Mall Goth Vs. Trad Goth

Posted by Wednesday Addams |

Mall Goths On Santas Lap

Mall Goth Vs. Trad Goth Fashion & Style

Ever wanted to know how to tell a mall goth from a traditional goth? It may not be as easy as you think. But, learn about their roots, similarities, and differences below — and you just might be able to!

There are many types of goths out there in the wild. With a little background info, you’ll know what’s a mall goth vs trad goth. And, once you can distinguish one from the other, you’ll be able to see what makes each of them so special!

Traditional Goth & Mall Goth in a Nutshell

OK, really quickly, let’s outline the basic defining factors of mall goth and trad goth. So we’re all on the same page going forward.

Trad Goth (aka Traditional Goth)

These are pretty much the OG goths. The music, fashion, and attitude is the post-Punk-era subculture stuff the average person thinks of when they hear the word “goth.” (Learn more about goth fashion and the history of goth.)

A picture’s worth a whole bunch of words. So just check out these examples of goth style to see what we mean.

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Mall Goth (aka Mallgoth)

Mall goths came about in the 1980s through early 2000s. Originally, “mall goth” was a not-so-nice term used to describe “wannabe goths” — kids who bought their goth wardrobe from stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s.

The sentiment behind this insult-laden name? It comes from hard-core goths — “true” goths — believing that mall goths were only interested in the aesthetics of the subculture and not the other dimensions of the movement.

Now, though, mall goths have claimed their style. While it’s still not considered a type of goth, mall goth’s a legit and thriving style in its own right. Take a look.

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How To Tell a Mall Goth & Traditional Goth Apart

These two styles are tightly related, but that doesn’t mean they’re essentially carbon copies of each other.

Now that you know what these goth genres are. Let’s explore how they’re alike and where they diverge.


It’s pretty easy to see the visual resemblances. While there are plenty of variations in mall goth and trad goth style, both are often hallmarked by:

  • Dark clothing and makeup
  • Gothic-inspired jewelry and accessories
  • Bold or provocative looks
  • High-contrast color palettes
  • Piercings, tattoos, alt hairstyles

As for hangouts and pastimes, you can find both trad and mall goths hitting the clubs, going to concerts, and consuming a variety of media (e.g., watching TV and reading comics). Granted, the kinds of nightclubs and content aren’t the same….

Both goth styles have experienced periods of waxing and waning. They shrink in popularity one moment just to resurge — better than ever! — the next. This helps keep them fresh and relevant.


Despite all the parallels between the two, traditional goth and mall goth styles do go their own separate directions sometimes. Here are some ways they do just that.

Trad Goth

Mall Goth

Era Started



Country of Origin




(Especially US, Europe & Japan)


Current Popularity

Going Strong!
Continuously Evolving

Supplanted by
Nu-Goths / Witch House

Associated with Different Genres

Post-Punk OG Goths


Prioritized Aspects of Goth Subculture

Attitude, Art, Music, Expression, Social Movement

Clothing Style

Visual Cues

Non-Branded / DIY Clothing
Simpler, Color Palettes Featuring Black, White & Jewel Tones

Popular Alt Brand Clothing
Neon Palettes
Face Masks
Stripy, Over-the-Knee Socks

Associated with Following Different Bands / Kinds of Music

Goth / Death Rock
Cold / Dark / Ethereal Wave

Nu / Industrial Metal
Hot Topic

Hangouts / Activities

Music Festivals
Fantasy / Comic Conventions
Organized Meetups & Events
Art Exhibitions
Walks in Cemeteries
Creative Pursuits (e.g., Making Art, Reading, Writing)

Halloween Venues
Movie Theaters
Arcades / Bowling Alleys / Pool Halls

Food Courts
School Campuses
Using Social Media
Going to Bars & Casinos
Attending Sporting Events
Enjoying Parodies of Horror

Different Types of Goth for Different Kinds of People

Mall goths were inspired — at least in part — by trad goths. They latched on to the aesthetics of the original goth movement, adopting fashion options that were available at their local shopping centers. It used to be offensive to be labeled as a mall goth but now it’s evolved into being its own perfectly acceptable style.

Traditional goths insist that their “gothiness” runs truer and deeper— all the way back to its post-punk origins. Trad goths tend to be passionate about the whole movement or subculture, which goes way beyond just fashion. It incorporates a life philosophy and other cultural expressions, like music.

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