I missed goth the first time round, being born in late 1981 I was too young. By the time I donned my first (second-hand) leather trench and plum lipstick it was definitely not cool. At least not as far as I was concerned.
Young lads would shout ‘GOTH!!’ at me as they drove passed and laugh. Other teenagers in my class at college sponsored me to ‘dress normal’ for the day for Comic Relief, in a baby blue mini dress and pink lipstick. A teacher made fun of me one day in front of my tutor group because of the way I was dressed and everyone laughed. It did not feel cool to me, but the way I was felt like something I couldn’t change. When the kids at the back would sing the Adams Family theme tune as I got on the school bus each day I certainly didn’t feel trendy or cool. Now I am quite proud, I almost see it as a rite of passage. At the time I wanted to disappear. I did grow up in a rural area, in a small school, and I thought I was weird. And special.
I got to university and met other goths and realised I wasn’t special, I was like these guys, pretty much. That felt awesome. But growing up in a small, rural place meant I hadn’t really got goth quite right either. I was an odd amalgam of baggy black skate cords with a ruffled shirt and lace choker. I had no idea who the Sisters of Mercy were but was obsessed with 80s synth pop. Still not cool.
As I found my way and made gothic style into whatever I wanted, I felt more comfortable in myself. I met and made friends with the goths and metalheads in the city near where I grew up. I discovered they weren’t comfortable with themselves either. They were nervous, or shy, had low self-esteem or just didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as ‘normal’ people. They liked to read, or play computer games, or sit with friends and just talk about music. When it came to clothes it was black jeans, an obscure ebm t-shirt or a corset and boots. And that was just fine. I could relate to that. I felt accepted and comfortable.
Now goth seems to be changing. I thought I would welcome change (no one can wear stripy tights and back-combed hair forever) but it worries me. From a fashion point of view goth is almost becoming mainstream. ‘Boho-goth’ actually exists as a description of style. Nu-goth (or ‘Hipsters in black’) are taking the style I fought to own and making it fashionable. In short, they’re making me feel uncool in my own genre. Does everybody at a certain age feel like this? Is this normal or am I defending the gothic genre with terminal intensity? I guess it comes to feeling assured in yourself and your own style, which I guess I’m still not. I was just perfectly happy with goth being uncool and slightly geeky. The idea it might become something else makes me want to disappear again. Or at least until it’s gone out of style.
(Photo of my friend and I before heading ‘up city’ to Zoom, our nearest goth night. I’m the one on the left looking awkward)