I think I'm going to have to define a few terms before we get on with this discussion.
/div wrote:goth: 1. A style of rock music that often evokes bleak, lugubrious imagery. 2. A performer or follower of this style of music.
subculture: a social group within a national or world culture that has distinctive patterns of behavior, tastes, and beliefs
mainstream: 1. The prevailing current of thought, influence, or activity. 2. Representing the prevalent attitudes, values, and practices of society.
Being goth is not something you just stumble in to. People don't really wake up one morning and go "Hey! Let's be goth today!" It just doesn't happen like that.
It's not really innate either. People aren't born gothic. It develops over time.
In that development comes a certain interest in types of music. Goth as a subculture didn't start out as a description of fashion, literature, art, mindset, or what ever other bullshit you can attach to it. It started out as music. Purely music. And it remains so. Gothic music relies on various elements in order to be classified as gothic music.
What is gothic music?
Goth is a large umbrella term for several different kinds of music, such as darkwave, deathrock, and industrial. But I think the most common term applied to gothic music is that it is avante-garde. It is not part of the mainstream. It might have maybe gotten played on MTV back in the early days when it was still a new station and not subsumed by pop music. The most easily recognized gothic bands in the genre would have to be Bauhaus and the Sisters of Mercy. They are the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, respectively, of gothic music. I'm going to go so far as to say that if you don't have at least one album by either of these bands, I'd have a very hard time considering you as a goth.
It just wouldn't make any bloody sense. When a subculture is based on music, you can't say you're part of it if you have no music that the subculture is based on. It would be like saying you are punk and not having an album by The Ramones.
Some essential songs that every goth should know right off the top of their head:
"Temple of Love" by The Sisters of Mercy
"Stigmata Martyr" by Bauhaus
"Cities in Dust" by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"First Communion" by Christian Death
"New Dawn Fades" by Joy Division
"I Walk The Line" by Alien Sex Fiend
"Love Like Blood" by Killing Joke
"Black Sun" by Dead Can Dance
Unless youdraw the bulk of your CD collection from a band list like this, I would not really consider you gothic. This said, it seems like people tend to dilute the genre and classify things as gothic when they are most certainly not gothic at all.
what is not gothic music?
Anything that has been part of mainstream music. ever. especially if it has an overproduced video to go along with it. Gothic music is not about mass marketing or shock value. It has nothing to do with either of these. Gothic music doesn't have the "I hate my parents" ambiance of nu-metal. It's not a style supported by heavy guitar riffs, distortion, rapped lyrics, or people wearing clown makeup and masks. It does not draw large outdoor crowds. And most importantly, it is not on ANY sort of rotation at a commercial rock station, NOR does it have any sort of video airplay on MTV or its various competitors and subsidiaries.
In otherwords, this would be the NOT list. bear in mind that all these bands/artists are about as "gothic" as eachother:
Now, what do these bands all have in common? They've been on MTV, therefore, they are mainstream and therefore, not underground, and lastly, not gothic.
And also, goths, for the most part, don't listen to any of that garbage unless it's on the radio and we are too lazy to change the station. We don't buy the CD. We don't get the band T-shirt from Hot Topic.
Now that we have music out of the way, lets explore some elements of fashion...
other dark colors: sure, why not?
everything else: you are extra cool if you can pull this off and still make it look good.
skirts: gender ambiguous... but don't wear them if you have facial hair
spiked collars, or D-ring collars: S&M is an advertisement here. not a fashion statement
boots: get some that will hold up to everyone else's boots on the dance floor. ballet slippers are not going to help you when Wumpscut comes on.
sewwing your own clothes: good idea
thrift shopping for lots of alterable cheap clothing: good idea
buying overpriced underquality crap from a corporate chain store just because they advertise it as gothic: bad idea
makeup: please don't do it like everyone else. it's an original statement so be original. and make it look good. don't scribble a bunch of shit on your face to make a "statement".
hair: anything goes. and I do mean anything. for us, spiked hair is conservative.
how about reading material?
if you don't like to read or learn, then don't consider yourself a goth, becuase you won't have anything useful to bring into a discussion. lets start with the classics:
Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Alfred Lord Tennyson
and move into the not-so-classics
Poppy Z. Brite
William S. Burroughs
And if I ask for favorite authors and you give me Marilyn Manson becuase he wrote that inane drivel "Long Hard Road Out of Hell", I will skull fuck you.
Lil, let me know if I left anything out.
Everyone else: Did you happen to catch the list of songs I put up above? got to a record store, get a pair of head phones and LISTEN TO THEM. It's not that hard, people. Those bands I listed are the more well known gothic bands.