The Origins and Lifestyle Definitions of the Gothic Subculture

Soumia Boumechra
Soumia Boumechra

By the late 1970s, precisely in 1979, the world witnessed a massive and instant change in British society and soon after was shifted to the globe. This change was clearly noticed by the music people played and the way they were dressing.

People started showing their fascination with dark aspects like finding beauty in dead roses or the tendency toward the dark and heavy music. Furthermore, in the late 1070s and early 1080s, this change became a new subculture characterised by the unusual appearance of its followers who were called Goths. Therefore, this article will first establish a definition for the term Gothic along with its origins. Then, it will delineate the history of Gothic Subculture, its characteristics, and religions and beliefs briefly.

The first use of this term was to describe the twelfth-century Germanic tribe the Visigoth Tribe and its language, which was considered as barbaric and uncivilised tribe.

The term Gothic is generally used to describe anything related to darkness and mystery. This word can be related to the medieval art as a style of architecture characterised by the use of pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the high roofs. It is also referred to as a style of literature (romance) characterised by gloomy scenes, mystery and violent events.

This term later in the late nineteenth-century designated a kind of music which is now known as Goth Rock. However, the main point of this research paper is to explain that, to be a Goth, is to be a member of a subculture with black dressings, pale face makeup and dark dyed-hair.

The “Gothic” style came to be applied to a particular architectural style after the Germanic tribe held power in Europe between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire.

It is a type of architecture that was developed from the Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in the twelfth-century France and spreading throughout Europe between the twelfth- and sixteenth-century. This Gothic architecture was known during that period as Opus Francigenum (France work).

Before the Gothic architecture, building skills were limited and functional. Castles then were made of stone, and were cold and dark. Yet, Gothic style came and transformed the buildings beautifully with its high vaultings into majestic places, airy and light.

The Gothic architecture represented huge steps away from the old designs. The basic elements of the Gothic style are the pointed arch that was borrowed from the Islamic architecture which was well spread in Spain at that century.

The main characteristics of Gothic architecture are the height. New building techniques such as the flying buttresses allowed the architects to build taller walls and towers. The flying buttresses were designed to be a practical decorative support. Also, the old buildings used to have tiny windows since the wall did not support wide open windows for air and light, however, this new style solves that problem and designed light and large windows made of glass that turned the buildings into airy, bright and majestic places.

Since the original gothic style was developed to bring sunshine into people’s lives, Gothic architecture transformed castles, churches and Cathedrals of the whole of Europe into inspiring places of piety and worship, as a result of their impressive gothic design.

Many castles and cathedrals adopted some of the characteristics of Gothic architecture such as tall designs, the use of Flying buttress, pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, light and airy interior, and the emphasis upon decorative style and the ornate.

The term Gothic Literature or Gothic fiction refers to a style of writing raised in the late-eighteenth-century and characterised by elements of death, gloom and atmosphere of mystery. This mode of literature combines fiction and horror with Romanticism.

Esther Lombardi (‘Classic Literature Guide’) describes the genre as “characterised by supernaturalism, melodrama, and sensationalism”.

Horace Walpole was the first English author to use the term Gothic in his fiction ‘The Castle of Otranto’ “A Gothic Story” in 1764. All the characteristics of the gothic genre were applied in Walpole’s novel.

This Gothic fiction has different characteristics related to darkness, horror and picturesque scenery. A gothic story is mainly occurring around an ancient mansion that hides a terrible secret; the setting is often pictured as a large gloomy house with closed windows, cracks, and has secret passages near graveyards.

Gothic writers have also used some supernatural elements such as the appearance of monsters, ghosts, vampires and zombies with some touches of romance. Most of the gothic stories present a cursed character (or the protagonist him/herself) or there is prophesied about him/her. Also, this type of literature emphasizes the psychological portraits that examines some feelings such guilt and fear which lead to a serious mental disorder.

These elements were also included in plays by William Shakespeare, such as ‘Hamlet’ (c. 1600–01), and ‘Macbeth’ (1606), which feature supernatural elements, demons, and apparitions.

Edgar Allan Poe, as well as Ann Radcliffe, William Godwin, and his daughter, Mary Shelley, and many other writers, are the Romantic writers most closely associated with the Gothic tradition. Furthermore, great Romantic poets such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge also contributed to the Gothic tradition in literature.

Gothic subculture is among the most interesting subcultures. It is a contemporary subculture that was first started in England during the Gothic Rock scene in the late 1970s when the Band Bauhaus released ‘Bella Lugosi’s dead’.

According to the Oxford dictionary, to be a Goth is to be a member of a subculture favouring black clothing, pale faces with dark makeup and heavy Goth music.

The first generation of the gothic movement emerged mostly in the United Kingdom around the late 1970s and early 1980s separate from the Punk movement. The members of this subculture are influenced by fashion, music and mythology from the pre-medieval eras and by different cultures from all around the world.

The followers of the main-stream of this subculture were fascinated by the supernatural and dark aesthetics. Thus, they wear black clothing, dark and unnatural makeup and hair colour. They also like capes, pointy shoes, silver, and paint their fingernails with black. These characteristics apply to both men and women.

The Gothic Subculture is divided into three generations and into many types. The first generation is the mainstream which emerged in the late 1970s. The second generation emerged in the late 1980s, and it generally became less interested in participating in the gothic scenes. The third generation was formed in the late 1990s, and portrayed the future progression of Goths.

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