Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goth: Fashion VS Music

It's a debate that goes back to the beginning of goth. Before Siouxsie met her Banshees, before Bela Lugosi became undead, back when wayward teenagers were burning sticks to make their own eyeliner. Yes, at the beginning of it all, the subculture of goth was born and a central question was hatched: "What are we about really? Music, or Fashion?"
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The conundrum will probably never be solved because there really isn't a right answer (like all good conundrums) and because both sides have so many good points. Every goth who knows their black is aware that the subculture as we know it today evolved from Punk. So it's tempting to say that early goths (much like early man yet we have significant evidence to support that 80's goths evolved from bats instead of apes) started to set themselves apart from their Punk counterparts by listening to different music. Groups like The Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus had Punk roots, but their sounds started to turn darker, featuring morose lyrics and harnessing the eerie effects produced by stereo feedback. It's possible that Punks from the 80's started to become influenced by darker bands and began dressing to reflect them. As more bands started producing goth music, their members probably started to dress goth, and the Punks that had been attracted to these bands in the first place drew more inspiration for fashion, so eventually all the different fashion subsets of Goth as we know it today evolved.
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But wait...there's another side of the argument...

When someone mentions the word "goth" an image pops into many people's heads, and that image is usually swathed in black. The subculture has a very visual aesthetic! From the dramatic makeup to the crazy hair to all the different kinds of goths out there (cyber-goth, gothic lolita, and fetish-goth to name just a few) goths express themselves through the way they look. And a very important part of the scene, passed down through its punk predecessors, is DIY. Most people think of DIY outfits before they think of DIY music. So is it possible that Punk happened, and some members of that subculture started dressing spookier one day without any influence from music? Can you fathom people becoming a member of the gothic subculture without first having been Punk? You can bet your batty little selves it happened!
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Which is more essential to "being goth?" It's difficult to say. For one thing, gothic fashion and gothic music are both very prominent characteristics of "being goth." The subculture is different for everyone, and since there's no set standards that must be met to be allowed to call yourself goth, one simply can't say "Okay, listen to Joy Division and you're a real goth" or "Add some corsets and striped stockings to your wardrobe and you're a real goth." The wonderful Lady of the Manners takes a stance on the fashion side of the debate. She says that it takes time and motivation to really assemble a good gothic wardrobe, and that amount of effort points to fashion as the more important aspect. The lovely Allison Eckfeldt clearly upholds the other side of the argument stating: "Goth is music. Without it, there's no goth." I personally have to stand on the side of the music. I think if someone wants to identify with a subculture, they have to look into what the subculture evolved from, and early goth (at least to me) seems to have really been based on music. I also take the side that "goth" is a state of being, not just a physical look, so someone can be goth without dressing it. Someone can dress darkly and be into creepy literature and spooky history and horror films, and I think that would just be that person's personality. But the connection I truly feel to the gothic community is the strongest when we can all recognize a Cure song at the local club, or discus obscure bands that no one else has heard of. :D
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I'm not trying to say that if you don't listen to traditional goth bands you aren't goth. It's a personal thing. In my mind, music is more important that fashion where being goth is concerned, but I don't feel a need to impose this belief on everyone who associates themselves with the scene. I also recognize that times have changed. Most people who discover goth nowadays discover it through the fashion. They'll probably flounder around in Tripp pants proclaiming the gospel of Evanescence for a while until they do a little research, discover goth bands and start to create their own looks. So I'm not trying to discredit the fashion side of goth, its one of the most fun aspects! In my mind however, gothic music holds more importance. The debate will shuffle on, zombie like, for as long as the subculture flourishes (and I hope that will be for a long long time). It will probably never be won, but it's always a great discussion! What do you think? Is fashion or music more essential to the goth scene? I'd love to hear your opinions in the comments.

Song of the Day

11 comments:

  1. I personaly stand more on the side of music. Maybe because I know some goths, who don´t really dress the part, but just because they don´t really lool like goths, I wouldn´t say, they aren´t goths. But I think it´s both - music and fashion together. For some 50:50, for some 20:80 or 80:20...
    Without the music it´s just...don´t know how to say it... I know some people (but mostly from internet) who say, they are goths but only listen to metal. For me they are metalheads. I don´t mind if there is some goth music on playlist, than that´s okay, but only metal and saying, that they don´t like goth rock (or other related genres)...for me it´s something completely different.
    But of course I don´t say, that goths can listen only to goth music. That would be stupid :D I personaly like other genres too, like punk,metal, j-rock, classical music and many more.
    So, for me, the music is the main "glue" that holds the subculture together and fashion comes right along.

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    1. "Music is the glue that holds the subculture together." That's a great way of putting it! :)

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  2. It's funny that everyone, myself included, always says "it's an argument that will probably never be won". Since, I can picture one day someone saying something so blatantly obvious that changes everything and makes the argument completely non-essential and redundant. :3 We'll all be left saying "OHHH, MAN. I feel so silly now!"

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  3. "(much like early man yet we have significant evidence to the support that 80's goths evolved from bats instead of apes)"

    As a goth anthropologist, I can totally relate to this remark! It is an accepted fact among goth academics that, while punk did actually evolve from apes (specifically hamadryas baboons), goth evolved from fruit bats, which is the reason The Bat Cave was popular as a goth gathering place for so long. ;-)

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    1. Nope, vampire bats (sanguivores) are actually a very small subfamily of bats, with only three species. Since 70% of bats are insectivores and almost 30% either eat fruit or drink nectar (not including the three vampire species), it's most likely that vampire bats are actually descended from an insect-eating ancestor. However, given that goths are deviant from the mainstream to begin with, they could have conceivably descended from the alternate 30% group, which includes fruit bats.

      (I'm trying to type this without laughing, but it's not working very well...)

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    2. Ah! Makes more sense now. :)

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  4. My opinion is that the music is the most important, because I can't imagine myself dressing like black, etc. if I listen to some disco and "pop"(or wtf is Minaj O_o) music, because it wouldn't make any sense to me.
    Like the spikes and fishnets and so on.. It basically means 'don't mess with me' for the society. When I see someone else like me, I mostly know he/she could have similar opinions and if you talked to them, you could really understand each other very well.

    You're absolutely right about the personality, because.. I think you can feel it from another goth/metalhead/.. that he really is something what he say he is.

    With regard to Cure songs, that's totally true! :D Sometimes it's just amazing, when you're watching movie and suddenly you hear the melody by which you're sure you know it and when you google it, it's how you thought - Cure, Siouxsie or some else :D

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  5. Great post! Some interesting points you raised there. :) I think this whole music vs fashion thing is a never ending argument. I guess my opinion is that both matter just as much - although I can relate more to being a goth with just the music and not SO much fashion atm. Eh idk

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    1. I think that's part of why I side with music too. I don't stop "being goth" if I wear blue jeans for a day.

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  6. I've always leaned more towards the music because I have days when I dress completely mainstream and I still think of myself as being a goth :P

    I also tagged you in a challenge on my blog.

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