How to Be Goth

Three Parts:Dressing the PartListening to Goth MusicGetting into the Mood

The dark world of goths is one of the most diverse and healthy subcultures, flourishing in all kinds of communities worldwide. The spooky, ghoulish look and dark clothes is an instantly striking style. But when other goths in white-out contact lenses start throwing around terms like "ethereal chill wave" and quoting from The Moonstone it can be somewhat intimidating. Starting slow and working your way into the goth subculture can be an immensely rewarding experience for anyone looking for community.

Part 1
Dressing the Part

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    Wear black. While there's a great variety of wiggle room in crafting a gothic look, almost all goth styles feature black or otherwise dark clothes. Dark purples, blues, blood red are common as accent colors, but in general you'll want to dwell within the realm of darkness.
    • Some classic women’s gothic clothing items include corsets, fishnet tights, ripped shirts, long dresses, long shirts and mini skirts. However, you will be just as goth if you choose to wear a Rozz Williams T-shirt and a nice pair of black slacks.
    • Some classic men's items are torn t-shirts, combat boots, band tees, dark trousers, bondage pants and studded belts.
    • Ease into your new look. People may assume you're not serious or that you're latching onto a trend if you suddenly show up at school decked in bondage gear and corpse paint. Remember to only wear what you feel comfortable with; if you don't feel good, then you don't look good. A black t-shirt of a favorite band with black jeans can be just as "goth" as an elaborate vampire get-up.
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    Dye and style your hair. Goth hair is generally dark, or highlighted with an accent color in some way. If you have dark brown hair, consider going all the way to black and spiking your hair Robert Smith-style with mousse and gel. If you have long blonde hair, put a witchy black streak in it, or bleach it so it's strikingly blonde and streak it with some neon blue.
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    Accessorize. If you love to dress up, being goth is a great subculture for you. Check out some bondage pants, featuring complicated straps you can let hang ominously, or get a hold of a fierce-looking gauntlet made of leather to wear on your arms, or wear a spiky dog-collar choker. You can craft any particular style you like, as long as the theme fits your personality. Crucifixes, spikes, studs, and safety pins are all common goth accessories.
    • Paint your fingernails black. It's a striking look for men or women, and you can instantly identify as goth with black fingernails.

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    Pale yourself. Looking goth often involves a pale complexion as if to suggest the ghoulish pallor of the undead. Mix a white "foundation primer" with a regular foundation that matches your natural skin tone. Don't use costume make-up, which looks fake and cheap.
    • Keep in mind that pale skin is not a requirement; you can certainly present a Goth look no matter what your skin color is.
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    Develop your theme. Goths come in as many varieties as you can think of, and style themselves appropriately given their diversity of interests. Old-school goth rock fans might fashion themselves with what's called "bat cave" style: a leather jacket studded with pins and buttons, a dark mohawk, pointy toed boots called "Winklepickers", and black eye makeup. A lover of the tales of Poe and the Bronte sisters might go for the "romantic goth" look, featuring dark corsets, flowing leather skirts, and other anachronistic wear, as if you'd stepped out of the 1880s.
    • Gothic Charm School by Jillian Venters is a great book that delves into the goth lifestyle. Channel your specific interests into your look. If you're really fascinated by vampires, let vampire style creep into your look.

Part 2
Listening to Goth Music

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    Learn what you're listening to. There's a wide variety of music associated with "goth" personas, but most members of the subculture consider listening to and appreciating music to be an important part of your participation in it. Many goths listen to a variety of sub-genres with the word "goth" in the title, but there are also a lot of goths who listen to industrial music, electronic music, metal, and classical music. It's a wide-ranging and varied subculture, so do your research, if only out of respect for the past.
    • Often, "goth music" refers to a particular style of rock music from the 80's, featuring a heavy use of synthesizers, jangly guitar, reverb, and monotone vocals.To describe music as gothic is to refer to the tone, attitude, and the lyrical content. You might describe goth music as eerie, surreal, or dark, but it's also largely catchy and listenable pop music at its core.
    • The lyrics often explore dark themes and goth bands usually dressed in black clothes with spiky black hair.
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    Learn the history of goth music. Many attribute the August 1979 release of Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi's Dead" with the birth of the contemporary goth subculture. The song was recorded in a bat cave which later became a nightclub in London for goths and goth rock bands in the early 1980s. While the aesthetic and stylistic roots of the music can be traced to the drones of the Velvet Underground's 1966 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico, the term "goth" became an identifier of genre around 1983.[1]
    • Other early gothic rock bands included Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, The Cure (only some albums because it was more of a phase for them), Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend and The March Violets.
    • Many bands were influenced by post-punk, punk rock, Gothic literature, horror films and glam rock like David Bowie. This genre of music got some mainstream recognition in 1983 when the gothic horror film "The Hunger" came out.
    • Contemporary goth-influenced bands include The XX, Wax Idols, and TV Ghost. Also check out the soundtracks to your favorite horror films, which often feature gothic-themes instrumentals.
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    Listen to the lyrics. Goth music places a great emphasis on the lyric and matching the lyric with creating a mood. Many early vocalists aimed for a Leonard Cohen-like dirge to focus on the words in the song, though contemporary goth music often features operatic vocals.
    • Learn the words to your favorite songs by copying out lyrics in a notebook. Knowing the words to your favorite songs can be a quick way to make friends with other goths, if you're into the same things.
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    Finally, remember to check out other dark music genres. You have gothic rock, but there is also dark ambient, death-rock, post-punk (always good to listen to the roots of the genre you claim to be part of), dark wave, neoclassical and not forgetting, gothic metal.

Part 3
Getting into the Mood

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    Create a comfortable space for yourself. Fill your room or your basement with sensuous surroundings: think gothic in terms of light, color, and sound. Put posters on the walls of your favorite bands and hand dark draperies on the walls to soundproof your space, so you can play your music as loud as you want without disturbing the rest of your family. Creating a space for yourself will put you in a headspace where you’re better shielded from the negativity of others. Since many goths are artists, writers, or musicians, it will also help you tap into the creativity and individuality that is such a big part of the subculture.[2] [[
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    Check out goth clubs. If you're of age, gothic clubs are where people come to be able to freely talk and express their feelings about post-modern society. Visiting them can be a great way to make friends, check out music and fashion, and feel at home among people with common interests.
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    Read gothic novels. The first uses of goth as a subculture in reference to culture were in the late 1800's, to describe a particular kind of literature obsessed with occult and supernatural phenomena. Originally, though, the word comes from the architecture style seen in Medieval churches, which in turn got its name from an ancient Germanic tribe. Gothic literature is generally dark and spooky. Read up on ghost stories by William Wilkie Collins Collins, H.P. Lovecraft, Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley.
    • A lot of goths like sci-fi or fantasy, but don't read something you're not interested in. Likewise, researching wicca and the occult can be a world until itself, but there's a lot of crossover. None of this should be a requirement for considering yourself to be goth, but it can also be somewhat popular.

    • Also read gothic poetry and try writing your own. William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is a classic in goth poetry, as well as Sylvia Plath's Ariel.

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    Develop the attitude. Express yourself. Write poetry, paint, or take photographs. Start a band and play gothic music. The goth subculture is full of creative people who like to participate in that culture. Don't fake depression because you think that makes you more “goth." Create things and experiences.
    • Oftentimes, people don't understand or respect the goth subculture. If someone is giving you trouble, just walk away. Don’t waste time arguing. Being friendly and kind to everyone and you might change their perception of goths for the better.
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    Listen to yourself. Don't let anyone tell you what to do, including other goths. If The Cure doesn't do it for you, but you are really into Johnny Cash, so be it. Don't let anyone tell you you're not "goth enough" for superficial and otherwise unimportant reasons. The most important thing is that you're you, and you're trying to participate in a community that accepts that.[3]
    • Develop your own style naturally by being influenced by what you read and feel, not by following "How to" lists. If you have a genuine interest in a scene, you will naturally be influenced as you get into the subculture. Do what makes you happy.


  • If someone asks if you’re goth, it’s acceptable to say yes or ignore the question. (Sarcastic remarks are also okay.) However, it is highly frowned upon to go about announcing that you're a goth without being asked. Earnest goths are very modest about their goth credibility.
  • Stay with your old friends. They don't have to be goth. Keep in mind, however, that some of your friends may find the new you to be offensive or just too strange and may stop hanging out with you. Not all of your friends will appreciate your Gothic life choices; others may take time to warm up to it. Don't try to shock your friends unless you're sure they can handle it. Never try to convert your friends to goth; let them be themselves.
  • Don't obsess about yourself. Being a goth does not make you more worthy of attention than everyone else. Phony goths (who abound) are often looked down upon not because they are different, but because they are divorced from reality.
  • Join any sport or extra curricular activity you enjoy; enjoying these things does not and will not change a Gothic lifestyle.
  • Goth blogs are also a good way to get advice straight from the horse's mouth.
  • Consider going to Europe. Goth is usually taken more seriously there: the magazines are good, and the German festival Wave Gotik Treffen is the largest industrial, experimental, goth event going.
  • Only do this if you know you're Goth but don't know how to get started. This article is more for baby bats than anything. Goth is not something you "become", it's something you are. Very much like punk. It's very rare someone wakes up and decides to become part of an entire subculture when they already know who they are.
  • Remember that goth is an alternative lifestyle: people who are homosexual, bisexual, and transgender are welcome along with anyone who doesn't fit in normal society.
  • Embrace the inner you.
  • If you love being a goth, don't give a damn what others are say, just do it.
  • Be yourself, and enjoy multiple sub-genres of Goth. If other Goths get on you for having multi-colored hair or that you shop at that mall, because it's cheaper. Don't let them get to you. Goth is about expressing yourself and not conforming to an elite idea.
  • Just because you're a goth does not mean you have to change your wonderful personality.
  • Being a goth never means to be depressed and having dark thoughts. It's about having a chance to be you.
  • You can also wear jeans if you do not have black pants.
  • If you like the idea of being goth, but not actually being goth, maybe try other subcultures like scene, punk, crust punk, or emo. And whether you're goth or simply in a subculture, don't be afraid to still like "un-goth things".
  • You don't have to wear all black to become one. You could go brighter colors like maroon, forest green, navy blue, dark purple, sliver, grey or white, and remember be creative and be yourself. If you like wearing that style go for it.
  • Being who you are is what your style reflects on. Express your emotions in a non-violent way but not needing all the attention. Being a Goth doesn't change who you are or what you do, it just changes your appearance. Try not to change too much and end up being excessive.

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Categories: Goth