We’re all familiar with the mysterious shadow-dwellers — the pierced and pale Goth from the street style vernacular, one that strikes intrigue and intimidation in equal measure. Layer black on black, wear leather with lace, flowy silhouettes matched with a few spikes and studs. These contrasting elements give birth to a magnetic allure unlike any other fashion aesthetic.

The Gothic Era and Goth Aesthetic

 

Goth Individuals / Pexels

Beige and White Church Interior / Pexels

Church Hall with Statue / Pexels

For the uninitiated, it’s seemingly more natural to tie Goth to the Gothic era. Yet, despite their similar-sounding names, Goth and gothic don’t actually have much in common. Gothic is a design vocabulary sans aesthetic. It is characterised by verticality, irregularity, soft earth tones and the like. It’s pious and colourful; it’s the soft light that streams through the stained glass windows of a cathedral; it’s divine grandeur. There are no ruined, ivy-covered medieval castles here.

The visual imagery that we would often associate with Goth would come a few centuries later.  But what are its roots?

Romantic Era: The Period Where Darkness Thrived

Time travel back to a few centuries ago, and we arrive at the Romantic era, a period of history that quite frankly lives up to its name. It sought to embrace imagination, emotion, the grandeur of nature and idealised nostalgia.

From the onset, these attributes may seem to clash with everything the goth aesthetic stands for. The turning point came with the rampant socio-economic upheaval - think Industrial Revolution and French Revolution. 

During times of chaos, art has always been the beacon of light - art became the critical part of Romanticism. 

The rising artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movements emphasised intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience. This placed a new emphasis on the full spectrum of emotions including fear, horror, and terror. 

Have a look at Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son (1823), which stands as one of the most prominent works that was birthed during the Romantic Era and you’ll be able to see how the emphasis on expression of emotion and imagination lead to the blossoming of the goth aesthetic.

Saturn Devouring His Son (1823) by Francisco Goya / Pinterest

The undead, vampires, ghosts and death - they’re Romanticism elements that we see mirrored in Goth. Simply put, Goth pulls from the aspects of Romanticism that embraced what some might have considered ‘uncivilised’ but others considered central to our human experience.

The Goth Aesthetic of Today

Bauhaus / Pinterest

The gothic elements from the Romantic era eventually manifested into the goth aesthetic we know and love today, before further evolving into multiple sub-cultures. 

The first introduction to the traditional goth look is widely credited to the band Bauhaus and, specifically, the single titled Bela Lugosi’s Dead (1979). For many, this track unintentionally became the pioneer of Goth, serving as an inspiration for many gothic tropes such as references to the undead, macabre, dark androgynous appearances, and eerie vocals. Stylistic aesthetic also came to mirror this alternative genre: sheer fabrics, fishnets, grunge and edgy jewelry with bat and cross motifs became highly popular.

It didn’t take long for this underground style to flourish and spread across Britain and beyond. As these alternative genres entered the mainstream, the interpretation of Goth grew and evolved in its own way amongst different regions and eras.

Today, the goth aesthetic looks a tad different from what it once was. Rather than being a standalone style, it has become more fluid and amalgamates many other subcategories that stand on their own. 

Pastel goth, for instance, looks very different from the traditional black ensemble and instead features sweet pastel elements. Likewise, cybergoth diverts from the traditional goth with its fluorescent colours and futuristic aesthetic.

So if you’re looking for alternative jewelry to bring out your goth edge, we welcome you to cross over to the dark side and find your next pair of goth earrings here.

References:

A History of Goth Fashion – Always Uttori

A Brief History of Gothic Horror | The New York Public Library (nypl.org)

Gothic fiction - New World Encyclopedia

Gothic to Goth: Exploring the Impact of the Romantic Era in Fashion - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

How the “Gothic to Goth” Fashion Exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Relates to the Fall Collections | Vogue