It depends on what people are looking for, when they find it. Some people are drawn to gothic and other subcultures not because they identify with its tenets, but because they're looking for a place in which to fit themselves, or because they want to rebel from the status quo and are looking for something that will evoke shock and awe. This is why when teenagers adopt various subcultures into their life, and why people who observe this perceive it as a passing phase.
It takes more than 30 seconds to figure out who you really are, and whether you're drawn to an idea because you truly resonate with it, versus whether or not it "looks cool". As a term, Gothic first emerges with a series of tribes spread across Europe, who had a hand in the destruction of the Roman Empire. Then it appears again through the architecture of cathedrals in the high middle ages - high dramatic arches that still evoke beauty to this day. Then in the nineteenth century, made popular by the writers of romantic philosophy, which embraced the fantastic and bizarre over the age of reason.
In the 1980s, goth and darkwave music and clothing styles made headway at the same time as the new wave scene. It was heavily influenced by the beatnik scene that had broken apart from the mainstream music and art trends of the 1960s. Today many people associate "goth" with dark music and clothing ranging from victorian knockoffs, to the techno-industrial trends of popular role playing games such as Cyberpunk. To some in the scene, music and image are a means to claiming individuality.
To others however, the individuality they find within the gothic subculture has less to do with image and more about a more personal philosophy. That philosophy embraces the darker nature of the human soul, and other subjects that remain untapped in mainstream culture, like alternative view of death, sex, religion. Still many people who ascribe to a gothic philosophy look like average, everyday people, and don't buy into the hype of dressing and thinking according to the standards of others.