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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Goth without the fashion?

It's a generally-accepted truth that someone claiming to be Goth without any enjoyment or appreciation of dark, Goth, or Goth-friendly music (including Industrial, Classical, etc) makes other Gothy types get a bit squirmy and frowny. But what about a Goth who doesn't dress Goth?

Source: Goth Style, via Violet Love
Photographer unknown
When Marcus, a reader, requested this post, he gave as examples Goths who can't or choose not to dress Goth in the workplace, or those who have to don shorts and sandals in summer (or those of us who actually enjoy going to the beach, although a black bathing costume seems like a perfectly logical Gothy option to me), which I don't think are necessarily examples of Goths not dressing in dark fashion, as there are times when, out of necessity, we all may have to ditch the black-tinged finery. Weddings, jobs, interviews, playing sport, etc. Wearing shorts and sandals on the beach sounds sensible to be and not un-Goth at all.

Ditto colour. I wear lots of colour and I have blonde hair, I don't think it makes me any 'less Goth'.

But there are those who consider themselves Goth who simply don't appreciate the black-on-black aesthetic of Goth fashion rather than relinquishing it out of necessity. Whether or not these people are considered Goth by the scene at large is up for debate; whilst we're all aware that fashion is not the only facet of this subculture, it is a rather large and obvious one.

However, these non-blackclad Gothy types, I feel it is fair to mention, don't generally attire themselves in Juicy Couture tracksuits and fake tan (I DO try not to stereotype, but even if such a person had Bauhaus blaring out of their iPod, I would find it very, very difficult to see them as 'one of us'. I know I'm sounding like a South Park Goth kid now, sorry about that) but tend to either dress in casual 'normal' clothing (T-shirts and jeans) or be inspired by other styles of alternative fashion.

Personally, I feel that there should be nothing wrong with dressing in cyberpop or Sweet Lolita fashion and classing oneself as a Goth. But this then begs the question of where the metaphorical line is drawn - I'm comfortable with, for example, a DJ Sisen mini-me kicking it at the local Goth club, but not someone in flip-flops and a pink polo shirt - WHY?

Perhaps because someone clad in alternative clothing, whatever the style or subgenre, is more likely to know what it's like to be treated differently or badly because of their attire and therefore less likely to do the same? But by saying such, am I not then being equally judgemental towards the person in the pink polo shirt?

All this aside, it's possibly harder for someone to be accepted by their local Goth commmunity if they are not recogniseably Goth, as others may assume they are a club tourist there to make eyes at the spooky chicks. Goth fashion is an easy way to recognise someone with similar interests and possibly values as you, and therefore is one of the things that binds our subculture together. A shared love of dark or unusual fashion also provides common in-jokes ("Nice boots...") and a handy conversational topic (all those embarrassing moments when you caught your fishnets on assorted projections (not THAT sort of projection, you pervert)).

I suppose whether or not you would be accepted by other Goths if you didn't wear dark fashion depends on what Goth means to that person. For me Goth is about alternative fashions AND dark music, hence my unfortunate prejudices about what I am and am not happy to come across on the dance floor at Goth night. For somebody else, Goth might be more about the music, so they won't mind what you wear. And yet another person might hold fashion as their greatest Goth priority and therefore might consider you a poseur.

Goth is very much about being untypical, and therefore it seems strange for Goths to hold to any sort of fashion 'rules', which make me think that, really, anything should go.

This parody vid, whilst hardly subtle, perhaps serves to illustrate how looking Goth doesn't necessarily make a person 'more Goth'.


Like many of the finer details of Goth culture (fashion vs. music being the most obvious example), this topic is mired in vagiaries and very much open to personal interpretation based on preference. Speaking of which, what does everyone else think about this?

37 comments:

Toxic Tears said...

Hmm. Well I don't think fashion is the be all and end all of goth, BUT if someone has no interest in dressing even remotely alternative, there is no way I would consider them goth. I'd consider them someone who appreciates goth music.

All outfits, beach, office, casual, can be done in a way thats at least a little alternative. Even when I was in school and always had my uniform perfect it was painfully obvious to everyone I was "A weirdo".

So really, to be a goth, I think you need to have at least SOME of the fashion in there somewhere. Especially if you're not wearing it because you don't like it rather than not being able to because of work.

Traicetrak said...

"...(not THAT sort of projection, you pervert))." Haha, oh Amy, you do make me laugh.

As you seem to suggest, I think people who delve into goth fashion are suspicious of those who don't. There is so much nuance within it, there's a lot of wiggle room, so it's hard to imagine someone considering themselves goth without having some form of the aesthetic. However, goth fashion can be a lot of work, and I think there are those who, while appreciating the style, don't like the work. They may be eyed suspiciously, but are they less goth?

Mal. said...

This was my answer to the posed question of 'Your definition of Goth' on the Jgoth.com forum.("I believe the same about the lifestyle and how you see the world. It's fully accepting that there is more than one side to any personality and that you can't suppress it. That you need to acknowledge all of life to be balanced, and that if accepting your darkside includes darker fashion then so be it.") I myself still fully believe this. I've had several jobs where I had to buy non goth clothes all 3 times in the year that I buy clothes. At this time my 'Goth Passable' clothes are very low on the count. I have a harder time with people who can't express how it is they identify with Goth more than with clothing. It's really all in how you see the world and express that sight to me.

HollyElise said...

I live in Hawaii, so while I classify myself as Goth I am unable to do the wonderful beautiful layered heavy looks. My day to day clothes are basically some kind of graphic t-shirt (either black or grey) and either a black skirt or black shorts. I wear sandals (flip flops, actually) not shoes.
I think my Manic-Panicked hair and eyeliner sets me apart from the average person around here and I agree with Toxic Tears:
"All outfits, beach, office, casual, can be done in a way thats at least a little alternative."

Anonymous said...

I bought this album called 20 Jazz Funk Greats but my friends say that jazz funk isn't goth. Can I still be goth and listen to jazz funk?! Please help!!!!!

Anonymous said...

oh and where is Play Dead on your list of goth bands? I know they don't classify themselves as goth but neither do The Jesus and Mary Chain. Please help!!!!!!!!

Toxic Tears said...

@HollyElise - Exactly. Something as simple as attention to hair and make-up can make it clear someone is "One of us" :)

Chloris said...

I think that most Goths prefer to have some sort of visual "clue" as to whether or not someone will be receptive to them. Something that says "Hey look, I get you, don't worry, I'm safe". It makes things much simpler for a subculture that tends to attract abuse from "outsiders". Maybe that's why fashion sometimes seems so much more than music - like in your example. It's easy to pop in a CD, but publically marking yourself as "something not like most people" takes dedication to the cause.

HollyElise said...

"publically marking yourself as "something not like most people" takes dedication to the cause."
XD Especially when you are a new mom with a two-month-old! Luckily most of my comfy stuff is black too because honestly, the eyeliner doesn't make it onto my face most weekdays.

CallaWolf said...

Well, fashion in a way is just a part of it. I ask, is it wrong that the extent of one's gothic fashion is no more than a black T-shirt, black pants, black shoes, and a few accessories?

I tend to think not. I have a very casual look myself, and I myself don't feel like I need to go beyond that casual look, despite the fact I like looking at the more elaborate pieces myself.

What I'm trying to say is that I think fashion is definitely a part of it, but I also think that simple can be effective as well.

Angel of Darkness said...

I think that a person with no goth fashion at all but loves the music is someone who has respect for the subculture and appreciates the music, but not necessarily "Goth". Plus, there are people who listen to some goth bands but don't want to be labeled as goth.

I also agree with Toxic Tears about still having that more Goth look even though you may not be able to fully express yourself.

gin said...

I think if you're really a goth then it's going to show up in what you wear. Like it's said, there's always visual clues. I work in a place where everyone is required to wear black. I am still picked out as being goth. I don't wear anything special or out of the ordinary, but when my black blazer goes on, there's a rather large crystal spider on it. It's that one little thing that makes people wonder. It can be the said to be the same for others. Even when you try to hide yourself, there's always something to give you away.

Darkness Kitty said...

I don't think a Goth must dress like one. My brother, for example, loves the music, has a lot of collectionable figures, is always saying a famous phrase from a terror movie, etc... If we all were blind, for sure we will call him a Goth. But he don't like to dress all in black. He is not interested in his own image, he never buy clothes (our mother do it for him) and such. I think the clothes are part of the tastes of a goth, and not all the goths likes the same. Besides, giving that much importance to clothing will just turn the gothic subculture to an elitist group of people, like the big part of the lolitas. And the thing I love the most abouth goth is the tolerance between us.

Nightwind said...

Once again you've found a compelling topic for us to weigh in on and there are some thoughtful comments posted here.

I have my own style of dressing and I feel that it should reflect who I am. I attempt to balance my desire to dress Goth with practicality and flexibility.

There are times when I leave the house simply wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans and a straw hat in hot weather. On those days I feel casual and somewhat in line with the local culture.

At other times, and as my mood sees fit, I'll really goth up, as was the case during this past Halloween weekend. I don't believe however, that it hurts to sometimes appear a bit more moderate; after all, we have to function in communities with people of all stripes and persuasions. It doesn't hurt to earn oneself a bit of credibility with them.

It appears to me that most of the Goths around here take an approach similar to mine. Generally, something black is worn even on the most casual of days, but that's not a hard rule. When we get together is when we like to dress up.

Daniel_8964 said...

@Anonymous- It doesn't matter if you listen to jazz funk, as along you like it and you are still a Goth, even if you like pop. It doesn't make you "less of a goth" Don't take yourself seriously and have fun.

I wear the fashion day to day. I like and love the style as well it reflects a part of myself, personality, interests and most of all I know who I am. I totally agree with Toxic Tears as well, that if you really a goth and have to express yourself into casual, office, beach and non alternative clothing and least add some Goth fashion elements to know you're a member of the subculture.

Ashlee said...

I think that you can be goth and not dress it, but you won't be A Goth, if that make sense.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing but respect for someone who enjoys goth music, and does not dress in what is considered goth clothing. That said, I would still view them as a person with really good taste in music, not as a goth.

Also, goth or at least "alternative" clothing of some kind is an easy nonverbal way to let other like-minded people know that you might have shared interests. That is important in some ways, because a lot of things that goths like may be considered weird or even offensive to a lot of people and thus we may be hesitant to bring those topics up with people if we can't tell that they will receive it well.

I also think that it is possible to be goth or alternative even at the beach, at a job interview, in uniform, etc. I know - I do it.

MissVermilion said...

I think that dress as Goth for being one is just completely unnecessary.I have so many goth friends around 35-40 years old who spent their whole life dressing with gothic attires,but now they stop doing it.Actually they are the most learned people (specially in music) I've ever known in Gothic circles and they organize such fantastic gothic events and parties in my area.They're still in Goth scene,but they don't wear any gothic clothing anymore.

Anonymous said...

I have to tone down my outfit for school but still I'm diferent from other non-goth girls. They all look alike and have nothing alternative on them. I agree with Toxic Tears that you can always look alternative.

Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said...

Part of the Goth mind set is the over the top fashion statement.

You may have money but you are not considered a fine lady if you dress like trailer trash every day.

If you don't have the love of the fashion, no matter the style of Goth, you just don't make the grade.

You may be a 'Goth lover' but not a Goth yourself.

Hugs, Euphoria

Maggie said...

Even though I am unable to go full-on Goth at work (corporate job, restrictions on piercings, jewellery and nail colours, full uniform - a somewhat futuristic black dress with a patent belt), I find it hard to think of Goth without any fashion statements involved. I know that some people appreciate all the other elements of the subculture, but to me personally, fashion is too important a part of it to consider someone Goth if they don't dress the part (even in a casual way).

Maggie said...

Oh, and even though I came "properly" dressed to my job interview, my boss instantly knew there was something spooky going on :)

Regina Zee said...

Many good points have been brought up in the comments [except for the notion that a "big part of the Lolitas" are elitists; from personal experience, that's just a very loud minority rather than a majority, but I digress].

As someone who often dabbles in alternative fashion styles such as Lolita and Otome-kei, as well as Goth, I do find myself feeling uncomfortable saying that I'm goth if I'm not "dressed the part", because I'm afraid I wouldn't be taken seriously.
[Then again, I assume it is a bit difficult to take a girl seriously when she claims to be a goth while dressed in pink frills and bows. :P]

However, on the other hand, I often remind myself of this very wise quote:
"Convinced myself, I seek not to convince." [A cookie for anyone who recognizes it. ;D]
It's true that being treated as a 'poseur' by other goths just because of one's appearance is disheartening, but I believe that self-acceptance is very important, and possibly even more important, than being accepted by others.

Of course, that ^ is referring to daily situations.
When it comes to attending a goth-specific event or a goth club, I think it is courteous to wear appropriate clothing. This goes to non-goths, as well.

Entering a goth club wearing a pink polo shirt and flip-flops [even if you're the "gothiest" person in the world] would be like entering a fancy restaurant wearing an old t-shirt and ratty sneakers; it just isn't acceptable, possibly even rude.

I do hope I'm making sense, it made sense in my head. :P

[/unnecessarily long comment]

Anonymous said...

Poe - Berenice

You're not goth unless you look like Nik Fiend.

SkeleDuck said...

From Chloris: 'It's easy to pop in a CD, but publically marking yourself as "something not like most people" takes dedication to the cause.'

I agree with this... Even though on repetition I can't decide if it's just arrogant or not.

Minakitty (Mary) said...

Anonymous said...

I bought this album called 20 Jazz Funk Greats but my friends say that jazz funk isn't goth. Can I still be goth and listen to jazz funk?! Please help!!!!!

Given that it's a Throbbing Gristle album, I hope you're just kidding (not goth either, but pretty damn cool).

Gothic Faerie Queen said...

Hey, there's this club here in Hollywood, called "Bar Sinister" and it doesn't let anyone wear any other color. It all has to be "dark" and that's it. What do you think of their policy?

HalloweenQueen said...

i think when sparking up a conversation with a person, one goth can automatically know another goth at 50 paces (words). so being recognisably goth isnt just through clothing. i personaly feel what i am is more than fashion and music, its an amalgamation of the way i think and the things im interested in, it'd my culture, my lifestyle, not just my eyeliner and corset. although "goth" clothing does stop me from talking to people some times..not my goth clothing..but others, i'm a snobby goth and the overly trying too hard 15 year old in a halloween costume slathered in black lipstick...not my kinda person, but then i'm obsessive about clothes and fashion and would be the same if i were wearing prada and some nikie track suit and fake burbary hat person tried to talk to me. we're all prejudice no matter how much one claims not to be. sure a goth not clad in the garb may have had different experiences from a goth kitted head to toe in "uniform", but their thinking and interests may not differ, so in some areas there will be differences in others not so who cares. as long as you can relate to a person it shouldnt (shouldnt) matter what theyre wearing. not every single one of us need to look, think and at the same to befriend someone. i like coming here but i've seen a few times stuff which related to the line about toning it down for work and weddings and the such but i've never tonned down for, the gym for work, for interviews, for uni, for weddings, i went to my cousins wedding in a floor length black dress heavily pregnant and with egyptian style eyeliner and black and white nails. evetyone was looking at the bride so why would they look at me. so i dont understand that aspect but i still like ya's. clothes don't ALWAYS make the person, but we'll always be prejuduce in some way.

Marcus Coetzee said...

Thank you for this post. Interesting to see the role that clothing plays in being gothic.

I appreciate much of the Gothic philosophy, and share the taste in music and film. However, I tend to enjoy dressing in whatever colours best suit my mood - i don't comply with the 'goth dress code' and am not obviously recognizable as goth. Although I used to see myself as a goth when I was much younger and dressed accordingly, now I no longer struggle to classify myself.

Ultimately, people should be free to dress how they want. We should all live and let live, and respect each others' preferences.

Chloris said...

@SkeleDuck: Oh, I'm sorry if it sounded arrogant, I really didn't mean it to! I should put a disclaimer under everything I type saying I have no idea what I'm talking about. I was trying to sum up my point succinctly and failing miserably at it. I apologize if I caused offense.

Lady Ruby said...

I have to admit, it's not always easy to go outwardly alternative. Even a CorpGoth look doesn't always fly at work (medical and legal field, for example). Some of us can't afford clothes out of the alternate shops, hence DIY.

I myself, being a plus-size goth and proud of it, am forced to go to mainstream shops or online and do some DIY. I like my colour and DIY. One look at a tribal, an Ice, a Geeky, or a Cyber and you'll see, colour flies and very well indeed! As does DIY! :P

Now, I feel fashion, for those not into the clothing.. why not go the accessory route? Piercings (clip-on or real), jewellery, tattoos (fake or real), make-up, bags, scarves, hats, pins, belts, gloves/gauntlets, shoes (or even the laces!), hoodies/ sweaters/ coats.. all these contribute to the look. Even if your everyday look is like mine (generally a black/jewel-tone top, and most days I live in light grey skinnies), you can do this too.

For those with some craftiness and a bit of cash? Safety pins, studs, beads, iron-on patches, fabric dye, lace/mesh overlays.. do your own DETACHABLE (on the off-chance mom and dad wont let you change your clothes permanmently) DIY.

Tante Fledermaus said...

It creeps in. The average Joe on the street probably wouldn't label me as Goth, but I imagine that Outwardly-Goth folks would recognize some of the signs.... Edward Gorey tattoo, bat jewelry, a stunning collection of black hoodies, striped socks at all times. It's not overt, but it's there. I never go out in search of goth-approved clothing. I buy what is comfortable and practical and makes me happy. I find it's easier not to overthink any of it.

purplepumpkin said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I know I sometimes get crap for not being goth enough in my attire, how ever I enjoy goth music, dark romance, and many other areas of the culture.

Anonymous said...

Quite honestly, I don't know anyone who's heavily into the subculture that doesn't (or hasn't) dress in goth attire at some point or in some way. The one's who don't usually have done so in the past. But, cannot do it to an elaborate extent because of work, young children, and etcetera.

Maybe it just comes with the territory? Usually if folks are into goth music they naturally embrace goth fashion and the aesthetic as well. Although I would never say someone isn't goth because they don't dress it 24/7 (i.e. the derogatory "weekender goth" label that reeks of pretentious bullshittery) . As that would sound completely arrogant.

When it comes to defining the subculture the fashion is inseparable (and equal in importance) to the music. As it adds to the whole atmosphere and theatrical nature of it all. What would've it been like back in the day had Siouxsie had performed on stage dressed like the Mom from the Brady Bunch? I'd like to think, while the music would've still be amazing, it would've had significantly less impact than it did.

TL;DR: The fashion seems to come with the territory of emboding the aesthetic and loving the music. 24/7 goth attire is not required but one must at least have an appreciation for goth attire in someway and at sometime.

Anonymous said...

The fashion is great, but I'm a firm believer that "goth" is in the attitudes and musical/artistic preferences above all else. As a self-identifying "goth" for the last decade+, I have no qualms about admitting that my wardrobe is littered with jean shorts and the occasional pastel polo or Abercrombie button-up here or there. Sure, I have a thing for trenchcoats and black lace and leather stilletto boots as well, but in the real world, you get further in life by emulating the people signing your paychecks. Who says a Goth can't be ambitious?

Besides, "conformist" clothes aren't half-bad. As a Goth in my mid-20s, I find that some of my sexiest looks are made up primarily of "mundane" clothing, with one or two eye-catching statement pieces. For an older goth who wants to age gracefully, toning the look down (without completely sacrificing who you are) is respectable and dead-sexy.

But, above all, "Goth" is about expressing your true self way before its about submitting to the generally accepted aesthetic of the movement. If you like a shirt in a bright Spring color or fall in love with a dress in a girlish pastel floral print, WEAR IT AND ROCK IT. If you're confident in your own place among the subculture and comfortable in your own skin, you have nothing to prove.

The HouseCat said...

I see Goth as something that comes in three parts; Music, Fashion, Mindset, the mindset being what brings forth an appreciation of the music, fashion, aesthetic, literature, etc. A Goth is someone that ticks all three boxes. To me, a Goth without the fashion is a person who likes Goth music and has a Gothic mindset, and a person who likes the fashion and has the mindset is somebody who likes the Goth visual aesthetic and has a Gothic mindset, and somebody without the mindset probably wouldn't like either the music or the fashion.

You can like Sweet Lolita fashion AND Goth music, and then, to me, you're into Sweet Lolita and Goth Music, which to me, isn't being a Goth, but it isn't /bad/ either - I don't like Goth being seen as some kind of 'club' because that's when the elitism and bitchiness and "Gothier than thou" attitude crops in. Goth is simply an identifying label, not some kind of achievement. I don't see anyone or anything as being lesser just because it's not Goth.

I don't think people should be somehow barred from participating in Goth stuff because they're only into /some/ Goth stuff, and as it is a subculture and not some kind of secret society with an entrance exam. Surely we should all be focusing on being creative, sharing stuff we mutually enjoy, and generally being ourselves, rather than worrying whether or not we're "goth enough" - worry about whether or not you're being true to yourself instead.

Anonymous said...

Without the fashion and without the music you're just your melancholic self. Gothic may include some vague kind of worldview, but mainly it's a way of DRESSING to say "Look, I'm different and I'm feeling concerned about society, me, my life and my death". At least that's what it has been, when it started.

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