A brief guide to Goth
What is goth?
Goth is an alternative subculture; it is both a style of music and a fashion, like Punk. People who listen to the music don't necessarily dress in the style, and people who look like goths don't necessarily like the music either - a lot of metal fans have adopted the goth look, making for a great deal of confusion.

However, on the rare occasion that someone looks like a goth and likes goth music, chances are they're actually a goth.

Especially if they deny it.

Where did the name come from?
The name originally came from a Germanic tribe (ie the Goths). The Romans regarded them as barbaric and uncultured, much like the Vandals. "Gothic" was later applied to a style of medieval architecture by critics who regarded it as similarly barbaric and uncultured (something similar happened with the term "Vandal"). The term was later applied to a late 18th/early 19th century style of literature which had a fascination with death and the supernatural.

The term "Gothic" was first applied to the music which is now considered "goth" in about 1979- see the name page for details.

Later on, the term "Goths" or "Gothic Punks" was applied to fans of the music, particularly those that had the gothic look.

What is the "Gothic Look"?
The early goths looked similar to punks, except that the predominant colours were black for hair & clothing (with the occasional outburst of white, red or purple) and silver for jewellery. Thus they had ripped clothing, and even mohicans, though the "Goth Mohican" was usually black and much wider than the punk version (shaved at the sides only). They also tended to spout a lot of fishnet (more usually on the arms for men) and had a distinctive style of makeup, with very white faces and lots of black eyeliner (for both men and women). Hair was usually dyed black, crimped and backcombed.

At first the hair was usually fairly short for men, backcombed up, but by the mid-to-late eighties long black hair became fashionable and it's now more usual to see hair long & down than shaved at the sides & spiked up. Makeup remains an integral part of the look, but clothing has diversified so that some now wear clothes influenced by 18th or early 19th century styles whilst others wear PVC, leather & fishnet. (crushed velvet tends to be another goth favourite). And some of them wear both, though not usually at the same time. Black and white remain the predominant colours, with red or purple still making an appearance. Distinctive fabrics tend to be silk, crushed velvet, leather & PVC.

What does Goth music sound like?
The first goth music grew out of punk, and some of the early bands were very lively, characterised by tribal drumming. Things changed in the mid-eighties, mainly due to the rise of the Sisters of Mercy, probably the most well-known goth band. The Sisters were characterised by deep vocals, simple yet prominent basslines, and simple drum machine rhythms. Unfortunately they came to typify the "Goth Sound" and too many later bands followed their example.

Later on, there was some crossover with the Industrial scene, and a lot of bands now use electronic sounds as well as the archetypal guitar/bass/drum machine/vocals.

In the late 90s, "cybergoth" became very popular, essentially a mix of goth-style vocals with a dancey backing. Whether this is a subgenre of goth, a subgenre of industrial, or a mixture of both is a vexed question, but overall the scene seems to lean more towards the industrial side of things.

There is also a fair bit of "ambient" goth, characterised by subtle instrumentation and haunting female vocals.

Lyrically, goth tends to be on the doomy side- dark lyrics and a doomy sound are fairly typical of most (but not all) goth these days.