Trying to define what goth is, is like trying to define what art is: Near impossible. If you were to ask ten goths to define what goth is, you would most likely get ten different answers. I can only offer my personal opinion on this matter, but for the sake of education I will attempt to illustrate what the general consensus within the goth community states. As luck would have it, most of the general consensus overlaps greatly with my own personal opinion.
…anything you want it to be, really (much like art). Most goths will say that it is a lifestyle, a way of being, and a state of mind or idea. Moreover, it’s the individual’s interpretation of the idea, and consequently, the lifestyle that goes along with it.
While it is a very open-for-interpretation sort of concept, some “rules” or “criteria” do apply. By this, I mean that goth – for the most part – concerns itself with the slightly darker side of life. There’s an inherent fascination with and appreciation for the unexpected beauty often found in dark places: Goths do tend to prefer the more gloom-and-doom oriented, because we find it appealing. That ‘ye olde cliché’ of goths hanging around cemeteries is there for a reason. Cemeteries are serene, calm, tranquil, and full of local history. Also, they are usually very well kept, and therefore look really nice and inviting.
The goth as we know it today, as a subculture, stems from a collective interest in a certain sort of music which in turn evolved out of the punk movement in the late 70s and early 80s, most notably through The Batcave club in London, England. A handfull of bands were considered “gothic” and their fans were labeled as “goths”, and so it began. A basic knowledge of where the subculture stems from is a gothy must, though. You don’t have to love (or even listen to) the original goth bands to be goth, but it helps to at least be aware of their existence and influence.
Most people have a mental image of what “a goth” looks like, and for the most part, they aren’t far off base. Most goths do favor black or other dark colors, but not all, and there’s no “rule” saying you have to dress or look a certain way to be goth. But – again – identifying with a particular subculture more often than not results in ‘looking the part’ and this includes a dark wardrobe. I will go further into the various styles of goth at a later date; for now I’ll say this: A huge part of being a goth is ‘do it yourself’ and therefore, no two goths are really identical – each has their own style, or a mix of styles, with a personal twist.
Goths – as I said – appreciate the darker aspects of life, and may or may not look a certain way – some flamboyant, some low-key. Most goths will have had encounters where they were perceived as spooky, or even scary by other people, or simply faced with common misconceptions about the culture and the people in it.
Basically, if you find yourself drawn to the darker side of life (in music, art, literature, etc), and perhaps find beauty where others dare not look for it, you just might be a goth…
…I bid you welcome.