From our early Manchester days in 1981, we have had a vein of Goth running through us. It exhibits itself in our love of the music, the original gothic footwear in our collection, the fusion of goth influences into new collections
and our unequivocal championing of the outsider.
So, what is Goth. It’s the 19th Century actress Sarah Bernhardt wearing a stuffed bat and sleeping in a coffin, the macabre, greyscale illustrations of Edward Gorey, a coal-eyed Siouxsie Sioux submerged in a tub full of flowers or The Horrors in winkle-picker shoes singing “Sheena is a Parasite.” It’s Dicken’s Miss Havisham haunting her mansion in a decaying wedding dress, the crows-nest hair of Robert Smith, Edward Scissorhands, and a young and boisterous Nick Cave. ,1960’s horror movies and 1880’s literature. It’s the doom, dynamism, and depths of colour black.
Many subcultures are borne from a feeling of ‘otherness’; a means of outsiders banding together with a shared impetus and uniform. None more so than the Goths, a subculture forged from themes of clandestine mystery and melancholic romance.
Goth as a youth culture emerged in the 1970s, yet the ‘Gothic’ had already existed as a prevalent cultural theme two centuries prior. Taking inspiration from the Medieval and the morbid, the Gothic literature of the late 18th and 19th Centuries signalled a fascination with dark romanticism, science, and the occult. Occupying the realm between “wonder and terror,” Gothic fiction gave way to Victorian ghost stories and the Hammer Horror films of the 1930s.
It wasn’t until 1967 when the Gothic was apparently applied to music; “Gothic rock” was allegedly formulated by music critic John Stickney when describing The Doors. The term reared its (black and knotted) head later that year, in reference to the captivating darkness of The Velvet Underground. Goth as a fully-fledged music genre ascended in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a sub-sect of punk splintered away from the brashness of gobbing to a realm of decay and decadence. Porcelain skin, eyes painted ebony and haunting, brooding songs; the wail of Siouxsie and the Banshees was a call to arms for young goths (despite Siouxsie’s disdain as being labelled the ‘goth-mother.’) The dour atmosphere of Joy Division had a gothic lilt, The Cure were amid their early Gothic phase, yet it was Northampton band Bauhaus’ 9-minute-long debut single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, which is widely considered Goth’s harbinger.
Many of those who have been heralded and historicised as bastions of Goth are the most hesitant to be defined as such, noting it’s one-dimensional trappings of gloom. Furthermore, Goth can be viewed as one-dimensional regarding multiculturalism, or a lack of such. In an article written for Medium, Shanna Collins certified the overlooked African origins of Gothic tropes; skulls and serpent imagery is rooted in indigenous spiritual tradition, as is the belief that the colours black and grey are associated with “the morbid, shadow aspects of life that are hidden from public consciousness.” asserts that the earliest Goth song was penned in 1956 by Screamin’ J Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You.’ Lyrics seething with romance and witchcraft, a bone through his nose and clad in a cape, Hawkins’ is fundamental in the heritage of Goth.
Gothicism became diluted yet prevalent; Nick Cave went from gothic ferocity (wearing leather trousers and dementedly screaming in The Birthday Party), to Southern Gothic, (the murder ballads and swampy imagery of The Bad Seeds) made sartorially manifest in his wife, Susie Cave’s, elegant “Vampire’s Wife” dresses. Loitering in the shadows of high fashion, the Goth can be seen in Alexander McQueen’s fascination with bloodthirsty fairy tales, Prada’s AW19 show (Wednesday Addam’s plaits and black lace dresses adorned with the face of Frankenstein’s monster) and the ghostly, baroque designs of Dilara Findikoglu.
Goth in its most authentic form remains tied to the misfit groups of youth culture. They can be seen skulking around Camden Market, or en masse at Whitby Goth Weekend, home to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. More importantly, and as we have reported before, like many subcultures of the underground, Goth has transcended its perceived boundaries, retained the feeling of “otherness”, and shrouded itself in the darkness of other music genres. In club nights such as Slimelight it embraces industrial, dark techno and dark wave and over at Wraith Club it emerges through transgressive performances, fetish, and an array of interpretations of contemporary Goth fashion.
The Goth is surely the most pervasive and persisting of subcultures. Bauhaus sang it best: “Undead undead undead!”