Goth is one of my favourite aesthetics, or rather it is one of my favourite way of blending all my other favourite aesthetics. I can combine Baroque, Art Nouveau, Deco, Neo-Gothic, Victorian, etc. and then I can throw in some futuristic things I saw in Ultra Violet or The Matrix or off the cover of a science fiction paperback... Goth is this wonderfully huge umbrella that covers everything from the cutesiest halloween kitsch to the most elegant funereal anachronism because rather than a specific stylistic guide, it is an approach, its basic premise is to look at the dark side of life - the deathly, the dystopian, the twisted, and bring it into the light whether by turning it into macabre high art or looking at it with humour or turning it into something adorable. In that way, it is an art movement defined by approach that spans music, literature, visual arts, fashion and decor.
Goth is also a fashion. You can wear goth clothes without reading Poe, Neil Gaiman and Anne Rice; watching Interview With A Vampire, Sweeney Todd and The Crow; and listening to Bauhaus, Emilie Autumn and Sisters of Mercy, although I think that being fully immersed in the subculture leads to being more individual and better dressed because you can then be inspired by what you've read about, or by the stage costumes and clothes of musicians, costumes from films, etc. It is perfectly possible to go into certain shops or look on the internet and assemble a beautiful outfit or several and only be in it for the clothes without any real interest in the rest of Goth. Many teenagers do this badly as a rebellious phase, quite a few Goths who weren't around in the '80s probably started out this way, and there are probably quite a few people who simply like the clothes. Of course, mainstream fashion and the hipster subculture routinely mine the fashion side for inspiration too.
The visual aesthetic and lyric content and dark but danceable sound links back to the concept of Goth as an art-movement, but at the same time, it is a form of "pop culture" although it wasn't all that popular, even in the 1980s. Goth, as well as being in fine hand-made Victorian gowns, art photography of graveyards and bones and macabre sculpture is also in mass-produced consumables available in Hot Topic. This is probably why the word "scene" developed its modern meaning, to describe what happens around a pop-culture focus. Yes, someone somewhere drew the kitsch zombies on Iron Fist shoes and people made their own collars before you could buy them for a fiver, and somebody had to design Draculaura and her classmates, but that initial effort has been turned into things produced in their thousands. Monster High isn't even actually aimed at goths, but Draculaura combines Gothic Lolita fashion with pink New Rock boots (not branded, of course) and bringing a parasol to school.
Goth is also a lifestyle. The longer you spend in the subculture, the more likely you are to decorate your house to your own take on that aesthetic, probably because it takes time to be able to afford one's own place and the materials to decorate it! But it's more than the aesthetic creeping in to all aspects of your life until you have black crockery and spiderweb toilet paper. It is appreciating the old architecture you see, it is taking photographs of dead flowers, it is visiting graveyards that aren't the final resting place of any of your relatives, it is in visiting parks to appreciate their beauty rather than just to have a space to drink or play sport in, it is writing letters by hand in purple ink instead of sending e-mails, it crafting your own dark aesthetic. It's more than going to concerts and Goth clubs and gatherings.
|Look what I found in Tesco at Halloween...|
For a less text-intensive version of answering that recurring "What is Goth?" question check out this video by Jillian Venters aka The Lady of the Manners from Gothic Charm School (there's always a link to her site in my Blog Roll) ::here::