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How to Be Gothic: A Beginner’s Guide

Updated on May 11, 2013
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Goths are now worldwide and their fashion, music, and literature are some of the most sophisticated and bewitching around. If you find yourself drawn to this movement, spend some time exploring and familiarizing yourself with the basics of Goth history and culture. Then, dive in and express yourself as a Goth in a way that makes sense to you. There is no one right way to be Goth; in fact, individual expression is the foundation of Gothic culture.

A Brief History of the Goth Subculture

Modern Goths emerged out of the post-punk music scene in London in the late 70s and early 80s. The term “Goth” was borrowed from the genre of 19th century literature that includes Dracula and Frankenstein, itself borrowed from a style of Medieval architecture that was, finally, taken from the name of an ancient Germanic tribe. Since the beginnings of Goth rock in the late 70s, the Goth movement has continuously evolved musically and stylistically and grown more diverse in the process.

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Goth Fashion

Goths wear a range of period styles, including Victorian, Elizabethan, and Medieval. Black is the preferred color, and outfits may be elaborate, confining or revealing. Staples of women’s Gothic clothing include fishnet tights, corsets and frilly skirts, while men frequently wear combat boots, torn t-shirts and studded belts. Goths commonly wear necklaces with cross or pentacle pendants.

If you want to get started as a Goth, make slow changes so you don’t overwhelm people you know. Also, don’t feel you have to wear some pricey hand-made outfit to be Goth. Check around thrift stores and online Goth stores to find a few key pieces.

Goth Hair and Makeup

Goth makeup is generally pale, though this is by no means a requirement for being Goth; people of all colors are Goth. If you love makeup, you can go for dramatic eyes with a lot of eyeliner. For those who can’t or don’t want to go that route, simple touches like painting your nails with a dark-colored nail polish go a long way.

Goths may dye their hair black. Period hairstyles are elegant, if tricky; letting your hair hang naturally can also be considered Gothic. To add a little easy shock to your style, find clip-on hair in strong colors.

Goth Music

The Gothic music scene was fueled from two sources simultaneously: at the Batcave club in London where pioneering Goth rock bands like Joy Division and The Cure played, and in California, where death rock has its roots. These genres have since morphed into others, including darkwave, Ethereal, and neoclassical, while the 90s saw the inclusion of new genres like industrial, ambient, EBM, experimental, punk and New Wave as Goth. While death metal is not considered Gothic, it has a look and sound that may appeal to Goths.

Listen around online to find what you enjoy, or listen to any genre you like the most; you don’t have to follow Gothic music to identify as a Goth.

The Goth Lifestyle

There’s no doubt about it: Goths are still seen as outsiders and sometimes even as sick or hostile people. Goths face misunderstanding from people around them and persevere through their commitment to Goth ways. If you’re drawn to being Goth, expect difficult reactions from friends and parents and try your best to respond patiently to their concerns. Acting violently is by no means acceptable for a Goth. Seek out friends who are open to your appearance and interests, and take small steps toward being Goth if your parents are against it.

Goths are typically very sensitive and thoughtful and need to express themselves creatively. Find people, books and movies that inspire you and try writing poetry or drawing to let your creativity flow. For more support in leading life as a Goth, check out my site, How to Be Gothic, and look below for books that get being Goth right.


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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 20 months ago from London England

      Police Forces in England now treat uncalled for attacks on Goths as a hate crime. I've never witnessed violence at Goth venues unlike the 'illegal raves' by gate crashing punks.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 20 months ago from London England

      Police Forces in England now treat uncalled for attacks on Goths as a hate crime. I've never witnessed violence at Goth venues unlike the 'illegal raves' by gate crashing punks.

    • profile image

      erykah 22 months ago

      i am a feitish goth i live in baltimore were rap and hip hop is cool but if you come to baltimore exspect hell when go out my house people stare at me like i am a sycokiller and satanist i hate it

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      I commented on another 'Goth' site 24 hours ago but my posting got lost in cyber space. Looks like i can make here 'home base'.

    • Chisa Tatum profile image

      Chisa Tatum 3 years ago from Naturita, Colorado

      I'm a natural goth. I'm also natural Celtic Wiccan and i dress how i feel. What pisses me off the most is some people i have met assume that all goths (even vintage goths like me) are always angry,depressed or suicidal. that is bull! it depends on the individual themselves. not what they wear. People also assume that we worship Satan. I donnot and refuse to worship evil. I don't even practice dark magic. I'm what they call a unique goth. i follow nature, i wear whatever the hell i feel. I even like some pale colors. The #1 thing that really makes my blood boil are idiots who are uneducated in the goth lifestyle assume that we are all Emo. Honestly, Emos creep me out (though, I except people who except me for me) I chance for no one. My advice if you choose to be goth, Let it be for you to decide. not your family or friends. If your parents don't except you, then they are not true parents. If other people judge you then they are not worth your breath. I had a goth mother but me and her don't talk because she turned her back on me for other reasons. not because I'm goth. The choose is yours. Always be yourself no matter what. Never copy others. Remember, you are you. not them.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      i hazard to guess it is never too old to begin. I noticed an elderly goth couple at the goth convention in Whitby last weekend and myself living in the spooky Shoreditch part of London with so much bohemian underground venues about. Even the name Shoreditch derives from an outrageous Femme Fatale. Every time i buy new clothes it will be Gothique.

    • phoenixarizona profile image

      phoenixarizona 4 years ago from Australia

      As a goth I am so impressed with this article. Goths don't worship the devil they have a new wave of self expression and refuse to sit in the handcuffs of conformity.

      This was an awesome hub. Keep them coming!