What it (was) is like to be a Goth

gothic charm school bookReading Jillian Venter’s Gothic Charm School it has allowed me to look back over my life as a Goth over the last (mumbles in her mittens here) 30 years – good grief!

Even when I have been through other phases of my life (hippie at college – it has to be done, Princess Diana flick and matching wardrobe to pastel queen) I have always been Goth. Why? Because Goth is more than just dying your hair black, wearing black and listening to The Cure (backwards) it is actually a state of mind in the sense that you are drawn to the beauty of darkness in the world, especially in history.

How it was to be Goth then

Back in the mid eighties when the world was swooning over Michael J Fox and Back The The Future (yes, I was a fan too) I found a comfort in wearing black. A few of my friends (boys) where dolling up in black drain pipes and winklepickers that went on into infinity. My friend Doc introduced me to The Sisters of Mercy and The Cure.

I had already built up quite a fancy for Simple Minds and U2 but I was after something more darker. In those days we didn’t really go to clubs. In our little village, there was nothing to do. A bus came through once a week. There were pubs which were oldly worldly and full of jodpurs and tweed so it wasn’t the place for Goths. The only thing we could do was catch lifts off our parents to go to the nearest train station (five miles away) and head up to London to hang around Camden and Carnaby Street. The Batcave was a place we only dreamed about. In a small village in Surrey, there we were. Very small and not in the right setting.

Music and the legend of John Peel

We had records and leather thongs around our wrists but really, that was as much as we could do to express ourselves. TOTPs on a Thursday night or even The Tube were shows we could watch if The Mission were going to be on, yet for us, we had to make do with what ever mainstream was punching out into the airwaves at the time. Thankfully we had John Peel on a Friday night on Radio 1 to fill our brains with the alternative and the off beat stuff like The Three Johns and The Cocteau Twins. It was no wonder that many Goths like us at the time were longing for Bauhaus but made do with Aha.

penny dreadful box setEven during my Princess Diana years (minus the smiling and waving and collecting flowers from small children phase) I loved nothing than spending a miserable Sunday with my box set of Penny Dreadful and wishing I was Eva Green. It is an art form – a way of seeing the world so it is not surprising that during these states of navy blue suits, I would often have days of Goth.

Notes for non-Goths

To be drawn to Goth doesn’t mean to say you are about to take your own life and that all loved ones around you need to take flight and call social services. It isn’t like that. It’s a warm family of black cladded people who enjoy beautiful literature like Jayne Eyre and adore weekends drifting around places like Haworth (Bronte country) and Glastonbury. We adore Gothic architecture (see wonderful gothic Wells Cathedral here) and dream of wild romantic yet brooding drifters coming into our lives reciting the works of Shelley and Byron. We’re not giving up on life, we are embracing it.

It’s okay to be Goth no matter what age, where you are and what you are doing with your life. You are amongst friends. We are out there for you.


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