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Monday, 6 December 2010

'Going Goth' - how I joined the dark-clad throng

I was only about six when I saw a Goth for the first time, but it made such an impression that I've never quite forgotten it. My parents and I were in the Waterloo Tube Station, in London, when amongst all the hustle and bustle I spotted a small group of people dressed from head to toe in black. One of them in particular caught my eye. She was wearing black baggy trousers and matching hoodie, and pale candyfloss-pink hair cascaded over her shoulders. All I saw of her face was the briefest glimpse in profile. These people were different from anything I had seen before - I was fascinated.

Me, aged 17
Whilst on holiday a year or so later my ma and I came across a shop selling Gothic clothes. I'm pretty sure it was here that I first heard the term ‘Goth’. I remember holding out the long, medieval-style cobweb-lace sleeve of a top and declaring to my amused parent, “I’m going to dress like this when I’m older.”

My first personal foray into Goth came at the age of eight. It consisted of crimping my long blonde hair, wearing black t-shirts and blue jeans with a studded choker and silvery-blue lipstick, and announcing to anyone who would listen that I was Goth (aww, cute!). I also turned up at a school fete in a black leather high-collared minidress with a zip down the front, teamed with hiking boots and gold moon and star earrings, and my wild hair and blue lippie. Of course, no one took me seriously, and I returned to my usual style (which was somewhere between alternative and tomboyish) after being informed by a teenage friend (who probably knew even less about Goth than I did) that to be a Goth ‘you have to have all black in your wardrobe’.

I tried again at the age of ten. This time the lipstick was black, I wore long black skirts, and the same old black t-shirts. This time I rejoined the 'mundanes' when most of my other friends stopped speaking to me out of embarrassment.

I also have video footage of me, at the age of thirteen, with my then short-and-blonde hair spiked up, eyelids and lips darkest black, wearing a fishnet top that I’d borrowed from a friend. At the time we all thought Goth was 'cool', but it just wasn't something we dared to admit to as we were all trying our damnedest to fit in with the other kids at school. Although when I bought a copy of At Death's Door by Jill Thompson, a manga spin-off from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, featuring Death in all her Gothic glory, all my friends thought it was 'the coolest manga ever'.

This was when I went through my worst fashion phase - bleaching my hair Barbie-blonde rather than my natural dark blonde/mousy brown, wearing white tracksuits, spray-on jeans and pink minidresses - in a doomed attempt to impress the 'popular crowd' at school. I also looked up to the Mansonite girls in the top year, assuming they were Goth with their vivid hair (one girl had orange hair, the other plum purple), heavy boots and black leather trenchcoats worn with school uniform. I wanted to dress like them, but I was already getting a load of crap at school because I enjoyed reading and writing and was getting good grades, so I didn't quite dare.

Just after my fourteenth birthday, when my style was heading back towards 'alternative' (hair cropped short and spiked, then dyed purple, my fashion tastes a weird combo of hippie, grunge and punk) and I had left school (the bullying got far too extreme and it was no longer considered safe for me to attend) I once again took the plunge.

In the beginning, I assumed that bands like My Chemical Romance and Evanescence were Goth, but while browsing the net I discovered that I was wrong. So I researched, scouring every forum, every YouTube video for REAL Goth bands. And as soon as I discovered the music, I fell in love with it. Weirdly, though, I'd been listening to some of these bands - Depeche Mode, New Order, Die Krupps - for many years, and counted them among my favourites, never once realising that they were popular amongst the Goth scene.

When I discovered that all the things I've loved since childhood - Halloween, creepy and/or dark music, fantasy stories and art, unusual and dramatic fashion, horror stories, writing stories and poetry - were celebrated in Goth culture, I was totally hooked. And so (cue spooky voice here please) my transformation was complete...

I'm now nineteen, and have never looked back!

Listening to: Party For One - Zeitgeist Zero

3 comments:

sydneysomething said...

Wow, your journey started so much younger than mine!

I was always the odd one out at school, mainly because I couldn't be bothered following fashions and what not and I also ranted on and on to the popular kids about how stupid they were and how I would go to university and they'd be pregnant at 17 (which in most cases has been true!) :P

I used to wear black just mainly because I was so self conscious about my weight, even though I was a waif :P

Anyway when I was around 15 I met a boy who was into metal, and Cradle of filth was my first exposure to gothic culture I guess. I mean, I know they're metal and not goth, but they're lyrics and videos and crap are quite gothic.

I'd always thought I just wasn;t all that into music like everyone else, and I was fine with that and then I discovered music I actually enjoyed listening to, some metal bands, and then ZOMG I found goth and industrial bands and I was so mad that I'd wasted all this time thinking I hated music when I could've been listening to this :P

Then I started wearing band t shirts and tripp pants, and I got myself my first real corset and a massive pair of demonias. I then realised that I was more of a victorian goth and so when I left school and started earning money I went crazy with the clothes :P

Also, I went to a very strict catholic school, so I couldn't have any unnatural hair or piercings or even makeup. Pffft. So yeah, I guess I'm making up for it now :P

LOOOOONNNG comment. :P Sorry. I really like this post :)

ultimategothguide said...

I was the same with music... I listened to the radio and bought those Now whatever CDs because all my friends were into it, but it didn't really... click.

I have moments now when I think, "D'oh, if only I'd paid more attention to the stuff that I DID like, I could have gotten into a subculture that feels like home for me so much sooner!"

I have a Cradle of Filth album... I love the actual music but the vocals drive me round the bend... instrumental COF album, anyone?

Anonymous said...

I think the first time I encountered a goth was my freshmen year of high school but I'm not sure if I met one sooner I don't remember. I actually first started wearing goth inspired outfits in 8th grade, but they were really simple(I wasn't into makeup or hair dying then or now)just a cool tee shirt, some jeans or this one skirt I had and my converse. But by half way through freshmen year my style evolved into a weird goth/ hippie thing every thing was black, dark purple, or tie dyed and I kinda shunned my jeans(I never really liked pants in general)and wore nothing but skirts and these pants I had that from far away looked like a skirt.But my style hasn't changed much since then although I do where more lace now. PS-I loved hearing about how your style evolved.

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