Writing by Amelia Morgan. Illustration by Cat Easeman.
I first wanted to be a goth when I was 8 years old. I am now 23 and have failed. Way back when I bought a dress from Store 21 that was black with lots of silver buttons on and thought it was the coolest thing ever. With hindsight it wasn’t particularly goth, it was just a dress. As an edgy teenager I dabbled in shitty clothes from Camden, had a pair of fingerless spiky leather gloves, stolen from me by my first boyfriend during our chaotic adolescent break up, and got lots of piercings. Since then every couple of years the goth crisis re-emerges out of the back of my brain to send me into an embarrassing identity crisis. Once it was triggered by accidentally growing out my blue hair: I went to a party and everyone was like omg! You’ve changed your hair! No I hadn’t, I’d just neglected the demanding cycle of bleach and redye. I occasionally have tried to master the big eyeliner, to no avail, and once, humiliatingly, spent £90 on an order from Dolls Kill: made by slaves (probably) in China, shipped to the US and shipped again back to Edinburgh. Ethically bad, environmentally dreadful, and all the clothes were of shoddy quality, made of plastic and overall a big disappointment. I did get some ridiculous (but relatively tame) demonias (platform goth boots), but they were off Depop, not organically goth sourced.
What I have had to realise, after all this nonsense, is that buying the clothes, getting piercings and wearing the big shoes do not make you a goth, much like how wearing patches and tartan do not make one punk. The “alt” influencers selling me things out of my phone were missing something out: subcultures require a culture. Having a micro fringe and a t-shirt with a skull on means nothing when your flatmate is a corporate lawyer. None of my close friends are goths, I don’t like heavy metal (or whatever goths listen to, idk), I haven’t gone lurking about in graveyards in the middle of the night since I was like 16. I like wearing colourful clothes. I never went to goth island in Camden growing up or the Waterloo “meets” (though I think they were more scene/emo???). I just have to admit that the childhood fantasy is not to be and I just have to be content with looking like a lazy and comfortable art student, who mostly just alternates between Lucy and Yaks and jeans.