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The gothic subculture is at once a club scene, a fashion style, a mindset, and a way of life. Which of these is most essential for being goth is well, controversial. It takes its name from Gothic Horror, which inspired the usage of "gothic" to mean dark and gloomy, though creativity, individualism, and transgression are just as important to the subculture as darkness.

The gothic subculture emerged in the late 70's with the rise of Goth Rock, which emerged from Post-Punk in the UK. Early influential bands include Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim, and The Cure as well as include Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees (with Siouxsie Sioux a major fashion inspiration for gothic women even now), Adam and the Ants (like Siouxsie Sioux, Adam Ant was a major influence on gothic fashion), and Killing Joke. Like Post-Punk, Goth Rock and the goth subculture was an offshoot and comment on Punk Rock, and even today the scenes are often intertwined.


Many of the early goth bands originated in the UK, but the subculture became quite active in the clubs and bars of Los Angeles in the 1980's, heavily influencing Hollywood's portrayal of the subculture. Inspired by Glam Rock as well as Post-Punk, scene members dressed in elaborate, gloomy, get ups blending Victorian and punk aesthetics.

  • The gothic subculture began with a certain genre of music, which we now recognize as Goth Rock but was originally considered no different than other Post-Punk. As such, listening to both goth rock and some post-punk is a basic requirement for participation within the subculture. Examples of goth rock bands include Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Fields Of The Nephilim, and The Cure. Post-punk bands popular with goths include Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees (Siouxsie Sioux being a major fashion inspiration for gothic women even now), Adam and the Ants (like Siouxsie Sioux, Adam Ant was a major influence on gothic fashion), and Killing Joke. Many other genres of music are popular in the goth scene as well, including Dark Wave, Deathrock, Ethereal, New Wave, Synth-Pop, Coldwave, Horror Punk, Gothic Metal, Glam Rock, Dark Cabaret, Industrial (and sometimes Industrial Metal), Neofolk, Classical Music, and sometimes jazz, blues, gospel, and traditional country and folk. Examples of bands from these other genres can be found on or Google. Certain other groups are sometimes seen as being goth, such as Marilyn Manson or Evanescence, but these bands do not have a clear musical connection to the two essential genres and are therefore not goth (and should also generally not be brought up around most goths).
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  • Goth is not a religious thing, but a secular youth culture based on a shared taste in music, books, and some fashion much like The Mods of the 1960s. However, one of the things that is very goth is open-mindedness. Therefore, people such as Neopagans and yes, even Satanists found themselves drawn into the creation of the early scene as they often felt like outsiders in "normal" society, and are still prevalent today. This can lead to nasty stereotyping that all goths are "devil worshippers"; however this is still a rather small minority of goths. Despite these people being a minority, their presence is one of the things that make the modern scene as distinct and colourful as it is. The "open minded" part of being goth has also lead to the subculture having a higher than average number of gay, queer, agender/nonbinary, or trans individuals, neurodivergent folks, and BDSM enthusiasts.
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  • Goths are likely to be artistic; there are many who take an artful pride in their wardrobe, in making music related to their subculture, or any other creative field. Although it is very rare, however, non-artistic goths can still exist. Goths tend to value individuality and thinking differently, and this is where the distinctive wardrobe comes in. Black is the most popular colour of clothing in the scene, but many other colours are used, and back in 1978 (the year goth was born) when people complained about the "depressing wardrobe" of Joy Division fans they were complaining about grey, not black. Spooky clothing is popular, as is avant-garde fashion, Elegant Gothic Lolita (and related styles) and DIY Punk Rock clothing and haircuts. That being said, individuality is important; dressing to the nines 24/7 is not, which is why the "white collar/corporate goth" who prefers darker-colored work clothing and maybe sneaks in an ankh pendant is a stereotype. And because of the emphasis on creativity, there are several clothing tropes commonly embodied by gothic fashionistas. The most common are: Impractically Fancy Outfit, Of Corsets Sexy, and, of course, Pimped-Out Dress. Applies equally to male and female outfits.

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