Goth is a modern subculture with age-old roots. The history and evolution of goth are fascinating and diverse — it's worth knowing the backstory to this iconic movement!
OK, so what we know and love as "goth" didn't just magically or mystically appear one day. Like so many other cultural niches, our goth has ties to ancient societies and traditions.
And it's about more than just goth clothes and music...
It's a pretty interesting tale, how we got from those earliest Gothic beginnings to modern-day goths. Get cozy — it's storytime!
Once Upon a Time, There Were the Original Goths....
The first Goths — with a capital "G" here — were the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, a Germanic people who helped bring down the Roman Empire around 400 CE. So, a long f*ng time ago.
Next up is the Gothic Era, which ran from about the mid-1100s to the late 1500s. Here, "Gothic" is used mostly in reference to art and architecture style. The main idea of this design approach — which was often used in churches — was to let in more light. It resisted using the color black and leaned in heavily on ornate features. We're talking stained glass, tall windows, and flying buttresses.
Later came the gothic craze in the 1700s. Everything from books to buildings to bodices exhibited stereotypical gothic traits. They were shadowy, moody, intricate. Think horror, suspense, ominous, morbid.
Experts debate whether or not the OG Goths have much to do with goth cultural movements that followed. But, there seems to be some shared themes:
Sound familiar to you?
Then Along Came Today's Goths (Who're Also Still Pretty Original!)
So, how's all this stuff from the past connected to goth today?
Back to the Future
Contemporary goth likely trickled over from the UK arts and culture scene. Let's work backward a bit:
- Goth subculture, which emerged in the UK in the 1980s, arose from goth rock.
- Gothic rock started in the UK in the late 1970s as an offshoot of punk rock.
- Punk rock began in NYC in the mid-1970s in response to social happenings in the US and UK between the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Europe had been steeping in gothic heritage for eons at this point. So it was already naturally part of the cultural identity, and elements of it were showing up in movies, literature, and fashion.
Given the turmoil and passion of the 1960s-1980s social movements, it's not surprising that goth features swirled across continents and decades.
Since the 1980s, the goth subcultural has continued growing and changing. But it maintains some of the core characteristics of previous periods of goth influence.
These days, the goth scene is alive and thriving all over the world. There are bands, festivals, fiction, nightclubs, meetups, and more centered on goth ideology. And, of course, goth is widespread in fashion and personal style.
People aren't just latching on to goth and calling it a day. They're taking goth into new and different directions — creating fresh interpretations like pastel goth, hippie goth, romantic goth, and so on. Hmmm...it's like goth is destined to be a series instead of a single book.
How To Be an Epic Part of the Goth Saga
Write your own chapter of the goth story! You can do this in so many ways — it's like a Choose Your Own Adventure thing.
- Dress goth. Loads of options are available to you here. You can find cute or edgy goth dresses, sexy fit-and-flare goth pants, expressive goth crop tops, and even goth sleepwear and lingerie.
- Style yourself goth. Create drama and plot twists with your hairstyle, nails, makeup, tattoos, piercings, and other body art and modifications.
- Surround yourself with goth. How you decorate your environment is a narrative in and of itself — so add goth touches to your home or workplace.
- Fill the air with goth music. Crank up the goth tunes! Whether you make them or just dance along to them, the sounds of goth are their own chapter in this story.
- Go for goth art and commentary. Creating or consuming goth films, digital or print images, blogs, etc. really fleshes out the goth storyline.
A Brief History of Goth, a Tale that's Still Unfolding
The development of the goth story is a real page-turner.
It starts in Europe more than 1,500 years ago. After appearances during the Middle Ages and again in the Georgian era, today's goth subculture was born in the 1980s.
What's the next installment of goth history? Well, that's up to you!