Having emerged in the wake of punk during the 1980s, the contemporary goth scene has existed for more than two decades, as a visually spectacular form of youth culture, whose members are most immediately identified by the dark forms of glamour displayed in their appearance.
Extensive links are sometimes drawn between goth style and various “gothic” movements and individuals throughout history associated with themes such as elegance, decadence, and death. Gavin Baddeley has detailed a linear progression of gothic culture that ends with present-day goths, having journeyed through twentieth century horror genres in television and cinema, through various examples of literature and fashion from the preceding two hundred years and finally back to the “grotesque” art and sculpture credited to the original fourth century goths.
The notion that what is known as goth fashion in the early 2000s is merely the latest revival of a coherent centuries-old tradition has undoubted appeal and convenience, even to some enthusiasts for the sub-culture. The reality, though, is that they owe a greater debt to post-1960s developments in popular music culture than to literary, artistic, or cinematic traditions.
A selection of British bands that appeared prior to, during, and after the late 1970s punk era set the tone for the goth subculture that was to emerge. Crucial ingredients were provided by the deep-voiced feminine glamour of David Bowie, the disturbing intensity and eclecticism of late 1970s Iggy Pop, and the somber angst-ridden despair of Joy Division.
The key direct founders of goth, though, were former punks Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose style began to take on a decidedly sinister tone toward the early 1980s, and Bauhaus, whose self-conscious emphasis upon funereal, macabre sounds and imagery was epitomized in the now legendary record “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
As the dark, feminine appearance and imagery associated with such bands began to be taken up by their fans, the new “scene” received extensive coverage in the music press. By the mid-1980s, the deep vocals, jangling guitars, and somber base lines of The Sisters of Mercy alongside black clothes, long coats, and dark shades, had established them as the archetypal “goth rock” band. A period of chart success for the Sisters, alongside The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim, The Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, would ensure that toward the end of the 1980s goth enjoyed significant international exposure. Through the 1990s, however, the subculture existed in a rather more underground form, with occasional moments of mass exposure provided by high-profile artists such as Marilyn Manson and through the borrowing of goth style by emerging metal genres and, intermittently, by major fashion labels.
In spite of its variety of influences, goth fashion is a contemporary style in its own right, which has retained significant levels of consistency and distinctiveness for over two decades. Put simply, since the mid 1980s, goths have always been easily recognized as such, both by one another and by many outsiders to their subculture. Attempts to interpret their distinctive appearance as communicating a morbid state of mind or a disturbed psychological makeup are usually misplaced. What is symbolized, though, is a defiant sense of collective identity, based upon a celebration of shared aesthetic tastes relating primarily to music, fashion, and nightlife .Until Next Fashion Scene …