With the 25th anniversary of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig just behind us and inspired by a few friends who posted their amazing photos as young, beautiful goths, I’ve been thinking about the design aspects of the ‘dark’ culture lately. I’m not a fully-grown goth myself but I can’t say there isn’t something about the aesthetics of that scene that I don’t admire enormously. Now before I go on, let’s not get too hung up on terminology here. As with other scenes, genres, lifestyles – whatever you wanna call it – there are labels that some people embrace while others get upset over. I won’t pretend I know much about the goth culture apart from the fact that there is so much beauty in it! And that’s what this blog is all about.
As a long-term, die-hard fan of The Cure, I’d been exposed to the larger East German goth scene from early on. Similar to my fondness for Headliner No. 45, I think my admiration for this scene is closely related to a (n)ostalgia for East Germany. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as critical of the former German Democratic Republic as the next ‘Ossie’ but you can’t escape your upbringing, especially when it has been a happy one. And it so happens – at least in my memory – that a substantial part of the youth in my long-dead home country was highly influenced by the dark tunes of The Cure and Sisters of Mercy, and hung around old cemeteries. Similarly, looking like a ‘Grufti’ – a controversial German term for an out-of-the-coffin goth – was one way for the disillusioned youth to show their disrespect for authority while embracing a peaceful and introverted lifestyle. I don’t think I’m knowledgable enough to dive into the psychology behind the East German goth scene but what I do know is that, after the Wall came down, it flourished and is still going strong nowadays, hence 25 years of WGT!
I also can’t say why the design aspects of the goth culture are so endearing to me. True, I had to go through some sad times in my life that certainly shaped my partiality for dark and bittersweet beauty but, if I remember correctly, even as a happy-go-lucky, outgoing child I was drawn to dark fairy tales, vampire stories and the gloomy appearance of medieval princesses in black lace and burgundy velvet. And let’s not forget the average goth is as fond of laughs and good times as anyone, and being drawn to that lifestyle is really not as depressing and morbid as the media likes to make out.
Apart from the allure of dark things, what really impresses me about the goth scene is the immense creativity that can be admired in the elegant, often handmade outfits, the inventive make-up and accessories and the beautiful interior design you come across when you’re invited into dark folks’ homes. There is so much art in this lifestyle! And although by now big trading machines have jumped onto the goth wagon, most goths still hold on to the old customs of self-styling. Goths come in all shapes and sizes but they always look amazing!
So, far from wanting to stereotype this diverse and creative community, here are my 13 favourite design traits of the goth look:
Not only a favourite of the goth scene, black is also a predominant colour shade for metalheads and other rockers – and that’s a double whammy for me! In our culture, black is often associated with death and mourning but it also illustrates elegance, power and mystery. And let’s not forget, it goes so well with any other colour! As a Design Marie brand colour, black stands for my love of darkness and rock music, but I also chose it because it adds a powerful perspective and depth to my favourite, bright magenta-pink.
Next to cats, flying foxes (and other types of bats) are my favourite animals. I love everything about them. They’re adorable and make funny noises and, when they munch on bananas, they show off the cutest little tongues! Nocturnal outsiders, they are completely misunderstood, often associated with witchcraft and vampires, denounced as symbols of darkness and even black magic, and sadly often hunted for apparently being dangerous to human beings (which is complete b*ll*cks, unless you’re stupid enough to pick one up and get bitten!). Now that I write that in one sentence, I can see why goths love them so much (though I’ve never tried to pick a goth up). Anyway, from where I stand bats are getting a hard time because they’re inconvenient to some people for nibbling ripe fruit in trees. A ridiculous reason to assassinate animals that are widely getting extinct anyway. And stupid as well. Bats are expert pollinators and without them many plants and other animals will be lost.
I follow Sarah’s Bats and Batzilla the Bat on Facebook which provide me with hours of cute bat videos but also give me a great education in all bat matters (batters?). Currently, there is a petition going to protect a flying fox colony that lives at Bateman’s Bay. Please sign it if you can! And then take a look at all these beauties.
3. Goth typefaces
Yes, goth, not gothic. Big difference! When I first learned about typography, the ‘gothic’ label confused the living daylights out of me. I was highly bewildered that Alte Schwabacher, although commonly used in goth magazines and on goth album covers, was not considered gothic, instead something like Trade Gothic was hailed as the crème de la crème of typographic gothicness. Since then I got my head around it. Whenever I see ‘gothic’ in a typeface name I know it’s basically san-serif and I’m okay with that. I also learned that originally (we’re talking 15th century) perceived ‘barbaric’ typefaces were indeed labelled ‘gothic’ and that soothed my medieval soul a tiny bit (read this paragraph on ‘The name Gothic’ for more info). So anyway, if you were looking for a goth inspired typeface, you’d better use search terms like ‘medieval’, ‘blackletter’ or ‘old English’. That should do the trick. Here are a few of my favourites:
You can get them all from dafont.com.
4. Skeletons and skulls
They used to really scare me as a kid but now I find them humorous and kinda cool. Check out Kiszkiloszki for my favourite skeleton GIFs.
5. Beautiful people
At this point pictures speak louder than words:
The third photo is Black Friday with her handsome husband Schwarzkittel. The other photos were taken from this MDR gallery. Worth a peep if you liked the look of my selection. At this point I urge you to check out Black Friday’s YouTube channel. She’s absolutely charming and knows so much more about all things goth than I do!
6. Victorian cemeteries
7. Lace and velvet
The beauty of lace and the softness of velvet. Works in black and any other colour. Check out this beautiful dress by Rose Mortem.
8. Black cats
They are the cousins of the aforementioned bats when it comes to superstition and human stupidity. Poor diddumses, they’ve suffered a lot and still do, which makes me so angry! If you like black cats as much as I do (but really, I love any kind of cat!), I suggest you take a few minutes to marvel at these lovelies.
9. Exquisite jewellery
Again, beautifully crafted jewellery adds extra allure to the goth look. Black roses, bats, skulls, spikes or entwined, mostly silver strands – most of these pieces are simply stunning. There’s a whole industry behind this but my favourite online store is currently Alchemy Gothic.
10. Gothic interior design
If you were ever lucky enough to be invited to a goth’s lovingly designed apartment/dungeon/stronghold/castle/tomb, you know what I’m talking about. Black just makes a house look elegant and strangely homely. Add all the Victorian details and velvety fabrics you like and I just wanna crawl up by the fireplace and purr at the eerie beauty around me. Which is leading us to…
11. Medieval castles
Alright, this might be pushing it a bit and is probably more down to my upbringing in the shadow of the biggest medieval castle in Germany and my love for Grimm fairy tales, but you can’t deny that goth and anything medieval are perfect for each other. Or is it all just down to a secret fascination with dungeons?
Dungeons. And two more words: Severus Snape.
13. Wednesday Addams
Last but most definitely not least, I round today’s blog up with every self-respecting goth’s Pippi Longstocking. With her sombre looks and even more sombre (and couldn’t-care-less) attitude, Wednesday is my favourite punk girl turned goth – or the other way around. It just shows that if you’re true to yourself and your individual style, you’re on the best way to becoming a level-headed and responsible member of society. 😉