Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reader Question: Supporting a Budding Goth

It's a common worry among young Goths as to how to be Goth around their parents who might not be supportive, but it's also worth remembering that there are parents out there who want to be supportive but aren't quite sure how.

Today my topic comes courtesy of an e-mail from Zoe, who is asking how to be supportive of a budding Goth daughter:
 My 10 year old daughter has felt drawn to goth for some time. We are metal heads, so of course, more than supportive of her choice. I am wondering if I could get some tips on things to buy her to help her along. For example, do all of her clothes need to be black, or can she have some smattering of purples and blues? Also, can she only listen to goth music, or will any punk/metal be ok? She has an affinity with Bullet for my Valentine. But I don't think they are considered Goth. Any tips you could send to me would be really appreciated, as I am more steampunk/rockabilly than I am goth. Thank you for your time. 
Thank you for writing, Zoe!

To answer your more specific questions: No, not all of her clothes have to be black. Goths wear a variety of colors, from reds to purples and blues or even yellows and pinks. There really is no limit to what colors a Goth can wear.

In the same vein, there isn't a limit to what music a Goth can listen to either. I myself have a deep-seeded love of old folk music. There are some Goths who believe very strongly that you must listen to 1980's Goth rock such as The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, etc. in order to be considered a Goth. Personally I don't think you have to do anything you don't want to, and your daughter shouldn't have to change her musical taste just because she's exploring a new subculture.

Now, in terms of what else to do to support a budding Gothling, here are some things I'm very grateful that my supportive parents did for me, mostly in terms of shopping:

  • Take your daughter thrift-shopping. It's a Goth right of passage and a good way to encourage creativity and money consciousness, as well as being a good way to build up a wardrobe.
  • If she's interested in elaborate clothing that is outside her (or your) budget, helping her learn to sew is a great way to bring down the cost of some of those more expensive items and help her customize her wardrobe to be more 'her.'
  • If you're going to help her decorate her room, I'd suggest poking around in October at your local craft and home goods stores, where there should be a great variety of wonderful home decor and craft items to add.
  • Take your hands off the reigns. It's parental nature to worry about what her other relatives might think, or what might happen at school, but beyond being supportive the best thing is to let her go off on her own and explore a bit.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer in a post, feel free to write me at and I'll get a response to you within the next few posts.

Readers, what advice would you give Zoe and her daughter?


  1. Such an interesting topic:) I never thought about it from my parents side. I guess they always just have let me be and let me do whatever I wanted clothing or music wise while I got into goth and punk.
    I eventually even took my mom thrifting and showed my dad the music I like and he started to like it too. Now he also walks around in Sabaton and Korpiklaani t-shirts hehe.
    And while I consider myself a goth I listen to a really broad spectrum of music. A lot of metal, punk, industrial, sometimes post punk but also a lot of folk or reggae even^-^
    I think the only thing someone needs when they are wanting to become alternative is just a family that doesn't judge you:)
    Much love,

  2. I think this is excellent advice. Something important to add is that the parents need to prepare their daughter for how to respond to the bullying and name calling that will occur at school and from random strangers. This girl needs to know that by becoming a goth, she's going to need confidence and claws.

  3. LOVE your advice!! My own two cents would be to remind her that she shouldn't feel she HAS TO be like "all the other goths", she should just be herself. After all, if goth were mainstream, it wouldn't be nearly as fun!

  4. My advice would be to dig up some ~ubergoth~ music and let her listen to it (obviously just allowing her to make her own decision about whether or not she likes it), just so later she can have bragging rights xD What goth wouldn't love to one day brag about listening to Fields of Nephilim or Souixsie since they were 10?

  5. Meijer has the absolute best Halloween stock I've found and they have post-Halloween sales that are crazy good. I'm talking thirty cent rolls of purple spider duct tape, dollar packages of glittery skull hangings, ten cent hair clips, etc. Goodwills in bigger areas tend have more of the cute knick-knacky stuff around October so if you can drive a little ways to a new location it can make all the difference.

    Thrift shops are my faaavorite places to shop, but I'm also drawn to sales at WalMart and Meijer for alternative-ish clothes or staples that don't have ambiguous stains on them. Wally usually is kind enough to set up racks of five, seven or ten dollar items and have this awesome stock of jeggings all the time in patterns that are constantly switched out and clearanced so keep an eye out for those - they're cheap and comfy and although I haven't tried it, you can definitely make some simple DIYs to spruce them up with bleach or pyramid studs. Etsy can be an awesome place for all sorts of stuff.

    Music shouldn't be boring, but do try and expose her to some of the classics even if she isn't particularly interested. Borrow a Siouxsie and the Banshees album and play a song or two on a shopping trip and discuss, or use cool discovery programs like Spotify or to find cool jams that everyone likes. Can I suggest Oingo Boingo? I can, can't I?

    You mentioned that you're metalheads/steampunky/rockabilly so pass on some of the wisdom you've likely learned about being in an alternative subculture and emphasize that nobody has to like you except yourself. If you feel good in what you're wearing and how you're presenting and what you're doing, screw everyone else. Bullies and jerks are going to come up, so mention if you haven't already how to deal with those sorts of folks but realize that most of this cool alternative subculture stuff sort of happens and is absorbed through life. Don't stress about making sure she's as goth as possible or if she's not quite this or that. She'll figure it out. You'll figure it out. It'll all be cool.


  6. if mom and dad are metalheads, I think the kid will be just fine

  7. My friend is raising a beautiful little girl who is in her first year of school, she's been nothing but bullied. It's not because she's different, it's because kids are stupid. They seem far more ridiculous these days than when I was young, we didn't see bullying until at least the fourth grade. She likes goth things, although I wouldn't call her goth. If anything it makes her look cool because they're all crazy about Monster High. Now, back when we were little, a friend tried dressing goth in the fifth grade because her parents didn't care what she did. To give you an idea how much they cared, she came to school drinking juice out of a beer bottle and had a low cut shirt that made her look like a wh---. She got poked fun of a bit and there were certainly remarks made about her overt sexuality. So there are two examples, one child who is brought up by a very loving and devoted mother, and the other who's parents could care less, they have received very different reactions to their style. My friend's kid is not dressing "inappropriately" nor over-the-top, she just looks nice. I think that's the most important thing to drill into children's minds about the goth subculture is that you can do it and look nice. They don't have to look ridiculous with goopy eyeliner drips, they don't have to dye their hair, and they certainly need to dress their age.

    I agree with others that it would be better to educate her on the roots of the goth subculture. Like discussing its origins and what it's evolved into. I don't think someone should have to be 100% invested in the goth scene and listen to all the bands, but having a knowledge of them is good, its like reading the classics of literature, it's a foundation.

  8. Your daughter can do goth any way she wants. They're her clothes: Beyond what rules need to stay in place to make them generally appropriate for her age (say, no alcohol references, not too revealing, etc.), she doesn't need to have rules about what is or is not goth-acceptable. If she wants to toss in a white lace hair bow, that's her deal. If someone says she's not goth enough, tell them to stuff it.

    The same with music. There is a lot of flexibility here. She can listen to whatever she likes. Furthermore, lots of things that are technically goth music can still be pretty goth. Folk music? Lots of gothy things going on there, even though it's outside of the actual goth-music genre.

    Be mindful of her age and be supportive if other people criticize, but don't sweat arbitrary "rules" about what is "goth kosher". She's ten, and this should be enjoyable; it doesn't need a lot of circumscription.

  9. In the UK goth goes hand in hand with Steampunk, often sharing the same events. So you're pretty cool parents in my book already. It's not just about the music and clothes, how about some age appropriate films and books? Alice in Wonderland may be a tad young but it's a gloriously strange world to immerse yourself in bookwise. Beetlejuice is an older film with cool goth kid and probably one of my favourite films. In the UK a guy called Chris Riddell recently released a book Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse. Not sure if it's available in the States but looks very cute. There's also Jillian Venters The Gothic Charm School - both for budding goths and those that love them, very sweet book even if it does cause umbrage in some gothier-than-though circles.

    I know there must be many more films but my head has gone strangely blank...!