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Back to black: goths go mainstream in corsets, leather and lace

IIt has been 20 years since pale faces, dark eyes and black clothes haunted secondary schools and shopping centers in the UK. While some may argue that they never left and just retreated into the shadows, the consensus for 2022 is that goth style is returning to mainstream culture with a vengeance.

There are some differences this time. Modern goth is more inspired by ultra-glamorous “hot goth girlfriends” like Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox and fashion darlings Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto than the Marilyn Manson-loving self-confessed outsiders of the early 2000s.

They are also more likely to integrate elements of a dark style of dressing into their wardrobe than to subscribe to an entire culture and lifestyle, with shopping platforms and social media sites reporting a huge increase in searches for the word “goth”.

Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian. Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“At one point there was an idea that gothic was ‘strange and unusual’, but it doesn’t feel that way anymore. I wouldn’t say it’s mainstream, but it’s much more visible,” said Catherine Spooner, a professor at Lancaster University who specializes in goth culture.

Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster, sees the new goth style as a response to the slick, gym-slicked, Instagram-filtered perfection of the 2010s. “It’s gotten unappealing. Instead, smudged eyeliner, bitten oxblood lips and a deadly pallor have become alluring again.”

He said it’s not surprising that people are looking for ways to aesthetically express dark emotions when “we’ve been inundated with news of death, mortality and disease since the start of the pandemic,” while school closures have lent themselves to an atmosphere of “romantic withdrawal, sullenness and introspection” among teenagers.

A participant in the biannual Whitby Goth Weekend festival in Whitby, England.
A participant in the biannual Whitby Goth Weekend festival in Whitby, England. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Popular with Gen Z consumers, clothing resale app Depop reported a 20% increase in searches for “goth” and “gothcore” over the past three months, including a 200% spike for “black corset top” in October. .

Sophie Daly, that one gothic clothing company on Depop, said the new approach to goth style is to mix and match influences, as online communities have previously linked disparate tribes, united by a love of gloomy palettes and dark thoughts. She said: “Visually, a goth can be literally anything now. Goths don’t even have to wear black in 2022.”

She said videos on TikTok, such as the one under the #goth hashtag, which has 8.8 billion views, are fueling interest in vintage gothic fashion, with some sellers auctioning pieces for up to £350 due to high demand.

Shopping platform Lyst said searches for collections by cult goth designer Rick Owens, featuring black leather and punk details like rips and zippers, have grown 200% this year. Searches for black items have increased by 169%, while chokers have grown by 81% and fishnet tops by 196%.

Pinterest data, on the other hand, points to the goth aesthetic affecting everyday life. Searches for “goth business casual,” described as “Wednesday Addams goes to the office,” are up 90% this year, with goth baby clothes up 120%, goth decor up 85% and searches for goth pajamas up 185 %.

This is reflected in the online communities that build around the topic. On Reddit, the r/Goth community has grown 35% to 101,000 members in the past year, while r/GothStyle had a 136% increase to 115,000 members.

The focus this time was on personal style and the way it was inspired and out of fashion, with cybergoths haunting the runway in Balenciaga’s Spring-Summer 2022 show, Givenchy with ’90s teen goths and Olivier Theyskens is inspired by gothic brides.

Willow Smith performs at the Electric Ballroom in London.
Willow Smith performs at the Electric Ballroom in London. Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty

There is also a Gothic influence on the culture in a broader sense. Taylor Swift’s latest album hints at folk horror, Willow Smith has a subversive new look, and 18-year-old singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo, who has a “goth princess” aesthetic, hints at the goth-adjacent emo subculture of the mid-2000s in her songs.

Daniel Rodgers, a fashion and culture writer, said the new goth aesthetic aligns with the early 1990s revival that has defined youth fashion and culture in recent years. It’s not a return of the “deadly-looking goth,” he said, but rather a way to “move into the subculture more broadly” by drawing from a mix of earlier dark style strains, including emo, punk, and goth strands. like the Camden-inspired cybergoth look.

Rodgers charts the current moment of the eboys and egirls phenomenon of the late 2010s, when young gamers popularized a style that combined elements of goth and emo with Japanese anime and cosplay. He sees this and the current iteration of gothic as a reflection of the way culture is evolving on the internet.

“We’re in a constant cycle of looking back and reproducing things, spewing references on the table, that’s like a buffet from which young people can choose.”