The goth subculture is a contemporary subculture found in many countries. It began in England during the early 1980s in the gothic rock scene, an offshoot of the Post-punk genre. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from the 19th century Gothic literature along with horror films and to a lesser extent the BDSM culture.
The goth subculture has associated tastes in music, aesthetics, and fashion. Gothic music encompasses a number of different styles including Gothic rock,Darkwave, Ethereal, Neo-Medieval and Neoclassical. Styles of dress within the subculture range from deathrock, punk, androgynous, Victorian, someRenaissance and Medieval style attire, or combinations of the above, most often with dark attire, makeup and hair.
Defining an explicit ideology for the gothic subculture is difficult for several reasons. First is the overwhelming importance of mood and aesthetic for those involved. This is, in part, inspired by romanticism and neoromanticism. The allure for goths of dark, mysterious, and morbid imagery and mood lies in the same tradition of Romanticism's gothic novel. During the late 18th and 19th century, feelings of horror and supernatural dread were widespread motifs in popular literature; the process continues in the modern horror film. Balancing this emphasis on mood and aesthetics, another central element of the gothic is a deliberate sense of camp theatricality and self-dramatization, present both in gothic literature as well as in the gothic subculture itself.
Goths, in terms of their membership in the subculture, are usually not supportive of violence, but are tolerant of alternative lifestyles that incorporate themes such as BDSM—always involving consent. Many in the media[who?] have incorrectly associated the Goth subculture with violence, hatred of minorities, and other acts of hate. However, violence and hate do not form elements of goth ideology; rather, the ideology is formed in part by recognition, identification, and grief over societal and personal evils that the mainstream culture wishes to ignore or forget. These are the prevalent themes in goth music.
The second impediment to explicitly defining a gothic ideology is goth's generally apolitical nature. While individual defiance of social norms was socially risky in the 19th century, today it is far less socially radical. Thus, the significance of goth's subcultural rebellion is limited, and it draws on imagery at the heart of Western culture. Unlike the hippie or punk movements, the goth subculture has no pronounced political messages or cries for social activism. The subculture is marked by its emphasis on individualism, tolerance for diversity, a strong emphasis on creativity, tendency toward intellectualism, and a mild tendency towards cynicism, but even these ideas are not universal to all goths. Goth ideology is based far more on aesthetics and simplified ethics than politics.
Unlike punk, there are few clashes between political affiliation and being "goth". Similarly, there is no common religious tie that binds together the goth movement, though spiritual, supernatural, and religious imagery has played a part in gothic fashion, song lyrics and visual art. In particular, aesthetic elements from Catholicism often appear in goth culture. Reasons for donning such imagery range from expression of religious affiliation to satire or simply decorative effect. Regardless, there is a general tolerance for religious beliefs, and everyone including strict Catholics, atheists, and polytheists are accepted.
While involvement with the subculture can be fulfilling, it also can be risky depending on where the goth lives, especially for the young, because of the negative attention it can attract due to public misconceptions of goth subculture. The value that young people find in the movement is evinced by its continuing existence after other subcultures of the eighties (such as the New Romantics) have died out.
Goth fashion is stereotyped as a dark, sometimes morbid, eroticized fashion and style of dress. Typical gothic fashion includes dyed black hair, dark eyeliner, black fingernails, black period-styled clothing; goths may or may not have piercings. Styles are often borrowed from the Elizabethan, Victorian or medieval period and often express pagan, occult or other religious imagery such as pentacles or ankhs. The extent to which goths hold to this style varies amongst individuals as well as geographical locality, though virtually all Goths wear some of these elements. Fashion designers, such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, have also been described as practicing "Haute Goth". Goth fashion is often confused with heavy metal fashion: outsiders often mistake fans of heavy metal for goth, particularly those who wear black trench coats or wear "corpse paint" (a term associated with the black metal music scene).