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Friday, 31 December 2010

And a happy New Year!

Happy New Year's Eve to all my readers; I hope everyone has plans tonight? My plans involve Bulmer's pear cider, Smirnoff Ice, Blackcurrant Sourz and red wine, so don't expect a very well-typed post tomorrow... I'm not a frequent drinker, but I can't say I've learned the art of moderation, either. Living in a rural area it's difficult to get into town and back, so we'll be pitching up a tent in a field and proceeding to get roaring drunk whilst watching the fireworks over the town... hopefully it will be beautiful, crazy fun, and not too cold.

Me, at DV8 Fest
2010 was definitely an interesting year - I had my first proper job, attended my first (two) festivals and got my first tattoo, but my six-year relationship with Dan came to an end (although we are currently dating) and my grandfather passed away. I got in touch with some old friends, but of course there have been plenty of arguments and dramas to keep things 'exciting'. I became a performing bellydancer, but have had a serious case of writer's block on my latest novel for about... eight months. >.< Oh, and I finally did something with my hair... here's hoping that 2011 has more of the good and less of the bad!

Resolutions? I'm going to gain some qualifications in the field of hair and beauty; stop buying clothes that I don't wear, and experiment more with fashion. Not that I'm shallow. XP

Lastly, here's Adora BatBrat's new year message - OK, so it's from last year, but it's still a nice happy Gothy video to round off 2010.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gothic and Lolita

Japan has its own Goth scene, which is relatively small compared to the large Goth communities in countries such as America, England, and Germany, and lacks the popularity of other Japanese alt cultures such as Lolita. As I have mentioned Lolita briefly in previous posts, I thought I should expand on it a little and explain myself a little better.

Lolita is a fashion community whose followers enjoy appearing reminiscent of Victorian children or porcelain dolls. It is usually a modest style, and Wikipedia claims that it developed partly to combat the growing exposure of the body in today's society - although there is a subset of the style, ero Loli, where the focus is on appearing 'sexy' rather than 'cute' or 'elegant'.

Within Lolita, there is a strong emphasis on DIY - many Lolitas make their own clothes and accessories, although there are also many Lolita-centric brands such as Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, Angelic Pretty, Victorian Maiden and Metamorphose temps de fille.

Like Goth, Lolita involves several subgenres or substyles, each characterised by its unique twist on Lolita fashion. I will describe a few of them here, but it would probably take me all day to list all of the subsets associated with Lolita!

Source: Google Images
Gothic Lolita is influenced by Victorian, Goth and Rococo fashions, and like other styles of Lolita can usually be recognised by the bell-shaped skirt and puffed sleeves. Unlike styles such as Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita outfits are generally comprised of dark colours such as black, burgundy and purple, although white is also often seen. Make-up can be either soft and natural, or more dramatic, incorporating black eyeliner and red lipstick, although it is rarely if ever as heavy as the make-up looks seen within Goth.

Goth Loli is often confused with the Goth subculture - if a Japanese national talks about 'Goths', they are probably referring to Gothic Lolitas, because the Goth scene in Japan is quite small and just as misunderstood by the general populace as it is in the Western world, whereas Gothic Lolita is very popular amongst Japanese youth and often seen on the streets of Tokyo and, famously, the Harajuku district.

Sweet Lolita is the most childlike of the Lolita substyles, and common colours used are pink, white and other pastel tones. Sweet Lolita often uses cute motifs such as cupcakes, strawberries, toys, hearts and flowers. Bows, frills and ribbons - and lots of 'em - are used, as well as bonnets and bows. Accessories may include bags shaped like soft toys, e.g. teddy bears, or may have a 'princess' theme, such as a crown-shaped handbag.

Classic Lolita is a more 'grown-up' style of Lolita, using inspiration from Baroque and Regency styles. It is simpler in style, and may feature A-line or empire-waisted garments. It is less whimsical and more functional than many of the Lolita styles, and may also suit those of taller or broader stature (for example, wide shoulders) due to its general lack of ruffles and more classic lines.

Punk Lolita unsurprisingly adds punk elements to Lolita fashion, such as safety pins, ripped clothing, chains, ties and heavy boots.

Other Lolita fashions include:

Casual Lolita - a simpler, toned-down version of the style
Wa Lolita - combining traditional Japanese clothing styles with Lolita fashion
Qi Lolita - like Wa Lolita, but using traditional Chinese clothing
Hime, or Princess, Lolita - a princess-themed look based upon the European aristocratic style
Gore Lolita - the portrayal of a 'broken doll', incorporating fake blood and bandages to give the appearance of injury
Country Lolita - derived from Sweet Lolita, incorporating gingham, straw baskets and hats to reflect rural themes
Sailor Lolita - nautical-themed, inspired by Japanese sailor uniforms
Elegant Gothic Lolita and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat - terms coined by Mana of the Visual Kei bands Moi Dix Mois and Malice Mizer to describe his Moi-Meme-Moitie fashion lines. EGL applies to Gothic Lolita styles; EGA is considered to be more androgynous and 'mature'.

Whereas in the Goth scene 'weekenders' (those who only get Gothed up at weekends or for Gothy events) can often be frowned upon or considered 'tourists', Lolitas generally do not turn out in full-on frills and petticoats every day. However, a few Lolitas do choose to live a 'Lolita lifestyle', adopting elegant behaviour and mannerisms and the etiquette of a historial time period, usually the Victorian era.

Rather than having a thriving club scene like Goth, Lolitas often socialise via meet-ups, arranged between different Lolita mini-communities such as those living in a particular area or members of a particular online forum.

Can you be a Goth and a Lolita? Certainly. Many Goths, although they may not consider themselves part of the Lolita community, dabble in or have an interest in Lolita-inspired fashion (particularly Gothic Lolita, surprise surprise), and there are definitely some common elements between the two subcultures - elaborate and beautiful clothing; attention to detail; accessories such as parasols, crosses, mini top hats and lace gloves; aspiration towards elegance; appreciation of beauty and a certain theatrical flair. No small wonder that a fair few people have an affiliation with both scenes.

Interestingly, within the Lolita community some prejudice against Goths has been known - possibly due to the fact that Lolita's current international popularity has led to many Goths borrowing from Lolita fashion without any knowledge or understanding of the style? OpiateVampire has written a post on this, which you may like to read here.

The Lolita subculture has no particular music genre, unlike Goth, although it is commonly associated with Visual Kei (more on this at a later date) bands such as Malice Mizer, Moi Dix Mois, Dir En Grey, Alice Nine and D'espairs Ray. RazorBladeKisses, a Gothic rock band, often appear clad in Gothic Lolita fashions; and the band Aural Vampire, who have toured with The Birthday Massacre, also wear Gothic Lolita-inspired clothing. Numerous Japanese pop artists also adopt a Lolita-inspired visual theme, such as Kanon Wakeshima, Nana Kitade (who is also a Gothic Lolita fashion designer) and Kalefina.

Listening to: Melt - I:Scintilla

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Stand up or stand back

The Gothic Liberation Front - a MySpace, FaceBook and YouTube based organisation with branches in many American states and most parts of the UK, which previously boasted the stunning Goth model and head of DevilDoll Photography, Laureli Slaughter, as it's outspoken spokeswoman. The GLF's main objectives are to have assaults and murders based on appearance considered hate crimes so that stricter penalties will be enforced; to hold law enforcement (e.g. the police) accountable for inaction or poor quality action based on the appearance of a victim, and to educate the public on truth behind subcultures and dispel myths spread by the media and popular religion.

The statistics they present on their flyers reveal that in the last year, 96% of the members of alternative subcultures whom they surveyed reported being verbally assaulted on more than one occasion based on their appearance. 43% - nearly half - reported that they were physically assaulted for the same reason. Out of all those surveyed who contacted the police, all but one felt that any inaction or poor quality of action was based on - you guessed it - their appearance.

I originally posted this rant on the old website, when the GLF still actually seemed to be somewhat active - although I have been informed that their Facebook page is still being updated, there seems to be a distinct lack of anything useful going on. Nonetheless I was, and still am, a strong supporter of the GLF's cause and objectives, which was what caused me to write another angsty complaint, at the time after the attack on Sophie Lancaster when I wasn't allowed out of the house without an escort and you couldn't log on to Google News without reading about the latest spate of violence against alternatives:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the GLF a group created to help us, to support us, to fight for the rights of the members of alternative subcultures to be recognised as people, as equals, not to be assaulted in the street or passed over for promotion because of the way we like to dress. So why on earth are they having to post videos asking Goths - yes, that's right, Goths - to stop hassling them and sending them hate mail?!

Apparently the reasoning behind this is that these people are afraid that the GLF are 'provoking' the mainstream - 'if we draw attention to ourselves it's going to get worse'. How much worse can it get? People have been beaten up, raped, murdered in cold blood like Sophie Lancaster (yes, it was murder - if you repeatedly stamp on somebody's head, they will die. You know that, I know that, those evil little thugs sure as hell knew that, and they did it anyway). Are we going to sit around and take it? Wait for somebody else to do something about it?

Organisations like the GLF and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation exist so that WE CAN STAND UP FOR OURSELVES. Nobody else is going to do it for us. No one in the popularity contest that is politics is going to think, "Oh, those Goths aren't really such a bad lot, they don't deserve this, I'm going to stand up for their rights this week." Why? Because for a large segment of the population, people who are weird, who are different, who look 'scary', are an embarrassment to be swept under the carpet at best and a target at worst. Befriending Goths is not going to help a politician get popular.

These organisations are creating a ruckus so that we can be heard. Yes, people might be shocked. Provoked? I damn well hope so. If we 'provoke' them enough, maybe they'll realise that things have to change.

When the GLF's campaign was at its peak a few years ago, I put up a whole bunch of their flyers around my area, and within days all but one had been torn down. Shops refused to display the flyer on their noticeboards. Our message is not 'appealing' - we're not cute, we're not hearts and flowers and puppies, and so nobody wants to listen. So we have to get louder. More campaigns. More being nice to little old ladies so that one more person things, "Oh, those scary-looking freaks aren't actually so freaky."

The GLF's campaign may have tailed off into semi-silence, but the Sophie Lancaster Foundation seems to be starting to make a difference. If you don't like what they're doing, that's fine - just get out of the way. Don't heckle. Don't hate. Just watch from the sidelines. It's time to stand up or stand back. Make your decision.

OK, so that's a little melodramatic, but surely the GLF's statistics show that something needs to change. I don't know about you, but I don't want the next generation of alternatives, and the next and the next, to be afraid to express themselves as they choose in case they get their heads kicked in at the bus stop. It's bad enough already - hands up any Goth who's NEVER been on the receiving end of physical or verbal abuse. And this is something that we tend to accept as 'normal'; just the way things are.

What if we didn't have to?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Of madness, mystery, and the nightmares of spirits...

I just noticed how long it's been since I last posted a book review, so I thought it was about time for me to begin raving about my all-time favourite manga series, Bizenghast by M.Alice LeGrow.

Right from the very first page, M.Alice's darkly elegant, highly elaborate illustrations pull the reader into the haunting, twisted world of Bizenghast, an old town which seems to exist on the brink of mist and memory, overshadowed by a terrible past and bordered by deep forest. Orphaned protagonist Dinah is a troubled girl who has been sent to live with her aunt in Bizenghast; unfortunately the town's dark secrets, ghosts - which only Dinah can see - buried bodies and other horrible apparitions are not exactly conducive to Dinah's already-fragile mental state.

When Dinah and her caring, considerably-more-level-headed best friend Vincent (the perfect foil for the only-just-sane Dinah) discover a mysterious graveyard hidden in the forest, and the sunken mausoleum at its centre, they unwittingly stumble into a binding contract to free the restless spirits bound within the vaults of the mausoleum - or Dinah will die.

Bizenghast has been described in several other online reviews as a Tim Burton-esque Gothic horror, but I felt that the story is considerably darker than average Burton fare, especially with big-eyed, Gothic Lolita-clad Dinah suffering fits and hovering on the edge of madness. The artwork is incredibly detailed, particularly the architecture design, and the costumes are stunningly rendered - is it sad that I'm jealous of a fictional character's wardrobe?

I would love to rave on about Bizenghast a little longer, but don't want to give away any spoilers from the following volumes - however, let me just note that: Bali-Lali, the sunken mausolem's semi-arachnid caretaker, scared the bejeezus out of me in this volume; Edaniel is absolutely the cutest little spirit-creature-whatever-he-is; and the series gets better and better as it unfolds, as the tangled history of Bizenghast and all its dark secrets become entwined with Dinah's nocturnal visits to the mausoleum to free the sleeping spirits bound within.

Styles of Goth fashion: vampire Goth

In the wise words of Voltaire, vampire Goths are "essentially, romantigoths with fangs." In an earlier post I have discussed the relations between Goth and the vampyre subculture, but just to re-cap: vampire Goths do not believe that they are vampires. They are simply Goths with a strong interest in vampire lore and the 'vampire aesthetic', although they may or may not also be affiliated with the vampyre subculture.


For Goths, the appeal of vampires is generally an aesthetic one, and this is demonstrated perfectly by the vampire Goth. The look can encompass romantigoth fashion given a vampiric twist with capes, blood vials, and, yes, fangs - but there are of course those who prefer a 'modern' vampire look with leather trenchcoats and mesh shirts, inspired by movies such as Queen of the Damned and Blade. Not surprisingly, parasols and sunglasses are much-seen accessories amongst this subgenre.

Vampire Goth is also one of the 'darkest' Goth looks, involving predominantly black clothing in heavy or luxurious fabrics such as velvet and leather. Red, of course, is a popular accent. White, too, can be used for that 'Dracula's bride/death shroud' look, but other colours are rarely seen. For gentlemen frilled shirts, claw rings or 'finger armour', top hats and canes create an appearance that evokes period costume yet hints at danger; women may sport flowing skirts and tight bodices, lace gloves, and long or pointed fingernails. Ankhs, representing immortality, are often seen - although for accuracy, crosses would of course be a no-go.

Vampire Goths are not to be confused with the new generation of vampire fans as inspired by Twilight - vampgoths come with considerably less sparkle, and are more likely to lust after Lestat or Drac himself rather than that bouffant-haired ponce Edward. Other (dead) giveaways include sumptuous period clothing as opposed to cutesy jeans and Twilight-logo-patterned Converse; elaborate and elegant make-up instead of heavy eyeliner and a sullen pout. Let's face it - there's not much that's dark about Twilight.

Sometimes vampgoths have been stereotyped as pretentious; adopting British accents, speaking in Ye Olde English, wearing sunglasses indoors and generally doing their best to convince the general public, Goth and otherwise, that they Really Are Vampires. However, most vampgoths don't take themselves too seriously, and merely indulge in vampy cliches (red wine, anyone?) because they enjoy it and to amuse themselves. As with Goth culture itself, having a sense of humour about the whole thing prevents a Gothling from becoming a living, breathing (or not) media stereotype. As I have previously mentioned, for many Goths, vampires are entertaining - vampgoths are simply taking this one step further (vampyres could be described as taking it two steps further).

Speaking of stereotypes, you may also find vampgoths reading Anne Rice novels (or magazines such as Bite Me) by candlelight, watching Dracula, or relaxing on the chaise longue sipping red.... vine.
Model: RazorCandi
I have also heard vampire Goths referred to as 'supernatural Goths', but have chosen not to make use of this term as it could also possibly refer to other Goth styles such as 'dark fairy'.

A large percentage of Goth bands have released at least one vampire-related song (what's that famous one again? Ah yes... Bela Lugosi's Dead) but especially vampire-friendly Goth (or Goth-related) bands include Nosferatu, Theatres Des Vampires, The Beautiful Deadly Children and Blood Lust.

15 random facts tag...

Hmm, this is a little out of the ordinary for me! I've been tagged by the lovely Morrigan, and the rules are as follows: mention 15 facts and tag 5 other bloggers.

  1. As a child I won our town's Halloween costume competition five years running and was thus banned from entering.
  2. I regularly read webcomics including Nemi, Darwin Carmichael is Going To Hell, Girl Genius and GothyBeans.
  3. I have a character on my sort-of boyfriend's World of Warcraft account - an undead called Antiseptic.
  4. I always wear a silver toe ring on the second toe of my right foot. It has a pattern of daisies.
  5. This year I'm going to start my training to become a beautician, make-up artist and hairdresser.
  6. I check the comments and stats on this blog between two and five times every day. >.<
  7. Over Christmas I gained 4lbs. This freaked me out for a while but I've decided I don't actually care.
  8. Despite the warnings everyone gave me about tattoos being addictive, I'm not feeling any overpowering urges to get a second tatt - although to be fair I probably will as soon as I come up with another design that I love as much as the first.
  9. I have lost my nose chain somewhere in my bedroom and am greatly annoyed about this.
  10. In the six months I spent tidying my room I threw out 24 binbags of stuff - mostly clothes and books. Yet I still have three wardrobes and two suitcases full of clothes. How did this happen?!
  11. During season six of NCIS, which I'm currently watching, I find Abby really OTT and a little bit annoying and childish. Oh, Abby, what have they done to you?
  12. Yesterday my dad gave me a Cure CD and a vintage bowler hat.
  13. Once when I was working in the charity shop, I bent over to pick up a carrier bag and my tartan trousers ripped right up the left butt cheek.
  14. With my Christmas money, I'm going to treat myself to some copies of FAE magazine, the latest issue of Gothic Beauty, a new Ashbury Heights CD and a bat-topped lace parasol from Posiez on Etsy.
  15. Over the next two years I want to attend Whitby Gothic Weekend, Download Festival and 3 Wishes Faerie Fest.
I'm tagging my very favourite bloggers:
OpiateVampire
Juliet'sLace
BlindGoth
MissGracie
SydneySomething

Heh heh heh... have fun with that, guys...
Listening to: When Darkness Falls - Killswitch Engage

Monday, 27 December 2010

Lumous Gothic Festival

OK, so I haven't finished off the Christmas plonk yet, but I decided not to keep my readers waiting any longer for regular service. Not that you were exactly waiting with bated breath... were you? ;-)

Lumous Gothic Festival, aka Lumous, Lumous Goth Fest, is Finland's biggest dark festival, and depending on which website you read is either the world's northernmost or the world's second northernmost Gothic festival. Like WGT it is a club festival, meaning that rather than having a single, dedicated festival area, events take place at various venues around the host city, Tampere. It is usually held in late June or early July, and lasts for four days.
Best. Hair. EVER.
Like most Goth festivals, the main focus of the Lumous event is music. The Lumous website states, "Our main purpose is to provide equal enjoyment for all members of the dark underground. Our musical direction contains, besides gothic rock, darker dance music, EBM, death rock, dark ambient, industrial and neofolk. We prefer to leave metal to other festivals." However, other cultural and arts events have been organised as part of the festival.

Event highlights include a cruise on the lake Pyhäjärvi (I'm glad that I'm typing this... I have no idea how to pronounce that), known as 'die dunkle Seereise'; Gothnic - a picnic for festival attendees, which I am sure produces some strange sights, and is one of the few festival events not restricted to age 18 or over - and Lumous Dark Market (every festival should have a market!) selling clothes, records and "other important stuff for every Goth", which is also not age restricted. There are also, of course, parties and clubnights; a film viewing with English and Finnish subtitles; and a sauna to open the festival with "grilling opportunities - bring your own food and drinks".

I can't read the text in this video, but the visuals are very pretty!

Lumous is organised by the Lumous Gothic RY group. The first festival was held in 2001, when a handful of Tampere club nights joined forces to organise a three-day event which they dubbed Extreme Gothic Weekend. Since then the festival has gained popularity within Finland and beyond, and has expanded to become a four-day event. Previous years have seen international acts such as Zombina and the Skeletones, Haujobb, Pro-Jekt and Killing Miranda play at Lumous, as well as local bands such as Two Witches and Suruaika.
Listening to: Jabberwocky - The Cruxshadows
All images: Google Images

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas picspam

 
Me, all ready for the Annual Viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I know, I know... vanity is a sin ;-)

Yeah, I'm not even sure what I'm doing here. Too much mulled wine, methinks...

Christmas day... yep, that's my Christmas present. <3

Me today... just chillin'...
The Edward Scissorhands tee was a present from my homegirl Bronwyn. The Alchemy Gothic bracelet that you can just about see was from my Nan.
Here's the before and after pics of the dress... the before pic was taken in 2008, and you can see just how much it really doesn't suit me. First time I have ever REMOVED lace from a garment.
Hope everyone had themselves a merry little Christmas - normal Goth Guide service will be resumed at roughly the same time as I polish off the last of the Christmas booze. Ah, Christmas... wine, chocolate, and jewellery - what more could a girl want? My gifts included perfume (packaged in a nifty pink-and-black striped box, yay!), many books (Melissa Marr, Neil Gaiman, Konstantinos, Charlaine Harris and M.Alice LeGrow to name but a few), Gypsy 83 on DVD, NCIS season 6, gorgeous black pajamas with a white lace bow and puffed sleeves, red wine, chocolates, CDs (two Cruxshadows singles and a Killswitch Engage album), a sparkly spider ring, an Anne Stokes calendar and many other lovely things. =D

How was your Christmas?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Wishing you a spooky Christmas...

Source: Tumblr
To my dear readers; I've only been posting on this new blog for a couple of months (not quite that, even) but I have received such a fantastic response, so my greatest thanks to all of you! I hope that you will keep reading and posting your comments into the new year and beyond. =D

Yesterday was my Annual Christmas Eve Viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas, although as you may have noticed it was in fact a day early, as I decided to invite some friends to join me this year and of course we all had plans on Christmas Eve. Post-Christmas I shall hit you with a picspam of the customised Lolita-inspired outfit I whipped up for our Jack Skellington Appreciation Fest (mulled wine and Fox's Golden Crunch are the perfect Christmastime movie-watching treats...) and before-and-after pictures of how I re-designed the dress (even if it did take me three damn years to pluck up the courage to take the scissors to it).

Following the Annual Viewing, Dan and I opened our Christmas presents together - the man sure knows how to treat a faerie-loving Goth girl. Black Magic chocolates (my fave!), a book of ASBO Fairy Tales, and a Fairy Jar - the fairies in the jar glow when it gets dark... funnily enough, my mum received the same gift from her boyfriend.
Source: Google Images
Here's hoping you have a full one of these...
Oh my goodness! Just as I was typing up this post, my friend Tanya knocked on the door with my Christmas present, which I was allowed to open... an Emilie Autumn 'Spread the Plague' T-shirt! I am very happy now!

What was I saying? Ah, yes. I spent today wearing an elf hat - complete with big pointy ears - with my hair covered in glitter spray and wearing the most festive outfit I could pull together out of my wardrobe (red velvet pixie-sleeved top, black frayed denim mini, black woolly tights, black woolly scarf, knee-high boots) as I was working in the British Heart Foundation shop alongside Bronwyn, who had decided that Christmas Eve costumes were not optional. Admittedly it was a good laugh, and I am loving the new Goth-friendly posters that have appeared in BHF stores (the corset on the poster? Primark. I have one.). Unfortunately (for you), by some mysterious circumstance I do not have any pictures of me looking like a dork in an elf hat. WHAT a shame... ;-)
The Goth British Heart Foundation poster
Source: British Heart Foundation
Christmas Day itself I am going to be spending with my mum, as it's just the two of us at home this year. I am hoping to see my dad and Dan for a little while, and of course I will be gabbing on the phone to all my lovely mates. And I will be seriously overdressed, as usual (my main Christmas present is a Hell Bunny Limited Edition ballgown, which we have added velvet straps to in order to compensate for my *ahem* lack of chest).

Wishing you a Christmas filled with dark delights and the spookiest, happiest New Year you've ever had!
The Cure... making snowmen depressed since the 1980s
Source: Tumblr
Listening to: Chanukkah, Oh Chanukkah - Black Tape For A Blue Girl (Projekt: A Dark Noel)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ban and the Angels - dark culture in a war zone

I regularly comb Google News for the latest articles on Goth, in case I stumble across anything that deserves a mention in this blog. This week I came across a rather sweet article on the Montreal Gazette website about a 15-year-old Iraqi girl named Ban.

Ban is living in a war-torn country, but she describes herself as an emo (which she chooses to pronounce 'emu' - apparently 'emo' sounds like common militia slang in Arabic) after discovering dark culture when she found music from the band Evanescence on the internet. She and her friends, whom she has inspired to dress in a similar style, and whom she calls 'angels', wear fishnet gloves, black nail polish, skull pendants and customised Converses with the headscarves and robes they are made to wear by their schoolteachers. Despite criticism and concern from their teachers (and their parents - Ban's mother dislikes the black clothing that her daughter wears, as it reminds her of all the death she has seen), the angels sit together in the school yard, where they harmonise on songs by Evanescence and Eminem, and hold sleepovers where they watch pirate copies of Twilight.

Source: Los Angeles Times
All right, so if we are talking about 'emo' as represented in the Western world, Ban and her 'angels' are a little off the mark subculturally, but considering the fact that she and her family were forced to flee their home in Baghdad (where their father, a doctor, was injured in an ambush by gunmen) and are living under the shadow of civil war, I don't think it matters at all how she has chosen to define herself. I find it quite heartwarming that even under those circumstances she and her friends are enjoying self-expression and their own form of dark culture. Sometimes, it takes a lot of courage for a young person to choose to express themselves through dark culture in a comfortable life in Western suburbia - let alone in a war zone.

The only thing I take issue with is the article itself - it is poorly written and even more poorly researched. Firstly, the writer states, "If Ban had chosen to be a goth, she would have to wear only black and act depressed. But she was emo, so she could wear some bright colors and be bored with life, but funny too." What? Really, what is that? It takes maybe five minutes on Google to find accurate descriptions of Goth and emo, so I find this a little irritating. Secondly, the article gives the impression that Ban's angels are the only emos or Goths in the country, but there are actually quite a few members of both subcultures living in Iraq.

Nonetheless I admire Ban's bravery in choosing to defy both the society she lives in and those around her - her teachers - and to continue expressing her individuality and having fun with it, despite the circumstances; best wishes to her and her angels.

Listening to: Hammer Horror Glamour - Devilish Presley

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Goth TV

Many TV staples of pop culture have their roots firmly embedded in Goth - we black-clad darklings had forbidden love and vampiric lust covered long before Twilight burst onto the scene; modern shows such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries come from books that were being devoured (pun intended) by diehard vamp fiction fans (which are admittedly prolific within the subculture, stereotype or no) long before the TV studio bigwigs got their minds around the fact that suddenly, darkness sells. Not that I'm complaining.

Source: Dark Wallpapers
But it's not only vampires that have captured the hearts of a velvet-draped Gothic audience. Shows with emphasis on the paranormal, such as Charmed, Supernatural, The X Files and Doctor Who enjoy great popularity within the Goth scene as well as with their mainstream fans.

You're probably raising your eyebrows right now and wondering if I've forgotten something. How, you're asking, could I have worked my way THREE whole paragraphs down this post without mentioning such infamous all-time Gothic greats as Dark Shadows, The Munsters and... oh, what was that other one again? Oh, yes. The Addams Family! The Munsters and The Addams Family in particular have had a strong impact on the Goth aesthetic - ladies, hands up anyone who doesn't have a long black 'Morticia' dress or a 'Wednesday' outfit. Or both. (I am so, so tempted to start a Morticia Addams vs. Lily Munster debate going right about now...)

So even back in the days of black and white TV there were people who were amused, entertained and intrigued by dark themes.

Here's a short (and by no means complete) list of TV programmes that have influenced, been influenced by, or simply enjoyed popularity within Goth culture:
  • The Addams Family
  • The Munsters
  • Dark Shadows
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Angel
  • Dark Angel
  • NCIS
  • True Blood
  • The Vampire Diaries
  • Charmed
  • Supernatural
  • The X Files
  • Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Urban Gothic
  • Demons
  • American Gothic
  • Invader Zim
  • The Mighty Boosh
  • Dead Like Me
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Venture Brothers
  • The Twilight Zone
  • Gormenghast
  • Metalocalypse
  • Twin Peaks
  • Tru Calling
  • The Ghost Whisperer
  • Afterlife
And more suited to younger Gothlings:
  • Growing Up Creepie
  • Mona the Vampire
  • The Tribe
  • Ruby Gloom
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (Grim and Evil)
  • Beetlejuice (the cartoon)
  • The Addams Family (cartoon, which in NO WAY does the traditional Addamses justice. They made Wednesday almost... sweet. Christina Ricca was, in my opinion, the perfect Wednesday. But anyway.)
  • Gargoyles (I grew up watching this...)
  • Tales from the Crypt
  • Children of the Stones
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • Edgar and Allen
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Daria
  • Wolves, Witches and Giants (I used to watch this, too)
Also, many TV programmes now feature - or have previously featured - at least one Goth character, if only for a short time or in a small role. Off the top of my head, characters who are Goth, have been Goth, or are decidedly Goth-inspired:
  • Rogue from X-Men (animated series)
  • the Goth Kids from South Park
  • Serena from Downtown
  • Gwen from Total Drama Island
  • Sam from Danny Phantom
  • Miranda from Wizards of Waverly Place
  • Richmond from The IT Crowd
  • Freddy from Frasier
  • Amy from Buffy
  • Matt Daniels from Sugar Rush
  • Ellie from Degrassi High
  • Craig Harris and Rosie Webster from Coronation Street
  • Lydia from Beetlejuice
  • Abby Sciuto from NCIS
The BBC even featured a Spine-Chillers episode entitled 'Goths' and the subculture has been gently lambasted on QI. Spooksters attending Whitby even made it into an episode of BBC's Britain's Best Drives when star Richard Wilson stopped to give them a lift. The Cruxshadows' music, and a room filled with Cruxshadows posters, featured in an episode of CSI. Goths have featured on reality TV programmes such as Wife Swap and The Amazing Race, and made their way into even the cheesiest, fluffiest TV fare (hello? Wizards of Waverly Place?) - Sabrina the Teenage Witch was briefly a Goth for part of an episode. Hannah Montana also had a similarly short 'Goth phase'. Malcolm in the Middle had an episode featuring a school-age Goth clique.

Plus, the pasty visages of stereotypical Goths have been used in commercials to sell each and every product from computers to cars to (famously - or should that be 'infamously'?) Irn Bru. (Heh - speaking of Goths in advertising, here's an insider tip from a British Heart Foundation employee: check out the posters that will be going up in BHF shop windows in January. My boss tried to keep them hidden from me as a surprise!) Brands that have used Goths to sell their products include: Kodak, Heineken, Orange, Kia, Dell and XO Customer Service.


So now it's gotten to the stage where I can hardly turn on my TV without a stereotypical pallid black-clad creepster looming out of the screen at me - the Goths have invaded the TV guide and it looks as though we're here to stay.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Religious hypocrites

Here's another rant that I'm re-posting from my old site; written in my angsty, over-eager "OMG the world is against me because I'm GOTH" babybat days (shut up, you were totally just as bad). Nevertheless I still agree with what I was saying when I first wrote this, although I would like to point out that I'm not attacking religion in this post - just the people who use religion as an excuse to attack others, or to hurt or exclude them.

Also, I am not picking on Christians, nor am I against Christianity in any of its forms - I attended a church school, although I haven't chosen to follow the religion as I grew older. Christianity is not the only religion which is used by its followers as an excuse to treat other people badly, although unfortunately it is probably the main one used to lambast Goths and other alternatives. I have used Christianity as my example in this post as, due to my upbringing, it is probably the faith I am best educated about.

The church school that I attended until I was eleven years old was, to be precise, a Church of England school in one of the small villages in my parish (yes, I live in a rural parish). Every day in assembly we sang hymns, said prayers and read from the Bible. On Wednesdays the vicar from the church next door came in to deliver a sermon. Even today I find myself humming hymns in the shower and can quote large chunks of text from the 'Good Book'. So if I have accidentally offended someone with the post, I can at least hope that it is not through ignorance.

Christianity teaches that we should 'love our neighbours as ourselves'. It teaches that as we are all children of God we should love, accept and be caring towards one another. But that little word 'accept' seems to be one that a lot of modern-day followers of the Christian teachings have some trouble with. Not all of them, by a long shot. But certainly, from my own experience living in a predominantly Christian area, a large percentage.

If we are supposed to accept and love each other, then why are so many hardcore Bible-bashers (I can't bring myself to call them 'Christians', now that I think about it - religion should not be used as an excuse to harm others, especially a religion that speaks consistently of peace and love) attacking - yes, physically ATTACKING - Goths and other alternative types?

A twelve-year-old girl in America was walking past a Baptist church when members of the congregation threw stones at her because she was wearing black and carrying a Stephen King novel. Stones. Last time I checked, a solid object hitting one in the head or face can KILL or cause permanent damage. Since when - since fucking when - has it been acceptable for adults to stone children in a civilised country?! Yes, the Bible speaks of stoning people - but NOT in this day and age, not when no crime has been committed - and 'he without sin shall cast the first stone'. Tell me this isn't just plain wrong.

It is not OK to go around throwing stones at people - children or adults - just because you don't like how they are dressed. People on this planet are suffering from war, famine, poverty, sickness, possible climate change, slavery, abuse, natural disasters and more - if there is really a God, is He really concerned about what music we are listening to, what colour clothes we are wearing or what colour we've dyed our hair? Would a God who forgives and is merciful, as the Bible says, really care if we backcomb our hair and listen to The Sisters of Mercy? Honestly, I can't see why.

Another twelve-year-old Goth girl, who attended a Christian school but chose instead to follow the Wiccan religion (an equally peaceful religion, with a strong focus on nature and with the tenet 'And ye harm none do what ye will'), committed suicide because she was constantly and relentlessly tormented by her 'Christian' classmates. She was literally bullied to death because of her religion.

These are two sickening examples which immediately come to mind, but I'm sure there are many more. This kind of behaviour is not Christianity. This hatred, cruelty and intolerance is not what the Bible teaches.

Source: YouTube

Monday, 20 December 2010

Styles of Goth fashion: Gothabilly

Gothabilly, also known as hellbilly, is, essentially, the bastard lovechild of Goth and rockabilly/psychobilly, both musically and visually. You have probably seen Gothabilly dresses in your local alternative fashion shop (assuming, that is, that you have one) due to the look's recent surge of popularity. Just as deathrock came under the wing of the Goth scene after its formation, so did Gothabilly - to begin with, it was simply seen as a spin-off genre of rockabilly, but nowadays both the music and the fashion have been adopted by Goths and are mostly seen within the Goth scene.

Source: Google Images
A little bit of background info - rockabilly is a term combining 'rock'n'roll' and 'hillbilly', musically combining rock'n'roll with influences from country, swing and boogie woogie. Musicians who have been associated with rockabilly include Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Psychobilly adds punk rock influence to rockabilly music, and is one of several rockabilly spin-off genres, alongside thrashabilly and surfabilly, to name a couple. Lyrics often reference horror, sci-fi, violence and sex, though usually in a comic fashion. Most psychobilly bands feature an upright double bass. Bands associated with psychobilly include The Meteors, Guana Batz and Batmobile.

The word 'Gothabilly' was coined by the band The Cramps in the late 70s, as they were looking for a term to describe their music - punk rock with rockabilly influences. The Cramps are most strongly associated with the psychobilly subculture, although they are also relatively popular amongst Goths. The term 'Gothabilly' came into common use amongst the alternative scenes when in the mid-90s record label Skully Records released a series of Gothabilly compilation albums.

Musically, Gothabilly combines aspects of Goth rock (such as jungle drums and jangly Bauhaus-esque guitars) with the country and blues influences of rockabilly and, usually, the upright double bass seen in psychobilly. Many Gothabilly bands use horror themes, often with a twist of black humour and deliberate cheese, although unlike rockabilly and psychobilly, lyrics may also include the romantic and paranormal - including (you guessed it) vampires. Gothabilly music is generally less aggressive than psychobilly music and often has a more melancholic atmosphere. As you have probably noticed, Gothabilly has much in common with deathrock (horror imagery; black humour; ties to punk rock) and actually you can often find Gothabilly bands playing at deathrock events.

Of itself, Gothabilly has spawned several musical subgenres which are often included on compilation CDs - these include 'death surf', 'voodooabilly' and 'death mod'.

Motifs commonly seen in Gothabilly fashion are cherries, dice and playing cards, flames, animal prints, tattoo-inspired designs, polka dots, sugar skulls, swallows, zombies and pin-up girls (or simply zombie pin-up girls) - retro and kitsch with an added dark twist. For men and women tattoos are common, often featuring more pin-up girls, flaming skulls and playing cards. Gothabilly women could be described as 'living dead pin-up princesses' and can often be seen in pencil skirts, heels, red lipstick and seamed fishnet stockings; hair may be styled with victory rolls, quiffs and Bettie bangs - the whole look, for women, could be summed up with 'Morticia Addams meets Bettie Paige'. Gothabilly guys may sport creeper shoes, cowboy boots and hats, mourning coats and dusters. Fashion influences include The Cramps themselves, Fields of the Nephilim (a 1980s Goth band famous for their dusty cowboy gear) and The Gothic Cowboys.

Gothabilly fashion incorporates more colour than many styles of Goth fashion - from brightly-coloured leopard print to red or pink 50s cardigans. It can also be a more masculine look for the guys - as opposed to the frilly shirts of romantigoth or the ripped tights sported in deathrock. As Voltaire points out in What Is Goth?, Gothabilly is a good look for darkly-inclined gentlemen who don't wish to dress like "fruity vampires". Shirts with the sleeves ripped off, black denim, tattoos of buxom women and rockabilly quiffs galore.
Amelia Arsenic (aka Destroy X of the band Angelspit)
Gothabilly interests include hot rods and hearses, horror B-movies and vintage fashion. Gothabilly incorporates that tongue-in-cheek humour found in the music - Auxiliary Magazine says, "Whether it’s putting mini top hats on taxidermy bats or planning a creepy tiki party, it’s all about dark humored fun." The music blaring from a Gothabilly's headphones is likely to include bands such as those named above, as well as Cult of the Psychic Fetus, Vampire Beach Babes, The Horrorpops, The Phantom Cowboys, Zombie Ghost Train, Ghoultown, Dead Sea Surfers, The Coffinshakers, Pink Hearse, and the Surf Sluts.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Goths don't bite! - Vampyres and the Goth scene...

One of the most commonly held misconceptions about Goths is that we all believe that we are vampires. This is patently not true. Hell, not only do we not think we're vampires, but some of us aren't interested in vampires whatsoever. OK, so that's probably a minority, but the fact remains that Goth culture revolves around music, fashion, literature, art and dark beauty - and not bloodsucking demons of the nocturnal variety.

However, many Goths do enjoy vampire movies and novels - in some cases, the cheesier the better - especially from authors such as Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. Popular vamp films include Nosferatu, Vampyr, Interview with the Vampire, The Hunger (mostly due to its Bauhaus cameo), Underworld, various versions of Dracula, and 30 Days of Night. Please note - these vampires do not sparkle. This is not to say that some Goths have not read and even enjoyed the twinkly cheesiness of the Twilight books (myself included) but not only are those Goths in a minority but I'm sure that they have not been caught up in Twilightmania and probably don't have Robert Pattinson posters brooding down from their bedroom walls.

What is the appeal of vampires to Goths? What, you can't see how a subculture of people in love with dark romance, sumptuous velvet, candlelit castles and cemeteries by moonlight would not enjoy vampire fiction? The aesthetics associated with vampires tend to be dark, decadent, elegant and gloomy. In fact, Goths have been known to dress up in vampire costume for Halloween or other events. Some may occasionally sport fangs or red contact lenses, or read 'vampyre lifestyle' magazines such as Bite Me and Chronicles (the magazine written and published by the London Vampire Group) for entertainment. These is even a subgenre of Goth fashion known as vampire Goth. But Goths do not believe they are vampires, and most are not affiliated with the vampyre lifestyle/subculture, although there is some crossover.

Which brings me to my next subject - the vampyre lifestylers. The vampyre lifestyle is followed by a subculture of people who are fascinated by vampire lore and wish to imitate it. Vampirists commonly use the term 'vampyres' to refer to themselves, and the term 'vampires' when speaking of Dracula, Count Orlok, Lestat, et al - aka, the real deal. However this distinction may not be made by all in the vampyre community and in some cases may be reversed.

The vampyre subculture exists mainly within the Western world, and is derived from a combination of myth and folklore, popular culture e.g. Anne Rice, horror films and even role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade (which, in its day, was also notably popular amongst Goths). Vampyre dress may consist of Goth, Victorian and/or fetish fashion, which is probably how the vampyre and Goth subcultures came to be associated with each other. Other visual aspects that the two scenes may have in common are the wearing of fangs or coloured contacts, sporting long or pointed fingernails, and heavy dark make-up.

Vampyre culture may also borrow from Goth music, with bands such as The Beautiful Deadly Children, Bauhaus, and those with vampire-related names such as 34 Vampires, Astrovamps, Dracul, and Vampire Beach Babes all having great crossover appeal. There are also some rock and metal bands which are popular within both subcultures such as The 69 Eyes, Type O Negative and Theatres Des Vampires.

Within the vampyre subculture there are two main kinds of vampyre - 'psychic', 'psionic' or 'energy' vampyres, and 'sanguine' vampyres. Psionic vampyres claim to feed on life force or energy rather than actual blood, whereas sanguine vampyres (who are possibly the minority) claim to physically feed on the blood of others. On the whole this tends to be role-play, although consensual blood drinking is not unknown. As vampyres obviously do not have fangs (although both vampyres and Goths have been known to have permanent or semi-permanent dental alterations made to give the appearance of fangs), they carefully draw blood with a sharp blade or needle. Safe bloodletting practices are encouraged within the community  - this includes prerequisite blood tests to ensure the health and safety of both the 'donor' and the vampyre.

So what goes on at a vampyre club? Well, I hate to ruin the mystery, but all that goes on in a vampyre club is pretty much the same as what goes on in a Goth club – lots of dancing, socialising, chatting, making out, drinking and general fun. The basic difference, in case you hadn’t already gathered, is that all the patrons are dressed as vampires, and emulating the manners and social behaviour of these immortal creatures. (Worry not - blood drinking is generally not encouraged in public.)

There are even vampyre Houses – which work like courts. Each has their own hierarchy and rules. Becoming a member is usually as simple as following the rules, or at least saying that you will. Members have titles and duties such as taking minutes at meetings or acting as ambassador to another House. A few of the most well-known Houses are as follows: The Society Nocturnus of Gotham (no Batman jokes please), the Court of Lazarus, Harlem’s Hidden Shadows, and New Jersey’s Court of the Iron Garden. In the UK we have the London Vampire Group, which organises events and publishes a magazine for its enthusiasts. Not all vampyres are affiliated with a group or House.
Source: Tumblr
So where do Goths fit in? Goths, whether or not they have any kind of interest in vampires, on the whole do not enjoy the association with the vampyre subculture and often feel that such an association reflects badly upon Goth as a subculture - contributing to mainstream misconceptions and media rumours. Whilst there is some amount of crossover relating to literature, fashion and music, there are only a very few Goths who role-play as vampires or take part in the vampyre lifestyle, although some may occasionally attend vampyre clubs or events.

For Goths, vampires provide entertainment. For vampyres, vampirism is literally a lifestyle. Goth fashion and aesthetics may have common ground with vampyre culture (as shown in the pictures in this post, for example) and it certainly isn't unheard of to find a Goth curled up on the sofa watching True Blood, or dressing up as Blade for Halloween. But Goths for the most part do not consider themselves part of the vampyre subculture (although, as I have said, there are a very few people who are part of both scenes), have no interest in blood drinking (or feeding from psychic energy) and, while they may have an interest in vampires, are largely not interested enough to want to - or try to - be one.

Parents and Goth - or, "You're not going out dressed like that!"

Imagine this scenario: you're an average parent who just wants the best for his or her child. You want them to have friends, gain a good education, and to lead a productive, successful and happy life.

So it's possible that it may come as quite a shock when your child comes clomping down the stairs clad in a shredded Cruxshadows T-shirt, velvet pixie skirt, fishnet tights and huge stompy boots. Double the shock factor if you're an avid news watcher, as many people have viewed Goth with an air of suspicion ever since Columbine.

Source: Photobucket
If you're the son or daughter in such a scenario, it can be hard to understand why your parents might be freaking out. But Goth is a misunderstood subculture which many people have heard rumours and misconceptions about - they may be concerned that you are self-harming or depressed, getting into drugs, or otherwise at risk. They may also be worried that dyeing your hair, wearing heavy make-up or choosing to have piercings or tattoos may be limiting your future career options (sadly, this may actually be true - if it's permanent, consider it wisely, as many employers may be biased when it comes to appearance). Chances are, your parents aren't being hard on you because they're conformist Nazis, but because they are concerned and because they care about you.

Because of the myths and misconceptions surrounding Goths, many people are unaware of the positive side of Goth culture. Goth is a subculture with a strong focus on art, literature and philosophy; it encourages creativity and freedom of expression. Goths are often articulate and intelligent - in fact, recent studies have shown that a large percentage of those identifying with the Goth subculture go on to get respectable, well-paid jobs. There are Goth lawyers (I know a lovely, tattooed Goth girl who is at Oxford University training to become a solicitor - hi, Mia, if you're reading this!), Goth dentists, Goth doctors and Goth CEOs.  In fact, here's a great article in the Guardian discussing the positive aspects of Goth culture.

Identifying with a subculture or group of any kind can be useful during adolescence as it provides a sense of belonging. Meeting other Goths, who will have similar interests, helps to ward off the feelings of isolation that many teens experience. The Goth subculture functions as a strong and thriving community, involving thousands of people of all ages, races and religions. Many Goths provide support networks for each other, whether online or through groups and friendships that develop in the real world. And no, when a group of Goths gets together you won't find them raising demons or setting fire to the cat. In case you missed it, here's an early post of mine on Goth myths - common worries that many people have regarding Goth culture.

Young Gothlings - talk to your parents about the subculture. Explain that it's not a cult, and let them know what it is about Goth culture that appeals to you. You may find it useful to show them books such as What is Goth? by Voltaire or Gothic Charm School: The Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters (or direct them to the Gothic Charm School website). Remember to remain calm and polite - try to find out what fears or misconceptions they may have so that you can discuss them. Did your parents try any alternative fashions or lifestyles when they were young?

One of the main concerns that parents have about Goth culture is the look - they may be worried that you will be judged by others, or that others will judge their parenting skills by your appearance and attire. To begin with, it may be best to find a style or subset of Goth fashion that won't give them too much cause for concern. A toned-down version of romantigoth or perkygoth may be a safe bet - flowing skirts, rich, textured fabrics, and sparkly bats are generally inoffensive! Your parents may also be willing to compromise - for example, if you get good grades for a month, you can dye your hair purple.

My mum points out that, depending on the attitudes and ideals of some parents, there may be a world of difference between what you would like and what they will decide you are allowed; all you can do in this situation is to continue discussing it with them and try to find a middle ground, as the only other options include screaming rows and slamming of doors (could this be why Goth culture came to be regarded as 'rebellious' - because in some cases a young person may feel that they have to rebel to be able to have involvement with the scene?).

Many young people feel that they have to hide their 'Gothyness' from their parents or other relatives, but hiding it only implies that there is something wrong with doing it. You have a right to your own lifestyle just as your parents do. However, grandparents and older relatives are more likely to be unsettled by this look so you may find it best to tone it down when visiting grandma, if only to keep the peace.

In a recent issue of Gothic Beauty, Kynt from The Amazing Race submitted an article on parental relationships with Goths. He suggests, "Try to share your lifestyle with your parents in ways that they can digest and understand. One way I was able to accomplish this was by introducing my parents to Gothic music. I carefully selected the Cruxshadows CD Ethernaut because of the album's iconic themes of heroism and honour - which I knew they would respond well to. Find an aspect of the scene that you feel confident would be of interest to your parents and share it with them. One positive glimpse of your lifestyle can begin a cascade of greater understanding."

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Your handy guide to scary hair

Following on from my recent post about the basics of Goth make-up, I thought it was about time that I touched on hair and hairstyles. I only discovered reasonably recently that yes, I can do more things with the mop of rats' tails on top of my head than just dye it different colours *takes a moment to think nostalgically of her green-haired twelve-year-old self* and cut it all off every now and again.

Assuming that you are a little more well-groomed than I am, you may be wondering (those new to Goth, that is) what to do with your barnet - after all, a Victoria Beckham bob with blonde highlights may not lend itself well to the decadent fashion and make-up stylings of a dark diva.

Artful, diva-tastic use of mini-crimpers...
Source: Gothic Charm School on Tumblr
Goth hair FAQ
Do I have to dye it black? - No. According to the media, YouTube, Wikihow and almost anywhere else you can think of, Goth hair must be long, dead straight and raven black. Whilst this 'traditional' style (hardly - how many tradgoths and Batcavers have YOU seen with straight, centre-parted hair? The only time tradgoth hair was 'straight' was when it was pointing straight up) can create a stunning effect, black hair isn't flattering on everyone and certainly isn't necessary if it's not what you fancy.

Do I have to dye it at all? - No. Despite the claims of many websites, your hair doesn't actually need to be pink, purple, red, white, blue, green, or any other unnatural colour. Having crazy-coloured hair can look amazing - but so can natural hair if it's done right. Some Goth looks, such as cybergoth, may not lend themselves particularly well to natural-coloured hair, but that's what wigs, falls, and temporary dyes are for.

Big hair. Do I havta? - Nah. Big hair is good fun but if your hair is thin, weak or otherwise prone to breaking it's probably best to give the backcombing a miss. And if it's not your thing, you won't be losing any major Goth points for not styling your hair like Siouxsie.

Do Goth guys have to have long hair? - No, although many do. I'm not sure if this is something we picked up from the metal scene or if the Gothy guys had it first, but long flowing hair is certainly popular amongst Goth chaps, particularly those in their teens and twenties.

Can I still look Goth if I'm blonde/have no hair/have Afro hair? - Yes, of course you can!

The usual suspects
As you know, the Goth look is all about creativity and individuality, but as Goths generally share a sense of aesthetics there are some styles that are often seen. Shaved heads or shaved sections are seen on both men and women - long hair can also be sported by either.

Deathhawk - Goth's answer to the punk Mohawk: crimped and teased, with shaved sides. Often accessorised with fake spiderwebs, bone clips, or designs clipped or drawn into the remaining short hair at the sides (spiderwebs, again, being popular).

Maximum backcomb - break out the hairspray, fine-toothed comb and crimpers for the ultimate Big Goth Hair. This look hearkens back to the 80s when AquaNet hung heavy in the air and everyone was highly flammable from the neck up.

V-fringe or other strange forehead formations - a V-fringe is, obviously, a V-shaped fringe (or bangs, depending on where in the world you may be) with a point in the centre between the brows. Think Liza Minelli or Wednesday Mourning. Goth fringes may be also heavy and blunt, teeny-tiny and slightly curved (think Adora BatBrat) or somewhere in the middle. Curved fringes (ahem, see my profile pic - although admittedly in my current pic it's more a half-assed V-fringe, which wasn't exactly the intention) are very popular.

Uncle Fester - shave the whole lot off.

Undershave - an undershave is when the underneath sections of hair are shaved, either at the sides to allow spiking up one's hawk or at the back, which looks striking when hair is ponytailed. My undershave is currently growing out, leaving me with an interesting section of two-inch fuzz.

Fantasy locks - in a subculture so heavily inspired by folklore and the supernatural, it's not surprising that a handful of Goths have incredibly long fairytale locks. Really, really long hair can be beautifully accessorised, but doesn't really need any frippery to make a statement. Floor-length (no exaggeration) curtains of hair can be often spotted at Goth festivals at WGT in all shades and colours. This would be my hair ideal - I'm still working on growing it...

Almost sensible - e.g., hairstyles that won't get you fired or expelled.

Rich waves, cute ringlets and loose curls are feminine and a little dreamy, and work well with almost any style (for the ladies, that is). Sleek, straight Morticia locks are also a standby, and will give you Gothic glamour without being OTT. A sharp bob (jaw-length, graduated - whatever), usually in a dark colour, gives a groomed, dramatic appearance.

Retro - with the Gothabilly look experiencing a surge in popularity, many Goths are choosing to go retro with Bettie Page bangs and victory rolls - but the 40s and 50s are not the only decades worth plundering for inspiration. After all, nobody rocked the beehive like Elvira.

Your arsenal
HAIRSPRAY. No, silly person, not the damn musical. The lovely stuff that comes in a can, preferably a very big can. It may also be worth stocking up on a few hundred hair pins if you a) enjoy creating really elaborate hairstyles or b) tend to lose the damn things just when you REALLY need one to keep your veil or headdress on, like me. (Did anyone else notice that I forgot to finish the previous sentence when I first posted this?)

For day-to-day styling you don't actually need straighteners unless your hair is extremely wayward - a hairdryer with diffuser should do the trick. Keep it angled downwards and use a vent brush to smooth out your locks. Finish with a blast of cold air for extra shine. However, rather than bin the straighteners, you may wish to keep them on hand if you're a fan of Really DEAD Straight hair on occasion.

I'm intending to splash out on a pair of GHDs after Christmas so that I can ditch my straightners and my crappy curling tongs (I can be tonging away on the same bit of hair for half an hour to no avail).

Crimpers are a Goth's best friend - if you're feeling flash you may also wish to invest in a pair of mini-crimpers to add volume or for fun detail.

If you have a fringe, you will find that a round brush is your best friend when it comes to styling. Also, try not to sleep on your face.

Fake it til' you make it
Hair extensions can either add length and volume or add a flash of colour. Glued-in extensions are a touch pricey but last for up to six months. You can also have extensions braided into your natural hair. Clip-in extensions are widely available and are a sensible option for young Goths who would like to liven up their hairdo after school.

Hair falls clip on over ponytails and buns, giving you a whole new hairstyle. Neon colours, plastic doodads and tubing (aka cyberlox) are commonly seen on cybergoths; however there are many other styles available such as heavy ringlets, long straight hair, or crimped with a flash of contrasting colour.

Wigs are a third option for a temporary new look - not cheap joke shop wigs, but 'proper' wigs from shops and brands such as Manic Panic, Trashy Diva and Head Razor. Wigs are also great for themed outfits such as a towering beehive wig for a Elizabethan ball. Wigs are, however, the most expensive option.

Links and inspiration
For fantasy hair inspiration, there's nowhere better than Viona-Art; for general hair lovelies try Goth Fashion; and for all your Gothy hair questions try the Fashion forum on Gothic.net.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Goths and politics (not as bad as it sounds, honest)

The Dead Sea Surfers just added me as a friend on Last.fm. Yay, uber Goth points for me! To share the love a little, why not grab a totally free and legal Dead Sea Surfers track from their Last.fm page? Tracks currently available for download are Alone Again, Never Know EBM, Whore and You Take It Too Far.

Anyway? What was I saying before I got distracted by awesomeness?

Ah yes, Goths and politics. Wait, come back! I know if you're anything like me, the 'P'-word is generally enough to send one running to the hills, but I promise not to get bogged down in heavy detail. There's probably a good reason why most people with a reasonable working knowledge of the various alternative scenes are a lot more likely to associate politics and political activism with the punks (or even hippies...). Goths seem to be thought of as introspective types, more concerned with their personal world than any big political picture. Wow, that sounds self-absorbed. But you know what I mean - the average Goth's idea of politics is more likely to be the gossip at the local club than, for example, standing as a Member of Parliament.

Photographer: Rachel Joannou
Source: Goth Fashion on Tumblr
And to a certain extent that's perfectly understandable. After all, when your appearance and possibly your outlook sets you somewhat apart from mainstream society and if you ran for election your hair and make-up alone would frighten off half of the voters, it seems sensible enough to make contact with the world of politics through newspapers and television rather than trying to form a party of black-clad spooksters and convince people to take it seriously.

Wikipedia says, "Goths may, indeed, have political leanings ranging from left-liberal to anarchist, but they do not express them specifically as part of a cultural identity. Instead, political affiliation, like religion, is seen as a matter of personal conscience. Unlike punk, there are few clashes between political affiliation and being ‘Goth’," which sums it up reasonably well.

But a little while back, the online Goth magazine Morbid Outlook ran a survey to discover a 'more tangible snapshot of Goths’ political views.' They sent a questionnaire of 21 questions on topics ranging from the Iraq war to gay marriage to readers of Morbid Outlook and members of the Gothic.net forums. There were, in total, 68 respondents. Based on the results (which you can check out here), Frederik Sisa, who conducted the survey, says, "So what can we say about Goths and politics? Is being Goth indicative of a particular kind of politics? The tentative answer actually may be yes. Insofar as Goth is open-minded, lifestyle oriented, and focused on individual expression – social qualities, in essence – Goths are liberal as demonstrated by overwhelming support of gay marriage and legal abortion. But on issues that are independent of these social qualities, like health care and gun control, Goths tend to be inline with the general population."

Well, it's not often that you can say Goths hold an opinion in common with the mainstream.

I have also noticed that recently there seems to have been a surge towards political activism in the Goth scene, with groups such as the Gothic Liberation Front, the Black Cat Campaign and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation taking a stand to fight for the rights of members of alternative cultures. You may remember the petition to change the hate crime law to define attacks on people because of their style of dress or subcultural affiliation? It would seem that, when it comes to defending ourselves, we Goths are not afraid to speak up and make ourselves heard.

Goth-friendly political activism
Radical cheerleading - Yes, cheerleading (don't panic). Radical cheerleading is NOT about miniskirts, footballers and cheesy grins. Radical cheerleading chants focus on spreading a message - MookyChick says, "Entwined with anti-authority and anti-capitalist views, the spirit of radical cheerleading was born in the sunny state of Florida in 1997. Started by two sisters, radical cheerleading has now gone global, spreading to other parts of the US, Canada, Europe and beyond. Radical cheerleading groups mainly perform at protest demos, but they also strut their stuff at feminist and radical festivals/events like Ladyfest." Plus, radical cheerleading uniforms are usually in Goth-friendly colours - black, red and pink - so there's no need to forgo one's fashion credentials. For more info, check out this link.

Blogging - starting a blog is a quick and relatively easy way to get your opinions out there. Popular blogging platforms include Blogspot/Blogger and LiveJournal (or DeadJournal, if you want to be really extra-specially spooky). The hardest part is getting your blog noticed - use links in your forum and e-mail signatures, and make sure your blog is added to search engines like Google.
Protest marches - let's face it, stark, dramatic make-up, six-inch platforms and neon-pink hair certainly draw attention, and in certain cases you may wish to use this attention to your advantage. The Parade of United Souls in Sheffield, organised by Alicia Thompson, certainly made locals take notice - around 100 Goths are estimated to have taken part in the march, which was arranged because of Sophie Lancaster's death. It was described by the Sheffield Telegraph as "a plea for tolerance from a society they (Goths) feel gives them little respect". One of the marchers was quoted as saying, "Some people think we look a bit scary, but we are only human. We have the same rights as everyone else and we just want an end to the bullying and prejudice."

Alicia Thompson said that whilst the police were very supportive of the march, the council was less so. Alicia, 32, added that a policeman told her he had never had to arrest a Goth in his 44-year career.

Listening to: Teddy - RazorBladeKisses

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Shop review - Rainbow's End, Swanage, Dorset

The first time I came across this shop, I hadn't been to Swanage for a very long time, which is my excuse for almost walking past it until the Nightmare Before Christmas window display caught my eye and I doubled back.

Rainbow's End is a very large shop, and my warning to fellow Gothlings is, please, please, don't be put off by all the bright rainbow colours - there are some wonderful items in this treasure trove, oh yes. Actually, possibly due to my obsession with faeries, on my latest visit I did actually find myself trying on several of the rainbow-coloured items (imagine Goth festival wear, but multicoloured rather than the traditional black) and fully intend to go back and buy at least a few skirts. (Note to self: research 'rainbow Goth'.)

I love the range of knitted hats - my favourite (which I bought) had devil's horns, and dangly devils tails hanging from the ear flaps. The slogan T-shirts are brilliant, although some not very original, and I did indeed buy one for my sort-of boyfriend's birthday. Accessories mainly lean towards the hippie-ish - woven hemp bracelets, tie-in green and brown felt dreads, beaded everything - and the badges were either pop culture stylee (no, I do NOT want a High School Musical badge) or for punk bands such as the Ramones, although I found a few gems ('Emo sucks', 'Goth and proud', 'Living Dead Girl').

There are a few interesting and unusual items such as the teeny bottles of glitter make-up - they're called fairy dust, and they certainly look like it (of course I have a bottle of fairy dust sitting on my dresser; although unfortunately the label has fallen off) and some lovely, highly unusual handmade jewellery.

The sale rack is quite often full of tie-dye, but on my last visit I found a beautiful black hoodie with cobweb sleeves so long I kept standing on them, a bargain at £15. The changing rooms are enormous, although not hugely well-lit. The 'proper' Goth clothes (i.e. black and dark jewel tones) were pricey, but that's nothing unusual for brand-name Gothwear. Brands best represented were Dark Star by Jordash - responsible for all the rainbow hues (honestly, could I pull off rainbow Goth? Some of the skirts are just... dreamy) - and I saw a few pieces by either Living Dead Souls or Dead Threads. Oh, and lots and lots of NBC merch, but really, who doesn't love Jack Skellington?

Source: Photobucket
Overall, this is probably one of my fave shops, probably because even within alternative fashion the stock still manages to be something a bit different, and I don't think I've ever been there without buying SOMEthing. Plus, I am now considering wearing colours other than red, purple, pink and blue, or even all of the above at the same time, which, as we are speaking of the girl whom during her overeager babybat phase refused to wear anything - anything at all - that wasn't black, is quite an achievement.

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