The gothic subculture is a fairly new subculture in which its members dress in dark, dramatic clothing with pale skin, and dark hair and makeup. This style of dress was inspired by early horror novels and films and has roots in the beginning of the punk subculture. As time has gone on, more branches of gothic style have been created. It is now a very popular subculture that can be seen on and off the runway. However, members of this subculture can often deal with criticism and judgement from the general population.


  1. Origins of gothic subculture and traditional gothic style
  2. Types of gothic style
    1. Romantic, Victorian, and Medieval Goth
      1. Pastel Goth
      2. Cyber goth
      3. Lolita
  1. Gothic Subculture today
  2. Stigmas against the gothic style


Photograph of a Goth Male in the 1980s. 4 October 2015.

Section 1: Origins of gothic subculture and traditional gothic style

The gothic subculture developed in the 1980s in England at the same time that the punk wave started forming. Gothic subculture was originally a subset of the British punk invasion, however as time went on and the subculture further defined itself, the gothic and punk scene have similarities but are not connected as they used to be. When the gothic subculture was still young, it was defined by teased, black dyed hair, graphic eyeliner, black (sometimes bright red) lipstick and nail polish, and extremely pale skin. Traditional (or Trad) goths wore leather, fishnets and lots and lots of piercings. The original style icons for the gothic subculture included Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith of the Cure, Maila Nurmi, and Elvira. Many more people had a large influence on the gothic style and subculture, however, those previously mentioned are some of more well-known names when it comes to gothic fashion. Music is a huge part of this subculture, in fact, melodramatic rock music is one of the factors to the goth culture being born, which is why many of the style icons for goths are members of the popular goth rock bands.

Section 2: Types of Gothic style

Since the birth of gothic fashion, many members of the subculture have taken creative liberties and deviated from the traditional gothic style of dress and have created hundreds of different branches of gothic fashion.

2.1 Romantic, Victorian, and Medieval Goth

These three styles of gothic are distinct in their styles of dress but combined in this article due to their creation being similar. Members of these gothic styles took inspiration from their respective eras (Romantic goth from the romantic era, etc.) and mixed those styles with the trad goth style. These members of the gothic community can be set apart due to their deep admiration for the darker side of these eras. In fact, this particular style of gothic fashion looks remarkably similar to the mourning attire from those times. Those in these gothic subsects have found a deep love and admiration for horror novels and dark art from their respective periods.

2.2 Pastel Goth

Pastel goth is a subsect of the gothic subculture that is relatively new, becoming more popular in the late 2010s. This small group of goths can be separated from what traditional gothic style is due to their use of lighter, pastel colours rather than the traditional gothic preference for darker colours and black. Many see the pastel goth fashion as a mixture between Japanese “Fairy Kei” fashion and traditional gothic fashion. Pastel goths use light pinks, lavenders, baby blues, and pastel greens in their clothing for a cuter take on gothic fashion. To keep the dark, macabre element to their style, pastel goths make use of morbid fashion accessories to keep in the gothic culture. Upside-down crosses, skeletons, bats, and Ouija board references are popular choices among those in the pastel goth culture.

2.3 Cyber Goth

Formed in Germany in the late 1980s by ravers, Cyber Goth is a very unique group under the gothic umbrella. Cyber Goths not only take huge steps away from the traditional gothic fashion, they also have a different culture than their roots. While most in the gothic subculture enjoy gothic rock, Cyber Goths prefer to listen and dance to EDM and electronic music. Cyber Goth fashion is characterized by neon colours, thigh high studded boots, dreaded dyed hair (some Cyber Goths add fluorescent tubing to their hair) and sometimes masks and goggles. The Cyber Goth trend reached its peak in the late 90s and early 2000s but has since been gradually losing popularity and dwindling in numbers.

2.4 Lolita

Lolita fashion was formed in Japan, in which people who dressed in this fashion wore clothing that is reminiscent of dolls or children’s clothing from the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in England. This style often includes Victorian era dresses (hoop skirts are often worn), stockings and heels, bows, lacy gloves, and often its wearers carry umbrellas. When Lolita fashion is paired with gothic fashion, take these same styles, but make them black, dark greens and blues, and maroon, and pair them with dark makeup.

Section 3: Gothic Styles Today

Today, members of the goth subculture have hundreds of different goth styles to choose from. This gives modern members of the goth community copious amounts of freedom to express their own personal style in any way they can. Modern fashion designers have branded their own style of goth, called Haute Goth, or Runway Goth. This style of gothic fashion isn’t typically worn out of fashion shows, but it brings gothic style to the center stage, something that hasn’t been done before. In the Spring and Fall of 2018 designer Guo Pei brought her own Haute Goth styles to the runway during Paris Fashion week. Designers playing around with gothic styles has paved the way to make gothic styles more recognized and less stigmatized.

Section 4: Stigmas in the Gothic Community

The gothic community has dealt with controversy since its birth in the early 80s. Due to their dark and macabre sense of style, people who are not in subcultures often assume that gothic fashion is tied to violence, satanism, and even (in extreme cases) vampirism. Along with the criticisms from the general population, multiple study groups have found that teenaged members of the gothic subculture are more likely to have a mental illness than those who are not members of these subcultures. Why this is happening is still unknown, but studies are still happening to find out why and fix this epidemic with the gothic youth.


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Megan H. is a Freshman at ODU currently majoring in History who loves dogs, 80s music, and Disney World. Megan is interested in topics like feminism, gender, sexuality, and how the media effects how people view themselves.