Definitions of Goth [Featured Site Content]
Oct 16, 2017, 06:42am
If you look up "goth" in the dictionary, you'll probably find a definition like this one from Merriam-Webster: "a person who wears mostly black clothing, uses dark dramatic makeup, and often has dyed black hair." While this statement would be accurate for many people in the goth scene, it's rather superficial and not every goth will fit this description. If you ask an actual goth to define what "goth" means, you'll likely get a much longer, more complex answer. Prominent members of the gothic community are always trying to answer the question "What is goth?" Aurelio Voltaire wrote a whole humorous book on the subject, and esteemed eldergoth Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School has done one of my favorite videos in answer to the question. Today, though, I want to talk about my personal definitions of goth.

For me, there's two aspects to the definition: goth is both having a certain mindset or aesthetic and participating in the wider subculture. The mindset of goth involves embracing the taboo and finding beauty in darkness. Goths reject mainstream ideas about what is important and beautiful, instead choosing to explore things that mainstream culture finds disturbing. This is why goths are fascinated with death and the macabre. This fascination often develops into a recognizable aesthetic involving dark colors, remnants of Victorian mourning fashion, and skulls or other spooky symbols. Many people come into this aspect of goth on their own, perhaps even before knowing anything about the wider goth subculture. We can also recognize this element in figures that lived before the modern goth subculture arose in the early 1980s. In this sense, Edgar Allan Poe exhibits a very gothic mindset even though the concept of being a goth did not yet exist.

To truly be considered a modern goth, however, one must participate in one way or another with the larger subculture. Goth is a culture that gets shared from person to person. You can have a gothic mindset all by yourself, but you’re not part of the gothic subculture until you engage with other goths in some way. One of the most prominent aspects of this culture is the music. The early goth scene evolved around specific bands like Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees that drew like-minded people together. Today, many new genres have emerged, but listening to the music is still an important part of the subculture. Other ways of participating in the scene include consuming gothic media, wearing clothing from gothic brands, going to goth clubs, or simply interacting with other goths. Taken together, having the gothic mindset and participating in the gothic subculture is what makes someone a goth.

How would you define goth? Do you agree or disagree with my description? Let me know in the comments!

Written By: TheGothicLibrarian
- (1)
Oct 16, 2017, 07:15am
I agree, that's a pretty good description of the Goth subculture.
The original Goths were a ancient Germanic tribe who contributed towards the fall of the Roman Empire before migrating into parts of what became medieval Europe.
+ (5)
Oct 16, 2017, 02:48pm
I think this is looking at it from the wrong way round in a way.
The Oxford dictionary definitions I found are as follows:
1. A member of a Germanic people that invaded the Roman Empire from the east between the 3rd and 5th centuries. The eastern division, the Ostrogoths, founded a kingdom in Italy, while the Visigoths went on to found one in Spain.
2. A style of rock music derived from punk, typically with apocalyptic or mystical lyrics.
2.1 A member of a subculture favouring black clothing, white and black make-up, and goth music.
Obviously we are talking about the later two. The point I want to make is that the music is central to the subculture. I don’t see myself as “a goth” as such but a participant in the goth subculture. You don’t have to dress to a certain standard or like particular pop culture icons, literature or have a fascination in death to do so. Most people turn up to clubs and events in band tees. It is getting together with others that enjoy the music and the vibe whether that be at a club or discussing and sharing music online.
Many genres of music are associated with the subculture but too many music genres and other peripherals are incorrectly dumped under the term goth by the media and this is where the misconceptions come from. I have watched this trend for some time.
I will agree that it does take a certain mindset to be drawn to any subculture but what is pinnacle to that mindset is seeing through the superficialness of mainstream culture and having an open mind and freedom to express what you are drawn to and having a place to express yourself in a safe and accepting environment with those that share similar tastes in music, aesthetics and ideals.
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Oct 16, 2017, 04:01pm
That’s true, although I think there are a lot of people who would consider themselves goths, but aren’t necessarily into the usual “goth bands.” The music has never really been the central thing for me, although I recognize that that’s where the subculture has its roots.
+ (3)
Oct 16, 2017, 06:33pm
I'm the opposite I was into the music long before I was into the clothes and the subculture. I started out with none other than the Antichrist Superstar. I fell in love with The Dope Show the first time I saw the music video then it went from there.
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Oct 16, 2017, 08:43pm
Gen Yes! I'll be doing another post soon on the history of the word "goth" and how we got from Visigoths to the label for our modern subculture.
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Oct 18, 2017, 01:26am
I'm going to stick to the contemporary use of the label instead of the archaic Ostrogoth/Visigoth origins. A goth, in simplest terms, is a fan of Gothic Rock and/or Deathrock music. From there, it became like other music-based subcultures in that it developed its own identity via fashion aesthetic and mindset (the "lifestyle" if you will).

Again, like most music-based subcultures, what started out as an emerging trend has now grown to become a part of pop culture. Its fashion sense has diversified over time as well. What used to be just "all black with skulls" is now a myriad of variations of the Goth style e.g. Cybergoth, Pastel, etc.

Didn't mean for this to sound like an essay, lol. It's up to the individual on whether they want to mold themselves into what a label is or isn't.
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