My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Confidence, Competitiveness and the Goth Community

Maybe it is just amongst twenty-something clubbers and bloggers, but I've noticed an air of competitiveness, especially about appearances and being 'Gothier than thou' - I know that in mainstream society women can get competitive and jealous over appearances, and that it is often linked to low self-esteem, but (and this was perhaps foolish of me) I thought the Goth subculture would lack this. I don't think it is a judgemental and external competitiveness -I don't see Goths belittling each other over their fashion and appearance very often- I think it's a personal desire amongst certain Goths to be the prettiest, most 'gothiest' Goth in the room/club/blogosphere, to always be seen in their best, most flamboyant outfits, and to be seen as never missing a music reference or subcultural reference.

I know all of us want to give a good impression to others, and even I fall into the trap of wanting to have a flawless public image on this blog sometimes, but it can get too much. If it starts impacting your confidence to the point where you think that you are somehow lesser than the rest of your Goth community, then it is time to take stock. And sometimes, yes, I do think that I ought to have memorised more of Bauhaus' discography or read more vampire books, and sulk when my friends can afford Iron Fist shoes and Lolita clothes from Japan (and be petite enough to fit in them) and I criticise myself for my makeup not being neat enough, my hair not being wild enough, not owning enough dramatic garments and not being able to afford everything I like.

We don't need to do this; we can relax. We are all human, none of us are perfectly Goth ALL of the time, we all make mistakes, have fashion off-days, forget the lyrics to songs, get band-members mixed up, trip over our own feet once in a while and have days when our hair just decides to be a frizzy mess however much we try. There is no point in pretending that we are beautiful vampiric creatures perpetually elegant and perpetually clam, and always socially gracious. 

The Housecat, dressed down.
Phone-cam selfie.
Here is a no-makeup, scruffy photo of me in my casual clothes. This is how I look a lot of the time when I am not going out for any reason, or if I am going out, am going out to do something where practicality is the key. I am wearing a cheap black tank top (from Tesco of all places), a pair of Raven's combats and a webbing belt, with my pentagram necklace and a silver .308 round for hunting werewolves (non-functional, obviously). My nail-polish is chipped, my face is blotchy from hay-fever and my hair just has two sets of tails at the front and a clip at the back. Nothing fancy at all.



Selfie, phone-cam.
Here are some photos of me dressed up in a Lolita-esque skirt by Banned (bought online at Kate's Clothing) with a ruffled blouse that was bought for me as a midwinter present by Raven, and a lovely thrifted lace shrug that was originally from Tesco! (Yes, really!). I have done my makeup, I am wearing lace gloves, which I can't remember if they are from Accessorise or Claire's Accessories (yes, I occasionally shop there...), but they were from the Eastgate mall in Inverness, anyway. Hair in the same style as for the first photograph. I am wearing makeup, I have brushed and straightened my hair, and am generally a lot more dressed up (and a lot more traditionally 'feminine' looking).

Selfie, phone-cam.

There is exactly the same person under both sets of clothes. I might look a bit more butch in the first photograph, a bit tougher, perhaps more into Industrial music than I am. I also don't look like I've put much effort into my appearance, with a "keep my hair out of my eyes" do and no make-up.  In the second photograph I look a lot more "put-together" with much fancier, more impractical clothes; perhaps I look like am more "ladylike" (such a nebulous term...), gentler, sweeter, and more Romantic and more 'Goth'. In reality, I am always the same person, I do not construct a new persona for each outfit (although I must admit I feel tougher in practical clothes because it's simply easier to be practical and athletic if you don't keep catching your ruffles on things) and I know just as little about Industrial music and love just as much Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins in both outfits, I am just as artistic and creatively inclined and like elaborate aesthetics just as much. 

Selfie, phone-cam.
I also don't somehow stop being Goth because I'm going for a walk in the woods or am staying indoors to do chores and therefore have no need to raid my wardrobe for my fanciest things. Yes, sometimes I do get all dressed up for nothing more than going to the store, or even bimbling around at home, but other times practicality trumps, and other times I am just having a lazy, relaxed day where such extravagances would be too frumpy. Nobody should feel like they somehow loose Goth credibility for not wearing the most 'uber-Goth' outfits ALL the time, or for that matter, for not listening to Goth music all the time, for not reading ONLY vampire books etc. etc. 

I know I am not the first blogger to write about these things. The Lady of the Manners addressed this issue in the second half of ::this:: article, which I think is definitely worth reading. Amy at Stripy Tights and Dark Delights wrote two posts that are related to this topic: ::"So You're Not Gothic Anymore?":: which deals with people who make assumptions when people are having less fancy days, and this  ::Pretty vs. Practical":: which shows two sides of Amy's wardrobe. 

13 comments:

  1. You look awesome sans makeup! I think your pigtails are adorable, and I love that you pack heat for werewolf hunting. Most people who see me on the street or at work would probably not beg me as "goth". Goth is a term I sometimes use to describe myself, but it really doesn't have much to do with the way I look. I certainly don't listen to "goth" music most of the time, either. Hmmm.... maybe I'm not goth!

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    1. Thank-you :) I'd like to live in somewhere like America, where I can try out shooting with firearms properly - I think it's a sport I could possibly get into. I like archery, including recurve and crossbow archery, and perhaps other forms of target sports could be fun. I'm thinking of going to one of the "come and try" clay pigeon shoots up here; that looks fun.

      Whatever you are, enjoy being yourself :) Labels are only there for quick ways of matching categorisations, they shouldn't define a person.

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  2. I really like this sentiment- that you don't leave your aesthetic when you take off the trappings or turn off the media.

    I suppose it is a natural inclination when you join a subculture to want to make sure you really fit in and have plenty in common with your fellow Goth's, in this case. Unfortunately, it seems common that in the effort to establish a shared pool of knowledge and aesthetic appreciation, there are those who put more effort into the learning and thus feel more accomplished. It's good that you and others can remind us all to not fall into that trap.

    Do you mind if I ask a bit more about how your clothes influence you? You mention that you are still yourself no matter what you wear (making the parallel, to still being goth sans fancy clothes), but you also say that you feel more practical/industrial in the simpler outfit. Is that just an effect of the activities you can partake in? Or, if you were, say, sitting at the computer in the industrial outfit vs. the frilly lolita one- would you mood be influenced?

    Final question, on a day when you stay inside and do chores (probably not in full goth wear), do you still feel goth? Are you saying that Gothiness persists outside of dressing up or wearing goth inspired things (ie if I dress in a white sundress can I call myself goth?) or that even if you are only goth 12/6 rather than 24/7 that doesn't make you any less goth than anyone else? And is the distinction at all clear outside of my skull?

    (Underground, you're always welcome to become a Neo-Aristocrat if you decide to move away from goth!;)

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    1. With the first question, it's mostly practicality. I guess sometimes if I go out in Lolita-esque or Aristocrat fashion, then I feel on some level that I ought to live up to the outfit, but mostly it is practical. If I was at home on the computer in either outfit I'd feel just the same, but if I wanted to do something active, which most of my hobbies are (climbing, hiking, martial arts, archery, etc.) I'd want to change into something suitable for the activity, same if I was pretty intent on some serious chores/D.I.Y - I don't want to accidentally flash my bloomers to the world, trip over my own skirts, get my frills snagged or trapped in things, rip my clothes (especially as I'm not that well off and the budget for replacement and new Goth clothes at the moment is rather small). etc. etc.

      I still feel Goth whatever I'm up to. It does help that I have a black broom with a black and white damask pattern handle, and a matching feather duster and quite a few other bits of cleaning equipment that match my aesthetic! There is a Spanish company that I cannot remember the name of that does all of these things. I'd probably have some higher BPM EBM or dark techno on too!

      I work 5 days a week, and even if I try to include some of my aesthetic into my outfit, I certainly don't dress Goth to work (I just wear a lot more black than most), or at least not recognisably Goth, and sometimes I'm just too tired to put on all my fanciness when I get home. I know I'm not the only person that has ended up a "weekend Goth" because of work, not to mention people who live in places where it gets too hot to want to wear all black, or where it isn't safe (I have a friend who lives in a council housing estate and always change when they get to the Goth club because if they walked outside dressed Goth, they'd get hassled by the yobs on the estate) so all of those people can't be Goth 24/7 - but as long as they like the aesthetic and fashion, like the music and have the mindset, then I'd consider them Goth.

      It might make them less involved in certain aspects of the scene, but even that is a might - perhaps they sew their own clothes for those days when they dress Goth and are pretty darn involved in their fashion even if they don't wear it every day and check out ever Retroscope Fashions and Alice Auaa update as it happens and own a large collection of Iron Fist shoes, and perhaps they are the sort of person that really cherishes their fancy clothes, so doesn't want to wear them out too much in case they get ruined.

      The main downside to not going out looking Goth, for me, is that a) some of my own friends don't recognise me without tonnes of black, coloured contacts makeup and a wig and b) I'm not obviously a Goth for all those times a Goth and I who have never met each other come across one another. (That sentence made more sense in my head). I'd like to signal to other Goths that I am part of this subculture, that perhaps we have common interests and perhaps we could get to know each other, especially as I live somewhere with a very small and tightly knit Goth scene.

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  3. I haven't seen much of the competitiveness among the locals here, but things are more relaxed here than they are in much of the country; so, that's not surprising. Then again, I only see most of the local Goths when we have an event; so, I'm possibly not privy to anyone's competitions.

    I agree that we have to be practical at times. When I'm around people that I work for, I wear a bit of the Goth aesthetic but certainly don't dress the same as I do when going to an event. It would really spook them, something which is not in my best interest. And why would I want to dress up all the time anyway? It would only wear out my favorite clothes that much faster. Also, I wouldn't appreciate the times when I really want to dress and look gothier.

    It's as you said, HouseCat; we all need to cut one another some slack for being human.

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    1. There's certainly something to be said for not wearing your favourite things too much. I found a Lolita style skirt in a thrift shop a few years back... really cheap! But now it has faded to a dark grey, the trim is coming away in places, the lining is utterly ripped, the top hem is worn through and I've had to replace the zip; altogether worn out. Why? Because not long after I got it, I wore it EVERYWHERE. It was my default 'Goth' skirt; black foofy, Victoriana, lots of layers and ruffles, great over a petticoat. Unfortunately, it got snagged a few times too many, exposed to lots of washes and lots of direct sunlight and had all sorts of nonsense pinned to it. It was secondhand already when I bought it, so I should have known to be gentle with it, but nope, I, in fashion-glee, wore it to death.

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  4. Sometimes I feel a little awkward, because my favourite colours are white and blue (although I still do wear black) and I almost never wear makeup. Then I remember I am awesome and anyone who doesn't like it is just missing out on me. I am way past that stage where I spent hundreds of dollars on goth boots and clothes. It is a little unusual being so colourful though when usually the thing by which Goths recognise each other is clothes, which are usually black.

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    1. I'm a cheapskate Goth :P I don't think I've ever spent hundreds on boots and clothes... I did once fork out £80 for some half-price New Rocks, but that's about the only time I've really splashed out. My usual price ceiling for "special shopping" is about £50, and I will buy something like that once or twice a year. However, I would imagine all my eBay purchases and thrift shopping adds up!

      My favourite colour is purple, which lends itself quite easily to the Goth aesthetic, but even so, most of my clothes are black. Moi-même-Moitié make a lot of Gothy things with a strong blue component. Their stuff is primarily Aristocrat, Lolita and Romantic, but definitely plenty of blue!

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  5. Excellent post. Your appearance should never take over your life, otherwise you'll spend all your time looking around to see who's looking at you, and not concentrating on the important things. It's ridiculous to expect 'perfection' all the time.

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    1. Well said! If you ended up distracted by your own appearance and monitoring how much you're being looked at etc. then you will start missing out on all sorts of other things that are more important and make life richer :)

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