How to Be Gothic (with Pictures)

Table of contents:

How to Be Gothic (with Pictures)
How to Be Gothic (with Pictures)

The dark world of goths is one of the most diverse and positive urban tribes, and flourishes in every type of society around the world. The ghoulish, spooky look and dark clothes create an instantly recognizable style. But it takes a lot of courage to enter a community whose members, looking at you through their white contact lenses, make references to the musical genre "ethereal chillwave" and cite the book The Moonstone. Slowly and calmly walking your own path in the Gothic community can be an immensely rewarding experience for anyone wishing to be a part of it.


Part 1 of 5: Dressing appropriately

Step 1. Wear black

Learn the basics of goth fashion. When it was a recent cultural movement, the Goths had no idea what model they should follow, nor did they feel obligated to do so: they just improvised. But as the word "Gothic" defines a certain style, similarities began to emerge between them. Despite the countless styles that call themselves "gothic", only traditional gothic, deathrock and romantic gothic (the style in which gothic bands dressed in the 90s) are the tribes that actually define themselves by the term, while that other subgroups merely take inspiration from it or mix the visual characteristics of goth with other styles, creating something totally new. Gothic fashion includes:

  • Dark colors, including shades of purple and red;
  • satin corsets and corsets;
  • striped socks and tights;
  • Lace or ruffled gloves;
  • lace skirts;
  • Custom leather jacket, usually with favorite band symbol;
  • Fishnet stockings;
  • Pointy-toed boots, studded heels, pointy-toe shoes with laces, glossy over-the-knee boots or Dr. Martens boots;
  • Leather, lace, velvet, silk or vinyl costumes.

Step 2. Dye and style your hair

Hairstyle has always been a potent "haunting tactic" employed by goths, and it often takes longer to put together than costumes and makeup.

In the early days of the Batcave nightclub, Siouxie Sioux inspired girls to ruffle their hair to unimaginable heights; and it was Patricia Morrison of The Sisters of Mercy who mirrored the Goths who kept their hair long and black. Bauhaus, Robert Smith (of The Cure), Specimen and Dave Vanian had an influence on menswear at the time, and Johnny Slut became the face of Specimen, the band he was keyboarding for, thanks to their elaborate styling and huge shredded mohawk, that stopped standing with a lot of hairspray. However, you don't have to do anything so extreme in everyday life. Anyone who prefers long, black hair, and even topped up, can wear it. There are no rules for hairstyles, but it's true that goth demands a quirky style. If you're interested in hairstyles that go well with the gothic look, you can look up how-to videos on YouTube

Be Goth Step 3

Step 3. Wear makeup

Siouxie Sioux's makeup was an inspiration to girls who spent hours designing the iconic Cleopatra eyes she wore. Daniel Ash launched among men the fashion for "killer eyebrows", outlined in intense black and with the outer edges pulled up. The eye shadow palette was made up of electric blues, purples and metallic tones. The female eyebrows were either thin and high-arched, like those of Morticia Addams, or pointed, triangular, bushy, like those of Siouxie Sioux. Those who don't like this style can customize it as they wish or simply ignore it, but it's important to know that this was the look among goths of the time, inspired by their idols.

Step 4. Use accessories

The more accessories, the better the look. There are many items that match each other and are compatible with different themes: you can use fake canines to create a vampiric look, a corset is a good option for those who want to be more romantic, sunglasses give a traditional touch.

  • Other Gothic accessories are:

    • Lip, eyebrow, tongue and navel piercings.
    • Sunglasses (as Sisters of Mercy members wore them), top hats, capes, cravats, whips, and trunk-type bags. Piercings, colored contact lenses and fake canines are also popular.
    • Skull-shaped silver jewelry, human skeletons, bats and religious symbols such as crucifixes, all of which are incorporated into heavy rings, brooches and necklaces.
    • Nail polish. Black, purple and red were incredibly popular among early goths.

Be Goth Step 5

Step 5. Take the day to go around thrift stores and leave the DIY supplies ready

In the early days of Gothic, there were no specialized stores available to fans, who only relied on their own creativity and on the closest thrift stores, that is: there was no "consolidated" Gothic style (although all members ended up with a very similar look). If "do it yourself" is a motto for punk, it is also for goth - and it will always be a defining characteristic of it. Start experimenting with your clothes on your own. Use inexpensive items that you wouldn't mind if you spoiled. If you're out of ideas, look for do-it-yourself manuals on gothic blogs and YouTube channels. Until then, you can get by with these simple tips:

  • Paint or buy a patch of your favorite band or a pretty print you find on Etsy and sew it to a jacket or any other piece of clothing.
  • Buy or make band brooches and affix them to clothes just as you did with patches.
  • Learn how to make jewelry, which you can start selling and start your own business.
  • Cut patterned clothes into patches and use them as patches on other clothes. Plaid or leopard patches look great on black jackets.
  • Buy pins and do something creative, like putting them in place for buttons on a jacket or making a design on the fabric.
  • Decorate clothes to create permanent prints.

Part 2 of 5: Listening to Gothic Music

Step 1. Learn what goth music is all about

For those who adhere to this lifestyle, listening to and valuing goth subgenres - goth rock, post-punk, deathrock and darkwave - is a very important part. Of course, there is also space for those who listen to other genres, but it is important to know that some of them are considered genuinely Gothic, while others are considered analogous to Gothic. You can listen to these last ones, but just listening to them won't make you a goth.

Among the musical features of the goth are echoing tribal percussion, the classic post-punk beat in 4/4 tempo or electronic drums, funereal synthesizers, cold and dry-sounding flanged guitars, distorted guitars, a well-developed bass line. and an unsettling baritone vocal, which is normally performed by a man

Be Goth Step 7

Step 2. Find goth bands associated with your taste

They can belong to both gothic and deathrock.

  • These are some of the gothic bands:

    • Bauhaus;
    • Siouxsie and the Banshees;
    • The Cure (some albums);
    • The Sisters of Mercy;
    • Southern Death Cult or The Cult;
    • The Mission;
    • Fields of the Nephilim;
    • Solemn Novena;
    • Danse Society;
    • The March Violets.
  • And some deathrock bands:

    • Christian Death;
    • 45 Severe;
    • Alien Sex Fiend;
    • All Gone Dead;
    • Voodoo Church;
    • Lords of the New Church;
    • Mephisto Walz;
    • Bat Nouveau;
    • Burning Image;
    • Ausgang.

Step 3. Pay attention to the letters

Gothic music puts great emphasis on the lyrics and tries to make it match the sonic atmosphere. At the beginning of the movement, vocalists sought the whining tone of Leonard Cohen to emphasize the words they sang. First, explore the most popular goth songs: "A Forest" by The Cure; "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus; and "Cities in Dust" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Copy the lyrics of your favorite songs into a notebook to learn them. Knowing the lyrics is a quick way to make friends with other goths, if you share the same tastes

Be Goth Step 9

Step 4. Cultivate your musical taste

Getting to know the most popular goth artists is good, and they certainly do earn some Goth card points (see our goth slang item in the chapter "Getting involved in the community"), but finding obscure or local artists is also a must. do. Many people are satisfied with the most common bands, but it is essential to value contemporary and independent artists to keep the scene alive. Explore the "alternative goth" section on sites like Discogs,, and and see what you can find. Be warned, however, that you may encounter metal, EBM, or electronic music artists, which are non-Goth-related musical styles mistakenly labeled as such.

Step 5. Explore analogue styles and other music that goths might like

These genres may appeal to Gothic adherents, though they are not named. This includes gothic, neoclassical, witch house, industrial, EBM, aggrotech, shock rock, symphonic metal, ethereal and dark ambient metal.

Part 3 of 5: Learning about the origins and history of Gothic

Step 1. Educate yourself about Gothic history

Knowing the history of the subculture of which you are a part is essential, especially in the case of Gothic. This will help you move beyond the "baby bat" stage (the name given to novice goths) and reach maturity in terms of culture, music and fashion. Here are some decisive facts in the history of the movement:

  • In 1967, the American band The Doors was described as "gothic rock", even though they received the album Diamond Dogs, by David Bowie, in 1974. Not for that reason these artists can be considered gothic.
  • Some say that Nico was the first artist to record the first gothic album: The Marble Index for some, The End for others.
  • The song recognized as the origin of goth rock is the 1979 Bauhaus single "Bela Lugosi's Dead". changing the way it was understood by the public. The song is played at the beginning of Hunger to Live, a very popular movie among goths.
  • Gothic rock is considered a subcategory of punk. It appears during the post-punk scene, which took place in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • The Batcave nightclub was opened in 1982 on Meard Street, London, whose owners (members of the band Specimen) wanted to cater to the followers of this new and rising subculture. Although the establishment never took on the title of "official goth club," it was the establishment that helped shape the fundamental elements of the subculture.
  • The subculture took its inspiration from castles and cathedrals of Gothic architecture; the Romantic movement, which dates back to the late 18th and 19th centuries; and from Gothic literature, whose main examples are The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole - which brings the first use of the term "Gothic" in a literary work -, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley; Dracula, by Bram Stoker; and the work Edgar Allan Poe.
  • It is also inspired by Celtic, pagan and Egyptian mythologies, and by Christian myths and trends. Gothic fashion brings together sophistication, vintage, retro-cheesy, punk, fetishism and cheap second-hand pieces.

Part 4 of 5: Acquiring the Gothic Mindset

Step 1. Create a comfortable space for yourself

Make your bedroom or basement a sanctuary for the senses: Gothic evokes a certain lighting, a color scheme and a very specific sound. Hang posters of your favorite bands and dark tapestries on the walls to muffle the sound so you can listen to loud music without disturbing the rest of the family. Having a particular environment leads to a state of mind that cancels out the negativity of others. Since many Goths are artists, writers and musicians, this still encourages the creativity and individuality so valued in this medium.

Step 2. Read gothic novels

Literature is appreciated by a good part of the followers, but it is not because it influenced the movement, which is part of it - that is, reading works of fiction will not make you a goth. This label is related, in the first place, to the music. Still, you can enjoy the somber atmosphere this literary genre has to offer. Some outstanding works are:

  • Dracula, by Bram Stoker;
  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley;
  • Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice;
  • The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole;
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë;
  • Zastrozzi, by Percy Bysshe Shelley;
  • All the work of Edgar Allan Poe, especially the poem The Raven.
  • Read gothic poetry and try to compose your own poems. William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is a classic of the genre, as is Sylvia Plath's Ariel.

Step 3. Enjoy all the creativity the community has to offer

Express yourself. Write poetry, paint, take photographs (even better if it's black and white!). Start a goth band. It is a circle full of creative people who want to contribute to it.

Quite often, people neither understand nor respect Gothic culture. If you come across people like that, just walk away. Don't waste time arguing. Be friendly and kind to everyone, and you may change others' perception of Goth for the better

Step 4. Respect your own opinions

Don't let anyone, including other Goths, dictate what you should do. If you don't find The Cure not as moving as Johnny Cash, that's fine. No one can accuse you of being a "false goth" for superficial, secondary reasons. The important thing is that you are authentic and are trying to participate in a community that accepts you for who you are.

Develop your style naturally, allowing yourself to be influenced by what you read and what appeals to your taste, not by pre-set lists of rules. If you have a genuine interest in Goth, you will gradually be influenced by it as you become familiar with it. Do what makes you happy

Part 5 of 5: Getting involved in the community

Step 1. Participate in gothic events, festivals and nightclubs

Every year, in several countries around the world, numerous nightclubs are opened and many gothic festivals are held. Attending them is a way to join the community and hear what other members have to say, especially as you will find people involved with goth for over 30 years, perhaps from the beginnings of the movement.

  • These are the most relevant festivals, events and nightclubs:

    • World Goth Day;
    • Return To The Batcave, in Wrocław, Poland;
    • Release The Bats - deathrock club in Long Beach, California;
    • Whitby Goth Weekend in Whitby, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom;
    • Wave Gotik Treffen, in Leipzig, Germany;
    • And countless goth clubs around the world.
Be Goth Step 17

Step 2. Learn gothic language

Like any other community, Goth also has its inside jokes, and knowing them will make you more comfortable.

  • The main slang and its definitions are listed below:

    • Gothic Credits:

      fictitious scoring system in which points are earned each time a "swelling" act is performed (for example, listening to Bauhaus while dyeing your hair some shade of ebony).

    • Gothic card:

      fictitious document containing the aforementioned punctuation.

    • Baby bat:

      newcomer to goth culture and eager to delve into it. It's not the same as "poser".

    • Canned Gothic:

      name given to those who dress exclusively with items from Hot Topic or any store specializing in gothic fashion - a reprehensible characteristic due to the value that the movement places on individualism and "do it yourself".

    • Batcaver:

      the name of the frequent visitor to The Batcave nightclub, which opened in 1982. Currently, it refers to any gothic veteran and fan of the music that was advertised there.

Be Goth Step 18

Step 3. Make people aware of the gothic world

As a member of it, it is important to make what you know available to baby bats and to those who want to get to know you better. Thus, the cycle of disinformation is broken and correct references are made available to newcomers, very necessary for them, who wish to grow in the subculture. When the press-created image of the Goths reaches people first, they help perpetuate misconceptions, such as that they worship the devil and practice self-mutilation.Above all, many baby bats have unwittingly dumped customs and traditions that make goth what it is. Stripped of context, history and unifying elements, the movement would eventually lose all its value and meaning. Gothic would not be what it is without its roots and trajectory: a complete social movement, with particular music and fashion. All this baggage cannot become a sensation or a mere "state of mind".


  • This article is designed to help baby bats and people interested in entering the gothic world. It is possible to "become" goth, so to speak, but this is not something that happens overnight. Furthermore, no one chooses to have a dark mentality - which is usually what precedes the discovery that one wants to be part of the goth. If a subculture does suit you, your entry into it will be a process of self-discovery, not a forced acquisition of certain musical tastes.
  • Gothic attire is not a costume, nor should it look like one. Invest time and effort into your outfits and customizing them. It shouldn't look like you've just done a store bath at Hot Topic or any alternative fashion store. This would not be creative, nor would it manifest your individuality. However, you can buy some pieces at these outlets, as long as you don't use them to build your entire look.
  • Labeling yourself "goth" doesn't mean you're a poser or a faker. It's just a way to describe who adopts the aesthetics, fashion and music that prevail in this subculture. To say you are not goth would imply that you are not a believer in that lifestyle, which may not be true.
  • Keep your old friends. They don't have to be goth. Remember, though, that some of them, outraged or offended by your new identity, may stop hanging around with you. In any case, don't try to convert them to goth: let them be who they are just as they let you seek your identity.
  • Do not hesitate to participate in "ungothic" activities. Exercising one's individuality doesn't make anyone less gothic. On the contrary: it makes it look less stereotypical and demonstrates that the Gothic identity is embraced with comfort rather than at the expense of the identity itself.
  • Consider spending a season in Europe, where goth is usually taken seriously: there are good magazines in circulation, and the Wave Gotick Treffen, the biggest festival of gothic, experimental and industrial music today, is headquartered in Germany.
  • Remember that Goth is an alternative way of life: homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people will find acceptance in it, as will anyone who is excluded in traditional society.
  • Make a smooth transition to the new style. People will think you don't take Goth seriously or that it's just a temporary whim if you suddenly show up at school wearing a mohawk and Siouxsie Sioux makeup. Only wear clothes that you feel comfortable with. If you don't feel good about a piece, it probably won't go down well. A black T-shirt from your favorite band and black jeans can be as "gothic" as a head-to-toe vampire characterization.
  • Becoming goth doesn't mean you have to change your personality. Every person has a different personality, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, disability, gender or social class.
  • Gothic is not a cult nor does it require its members to adopt any faith. The use of religious images is present in the Gothic universe, but it only supposes a commitment to fashion, and not to any religion.


  • Today, some people abuse the term "elitist" to define who is strict about the context, history, and roots of Gothic. These people think goth is "whatever you want it to be", and they are wrong, as it is very well documented that this movement has roots that go back to punk.
  • Contrary to what laymen believe, Gothic is not a cult, a religion, a lifestyle, nor a "state of mind". A lifestyle, as the expression suggests, is the way one decides to live. A subculture is a group whose beliefs or interests are in conflict with the dominant culture, in which it is inserted. Gothic, in the original sense of the word, which designates the artistic school, can indeed be considered a way of life. The urban tribe of the Goths, in turn, is merely a subculture that formed around the eponymous musical genre.
  • Don't believe in internet polls that promise to guess the subculture (or, to use the buzzword, the stereotype) you belong to. Most of them are imprecise, as they are not based on in-depth research, or are simply put together for fun. Don't take them seriously.

Popular by topic