With a penchant for 1930’s horror films and a madness for monsters, gothic teens donned black and slipped into the shadows of the early 80’s. Tired of punk’s nihilistic rage, but unable to accept the optimism offered by the 80’s, pale-faced teens embraced death and danced with the darkness in the original underground gothic club, London’s Batcave.
An offshoot of the punk rock scene, goth morphed into a subculture all its own. No longer content to be in-your-face punk, goths traded in the blatant anger and anarchistic rhetoric for something more introspective. Ghoulish and gharish, goth teens made every day Halloween by prancing around in all things black, modeling their looks after popular television shows like The Addams Family, and The Munsters.
With a love of leather and lace, fishnet and corsetry, the goths identified with the macabre romanticism of the undead. They linked themselves to the underworld of vampires and darkness, and created a pallid complexion to reflect their preference for night. White face makeup was made even starker by the circles of black eyeliner and blood red lips upon a colorless face.
The shocking style was popularized by musical maven Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. A former member of the punk rock scene, Siouxsie twisted the punk stylings to fit a more chilling celebration. The once killer liberty-spike Mohawk softened and mushroomed out into a teased and ratted mass. The look was immortalized by Siouxsie and her onetime bandmate (from their days in the Glove), Robert Smith of the Cure.
In the eyes of the goths, punk rock had become conformist in sound and appearance, and a new rebellion was formed by the styletribes who were looking for new direction. The alternative sounds forming in the music world prompted listeners to identify with a particular style best expressed through their clothes: new romantic, gothic, industrial, new wave, and so on. Musical/style offshoots infected the angst-ridden world of teens, and variations occurred as the technology of musical stylings evolved. Eventually, it became possible to discern what genre of music kids preferred just by looking at their clothes, hair, and makeup.
Gothic was unlike the technologically savvy synthesizer sounds, or the fantastical circus styles of the new romantics. Sullen, doom-filled lyrics paired with eerie instrumentals gave goth its doom and gloom stylings, attracting the more morbid fans. Legions of teens still copy the look, with little evolution. Get black, layer it up with tons of silver jewelry, lace and netting, and you’ve got instant goth! But it is more than a look, you know… it's a way of life (or death, if you prefer).