by Anna Newton
Today, when one thinks of a “goth,” one thinks of a tween in dark eyeliner wandering around Hot Topic, sulking, until their mom parks in front of the mall to pick them up.
In reality, the development of this goth subculture is rather impressive, as it was born solely from a genre of music, goth rock. This unique subculture of rock was born in the late 70s and early 80s due to countless individuals joining and embracing a new, darkly romantic aesthetic. Bands like Bauhaus and Sixiouse and the Banshees lent themselves to the cultivation of this culture by effortlessly encompassing themes of death, horror, and alienation in their unfamiliar music.
This subcultural creation occurred because of music’s ability to create a specific identity, a particular self that embodies the themes and aesthetics that are found within the music.
The genre of goth rock is associated with rather melancholy and intrinsic themes surrounding death and darkness. Labeled as a particularly emotional genre, musicians tend to highlight feelings of misery, grief and hopelessness throughout their music. The sound is also characterized as being gloomy and ambient.
This particular genre finds its roots in romanticism and 18th and 19th century gothic literature and architecture. Its elements of darkness and horror reflect the traditional gothic components found in writings such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the many haunting works by Edgar Allen Poe.
Goth rock also grew out of punk-rock, created in the mid-1970s, and is characterized as being one of many post-punk subgenres. Other integral influencers include horror films and soundtracks, as many scores embody the enigmatic and dim expression for which goth rock is known.
Key playmakers of goth rock include David Bowie, the Doors, Velvet Underground, amongst other influencers. Many seem to claim that Bauhaus was the first goth rock band and that the song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was the first ever goth song that truly solidified what goth rock was. After the song released in 1979, various other bands such as Joy Division and the Cure soon became leaders in the goth rock and continued to impact and strengthen the genre.
While the solidification and spreading of the rock music genre occurred, the goth subculture simultaneously started to take shape.
Individuals in all black, preoccupied with death, and disconnected from the outside world started to pop up. This particular subculture, along with others, differentiates itself from “mainstream” music and claims its own cultural identity surrounding goth aestheticism. While rejecting traditional social values, goths choose to celebrate the supernatural, romanticism and horror.
This fascination with darkness seems to be the most prevalent through goth attire. Most goths tend to dress in very dark clothing, primarily black, and wear extensive makeup. This clothing aesthetic is derived from the various vocalists and band members of popular goth rock groups, as many of these performers wore very dark clothes and extravagant makeup.
A critique of masculinity is another aspect of this as femininity and is often favored over masculinity in the goth subculture. Gothic rock musicians challenged the idea of masculinity and created an androgynous atmosphere that seeped into the creation of the gothic subculture creating a group of people who outwardly rejected gender norms.
Goth rock created an identity to which many could relate. The musicians that pioneered this culture developed a space that allowed individuals to feel dejected and mournful, while also giving them an opportunity to connect with others who felt the same. By forming a genre of music that favored isolation and darkness, a new subculture was born.