Monday, 10 October 2011

Goths and attention-seeking - further myths

MYTH: Goths dress the way they do to get attention
The flamboyance often associated with Goth attire often causes said Gothling to stand apart from the crowd. It's difficult to blend in wearing a bustle skirt and velvet cape (or gentleman's equivalent). The fact that in many cases we darklings insist on garbing ourselves in attire that makes us stick out like a blackened thumb leads many non-Goths to believe that we do so simply to court their attention.

(Isn't this a fantastic image? I found it on Tumblr but would love to give credit! EDIT: I am informed that model credit goes to Kassandra Leigh (Kayleigh @ DA))
On one hand, I can see why there is some confusion. If a person refuses to 'blend in' by wearing nondescript clothing or clothing that is currently fashionable, even at school or work, someone who does not feel the same urge to shun conventional attire is likely to assume that this individual is driven by a desire for attention, simply because they cannot understand why else someone would want to dress, well, like a vampire (for example).

If the idea of dressing unconventionally does not appeal to you one iota, you might find it hard to understand why someone else would choose to do so. Especially when this mode of dress often provokes reactions such as staring and pointing. If you regularly receive such reactions and continue to dress in your Goth attire, surely that must mean that you are deliberately seeking this attention?

Well, actually, no. Whilst we may occasionally moan about the staring, pointing, questions and comments we often receive, Goths generally tend to be self-aware enough to realise that gadding about dressed as a creature of the night is going to attract this kind of attention. The majority of us don't give a fig one way or the other about people gawping and would just prefer to go about our business, thankyouverymuch.

The thing is, we choose to deck ourselves out like this because we happen to really, really like it. And if you really, really like something and it isn't hurting anyone, chances are you will continue to do it, even if other people react with negativity. I'm sure there are some Gothlings who felt so uncomfortable under the scrutiny of Joe Public that they ceased to dress in Goth clothing; but on the whole Goths learn to ignore these reponses. In fact, after a few years you rarely even notice people pointing and staring at you - which, I think, proves the point here a little. How can one be accused of wanting attention when you are learning to patiently ignore it?

Plus, the 'Goths just want attention' theory also loses ground if you take into consideration the fact that not all Goths dress in outrageous or flamboyant fashions. Many simply wear jeans and T-shirts (although usually black), or dark-coloured corporate attire. Not all Goths are 'obvious' in their manner of dress and some draw no attention at all.

I said that the majority of Goths don't care about this attention one way or the other. There are two other trains of thought. Some do actually enjoy the attention - they feel that they look fabulous and don't mind if people stare, because those people are probably curious, interested or downright admiring. On the other hand some dislike the attention especially if they live in an area where they often receive rude catcalls or comments, and these types tend to keep their monochrome wardrobe casual when out and about. 

Of course, some of us also veer between these trains of thought. I have days, for example, when I can't be bothered to field questions or listen to the same lame funeral jokes, and these are the days when I wear jeans, mutter and roll my eyes and get tempted to Tweet about idiots that walk into lampposts at the sight of anything out of the ordinary. Especially when people are being plain rude, such as standing three feet away from me taking cameraphone photos of me whilst I'm trying to eat a sandwich. I also have days when I feel great and saunter down the high street pretending I'm on the catwalk at a Lip Service fashion show.

What I'm trying to say is, Goths on the whole don't go out looking for this attention. They just accept it. They may enjoy it, if they're in the right frame of mind, and the rest of the time they learn to deal with it. The only attention that tends to meet with an overwhelmingly positive response is friendly comments and greetings from other black-clad or alternative types. Goths dress Goth because they LIKE IT, not because of some driving need to be ogled.


Eurofighter said...

I agree that it's just because we like it.
"Normal" people also love to ask me when I'm gonna grow out of this, and having heard the "never" answer they say I'm insane if I'm going to look like this at 50. But why not?

Concerning the attention... I have to admit I'm getting out of my skin to get it. At parties. At anime parties and festivals. Particularly on some web resources. But never at gothic parties - I stopped attending those about 5 years ago. Why? Because there it's the naked/slutty/overpainted ones who get all attention. I'm not that bright and/or shameless and have no chance of being noticed there. Here's where me, a goth, is dying for attention... While I hardly ever give a lazy f**k about people in the streets.

Desdemona said...

The accusation of being an attention seeker always amuses me. I honestly don't notice when people are how am I craving for attention when I don't even notice the attention? I'm only aware when someone else is walking with me, because they aren't used to it and they constantly comment to me when yet again someone has their gaze fixated on us.

Oh and the girl in the picture is Kassandra Leigh (kayleigh @ DA)

empressbat said...

Great blog post!

I have dressed, accessoried, and coloured my hair the way I do for decades. (before the term Goth was even coined for people of our genre..)

I feel quite vulnerable and lacking in confidence when i attire myself in things that aren't me.. i dress as i do as it is a reflection of who i am. COnsidering i am extremely shy and have social anxiety disorder there is NO WAY i want to draw attention to myself, the way i am is who i am... be true to yourself!
thanks for a great blog!

Unlacing the Victorians said...

Yes, subcultures do tend to get ogled. And it's not always in a good way. After a steampunk picnic yesterday I was walking around the local JC Penny with the boy toy looking for a new suit for him to wear to work, and my Victorian top and striped mermaid skirt, rose-patterned stockings, and knee-high boots were certainly not getting what one would deem "appreciative" stares- but they weren't hostile either. Boy, if only I had been wearing my pith helmet. :-P

But I think you're right- while there are attention-whores everywhere, and several goths have made successful careers playing up their take on the subculture, overall most people aren't looking to draw everyone's eyes to themselves. Good for you for bringing up this myth.

Nightwind said...

Hmm...This is an interesting topic.

For the most part, I'd have to say that I dress the way I do because it's me; I like it. That said, I do find it practical to remain somewhat flexible. For example, during the hot summer I generally wear a straw hat, as opposed to any of my better made black ones, and then I'll just wear a black band T-shirt with jeans. It just seems practical in a climate with long, hot summers.

Ah, but when the nights lengthen and the cloudy, cooler days of autumn begin to hold sway? Now that's another story!

I do take a certain evil delight however, when the local university holds a hometown football game. At those times thousands of fans come to town wearing the team's mascot and colors. Then there's me--in black. I don't think I'm trying to attract attention exactly; I just like looking different.

MakeupAriel said...

You can't tell me that when the normal girl grabs her way over priced bag with the overly visible label on it that she's not looking for some type of attention.

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

I've been called an "attention-seeking slut" by a girl whose ass (and possibly labia) were hanging out the bottom of her shorts, whose areola was peaking out from her unbuttoned blouse and visible frilly bra, and who was carrying a $400 purse.

Oh, how I laughed openly at her, picked up my long skirts and tottered off across the courtyard, second-hand bag swinging happily.

Batty Maddy said...

I've never been the type to seek attention, although I can understand why some people do to a certain degree while out clubbing or at a party. I always tend to keep everything more casual even though I'd love to be able to dress up more just for me (because who doens't love dressing up for themselves?) but it's almost impossible to do that with where I live. It's difficult for me to wear my favorite boots without someone calling me names. Happened just yesterday walking home with my friends from my birthday celebration.
So sorry for the slight ramble!

Maggie said...

I think most of us have days when they can't be bothered with listening to the same old "it's not Halloween yet" lines. Also, those who work in a corporate environment (like myself) tend to tone down their image a bit. However, when I go out and "goth up" properly, I don't mind the attention at all. Still, I don't think that makes me an attention seeker, does it?

Regina Zee said...

I tend to think that the assumption that alternative types dress the way they do for the sole purpose of getting attention, is pretty self-centered.
"Look at that person wearing [X/Y/Z], OBVIOUSLY they just want ME to notice them!"
Clearly, the concept of dressing up for oneself is too complicated for some people to understand. :P

I think it's merely the result of ignorance.
As I just said, some people can't understand [or just don't think about] the notion of dressing for oneself; many of them stick to the "Dress to Impress" trail of thought, always considering their peers' reactions when they pick out something to wear in the morning [and I know many people who are like this, unfortunately].

I wear both goth and lolita styles and while I don't dress in a particularly over-the-top manner, I attract a lot of attention that, to be quite honest, I don't like at all.
I don't get negative reactions often but any sort of reaction [be it comments, stares, laughter, whispers behind my back, etc.] is enough to make me painfully nervous, uncomfortably self-aware, upset and sometimes even scared.

However, I don't intend on toning down my appearance for the sake of avoiding the attention because at the end of the day, laughter and snide comments aside, I look in the mirror and I like what I see, and I find that to be the most important thing of all.

I guess I can say that I also "dress to impress"; I dress to impress myself.

[/unnecessarily long comment]

Snowhyte said...

Once again, excellent thoughts in this post.
Personally I'm not sure where I am with my own style of dress, but its somewhere in the middle, I'm not usually attired in victorian style skirts etc (much as I might like to be!), but I don't usually go as casual as jeans and a t-shirt either. I guess I do get notice for that reason, because I'm generally a bit more dressy than everyone else.
Usually I don't get negative responses, mainly confusion - such as being mistaken for a Hot Topic employee at the mall lol. However I do understand what it feels like to get that response, when wearing my schoolgirl outfit (shown on my blog) to the mall after an anime convention, myself (and others in my group) got the cell phone photo takers, the stares, and the muttering of passersby about how 'ridiculous' we were.
Granted that outfit is not my norm, but people certainly showed how rude they can be. Best thing to do I find? Be so polite and nice that they can't stand it hehehe.

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

Snowhyte - what's wrong with being ridiculous? :3

Snowhyte said...

Not a thing ^_^ lol, thats what a guy at the mall had said about my outift as he walked by me. Poor judgemental old man...haha. (Sorry if I phrased that poorly in my post, didn't mean to confuse) I sure had tons of fun wearing that though!

LovleAnjel said...

What's interesting to me is most goths seem to fall into the "wouldn't be popular no matter what" side of humanity. I was picked on for other things before I started dressing this way. The focus of their attention just shifted to my clothing after I made the transition.

People who make comments like "you must want attention" are not self-aware enough to realize that they are the ones looking for something to be a douche about. If it wasn't our clothes it would be something else.

Black Rose said...

Well, the truth is sometimes I go all out as and maybe it IS attention getting?
And so what?

Sakara said...

Hehe the photo looks like the local Boots or Superdrug in Whitby during the WGW...Boots, Boyles and Superdrug all get raided as people forget to pack something needed for their look lol (ive done it myself lol)

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