Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reader Mail: What is the Goth 'Lifestyle'?

Hello, I'm a sixteen year old girl living in Luxembourg. I "discovered" the Goth subculture some time ago, I already know some stuff about the subculture but I can't find enough information about the lifestyle. Knowing more about it would help me to decide if I really want to be part of the subculture. I would love to have an answer, I'll be waiting.
P.S.: I really appreciate your blog :)

Hi Daniela and thank you for writing in.

Unfortunately there is no consensus on what the 'Goth lifestyle' is or if we even have one. Goths respond to "What is Goth?" by referencing the music genre, fashion sense, club scene,aesthetic, subculture, and, yes, occasionally the word "lifestyle" but there is a lot of dissent as to what this means or if we can even pin down Goth in these terms.

The Wikipedia definition for lifestyle accounts for "interests, opinions, behaviors, and behavioral orientations of an individual, group, or culture." We'll roll with this definition for now.

We hit a hurdle right out of the gate with the idea that Goths have all the same interests. The Goth subculture as it exists now encompasses tons of interests and hobbies, some include:

  • 1980's postpunk music
  • Classic Horror Films
  • 'Goth' Fashion
  • Visiting Cemeteries
  • Celebrating Halloween
  • Dark folklore
  • Gothic Literature
  • Etc.

Everyone in the subculture has some aspects of Goth-related interests that they like and others that they don't. And, of course, there are people outwith the Goth subculture who are interested in the things that are under the Goth umbrella.

The next aspect of the definition, however, is where things really start to slide down. As I've made the point before, Goths don't have unified opinions. We can't even decide on a definition for our subculture, much less unified opinions about politics, religion, philosophy, or other important human queries. That's fine, of course, but how would we lead a lifestyle if we can't agree on important points?

Lastly, behaviors and behavioral orientations (or patterns.) I can say with fair certainty that Goths do not all act the same way. We might have similar hobbies, but as for how we act on a day to day basis, I'm sure I have more in common with some non-Goths than I do some other Goths. We don't have unified "Goth" behaviors however much our silly stereotypes of elitist mope-y Goths like to say we do.

Of all the Goths I've had the pleasure of meeting there is no unifying way of living that unites us all besides a mutual interest in Goth, which is why I feel more comfortable calling it a subculture-- "a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles," according to Wikipedia. We still maintain many aspects the cultures in which we grow up (except when we deliberately strike out against them) and yet have a some of a subset of 'Goth' interests that unite us as a subculture while enjoying interests that are more mainstream.

So, should you join the Goth subculture? Well, that's entirely up to you. Do you want to be a part of the subculture? There's no membership card, so it's largely just interacting with other people who have some of your same interests, and you can decide your level of involvement. There aren't certain lifestyle activities you have to participate in to be in the subculture, so I'd say you have nothing to lose.

Readers, what would you have to say is the Goth 'lifestyle,' if there is one?


  1. I would say that a Goth would just do what it is they normally do, but their natural interests will steer them into many different avenues whether it be collecting dark comics, clothes of fashion, vinyl/CD music, or photography, writing, painting ect...ect....It is whatever suits the individual.
    I don't think there are any rules or criteria as to what it is a Goth should do in order to be a Goth. People may devote themselves in many different ways. The Goths that I have known have always been very adamant about "nesting" their homes or rooms with Gothic decor in order feel at home or be at ease. But I feel there are many avenues a Goth could take to feel bonded to themselves or their culture.

  2. Many people don't have a "goth lifestyle" but bring out the goth on special occasions. If someone in Europe wants to experience "goth" Germany has a couple of really great events. One is the Wave Gothic Festival with people coming from all over the world to attend. The other is the Mera Luna Festival. In both cases I would recommend going with an adult if under 18 but you get to sample the atmosphere of when goths get together. The goth scene in each country tends to be slightly different.