Dead fashionable; Goth, that most unloved of youth cults, is back in style. A new book celebrates its history. Music, film and TV have been under its spell for years. Now the world of fashion has joined them. RYAN GILBEY takes a journey on the dark side
Source: Independent – London
Publication date: 2002-08-22
Goth is back. What – again? Yes, again. But then, it never really goes away, does it? Unlike punk, which becomes more diluted with each supposed comeback, Goth is magically insulated against fickle consumer trends. Admittedly, it has a good few hundred years’ advantage over punk. But the manner of the various Goth revivals in recent times has been strikingly consistent. Goth will tend to shrink into the background for a few years, biding its time until another morbid fashion collection, or another vaguely spooky hit movie or TV show, supplies the host on which it can piggyback into the limelight again. The last time that Goth spilt over from specialised enclaves (S&M dungeons, Cure conventions) into mainstream culture was roughly five years ago. Goth-inflected graphic novels such as Hellboy and the recently filmed From Hell had begun flying off bookshop shelves. The fashion industry swooned to the dark romance of Alexander McQueen. There was a brief horror movie revival, led by the blood-spattered postmodernism of Scream. And, most significant, there was the body-piercing revolution that has by now perforated a generation. And now, Goth is back.
The piercings didn’t go away, and perhaps their general acceptance owes something to the fact that suburban parents have other things on their minds: when the six o’clock news is warning that your children are using their dinner money to buy cheap Es outside the school gates, eyebrow-rings and nose-studs will always be small potatoes. The modern manifestations of Goth do rather tend toward the benign. Even dear old Marilyn Manson is, as his friends keep attesting, just a gentle giant, a big silly, beneath the freak- show slap.
The Gothic genre has mutated in the past 20 years to incorporate anything that strays even partly into the territory of horror.
The newest supposed Goth revival is predominantly fashion-led. The Gucci catwalk in particular was a funereal march of supermodels with dark-circled eyes, crosses nestling in their bony cleavages, black robes bound in a darkly sexual way around their bodies. It seems that black, for once, really is the new black.
It’s fun to be swept along by fashion-industry prophecies, which are, after all, self-fulfilling: they tell us what sort of person these lines are pitched at, and we buy the clothes, hoping to fit the bill. But does that really constitute any kind of revival? People are wearing black. People are thinking about death. In 2002, it must surely take more than that to merit the Gothic stamp.
Perhaps it is my inbuilt dread that makes me want to deny the movement’s predominance. For this particular Goth-intolerant sceptic, each impending revival ushers forth a real-life Groundhog Day. The Goths I met at college always seemed spectacularly pointless creatures. In Gavin Baddeley’s new book Goth Chic – about which I would be brutally dismissive, were Baddeley not a devout Satanist capable of administering a curse that would force me to write the angling column on The Chippenham Argus for all eternity – the author notes that Goth is “the only youth cult with a literary and artistic tradition all of its own”.
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