll never enjoy something that you're forced to listen to. If you want starting points for music within the Gothic genre, I'd recommend starting with some of the bands that started it all and remain the main staple including, but not limited to: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, The Cure, Christian Death, Clan of Xymox.
Other things that I recommend are compilation cd's or box sets like the Goth Box (Cleopatra), This Is Goth (Cleopatra), Monsters of Goth (Cleopatra) or the Unquiet Grave series (Cleopatra) and compilations/label samplers like those put out by Neue Aesthetic Multimedia (Blackout A.D., Towards the Sky) and Projekt. You're sure to find some artists in the mass that are presented on these discs that will appeal to you so you can explore further.
You also don't have to like everything. Some people love Bauhaus and can't stand the Sisters, that's all a matter of personal preference. Then there's people who lean more heavily towards darkwave, or ethereal, or ebm or industrial or deathrock. Choose your own path amongst the many out there.