While it’s heartening to see young people still dressing in a Goth style, are these kids in their floppy black hats and crucifixes “real” Goths? The debate over Nu Goth has been taking place for a few years now, a weird conversation really, given the misuse of “nu” to denote a resurgence of something that never really went away. But while old school (trad) Goths will point out that they’ve never stopped being Goth, for a few years there, the acknowledgement and interest in Goth fell from the mainstream – which is to say that mainstream fashion, for one or two years, didn’t trot out black clothes for fall and go, “Ooh, look! Spooky!”
So what the kids ended up with is a contradictory mishmash of a bunch of styles from various sources, heavily paralleling mainstream fashion trends, occasionally laced with an interest in dark culture, but with little interest in the music. In another time, we’d have called these people poseurs – dressing up to look like part of a subculture that they’re not wholly enmeshed in – since pretty much every youth subculture for decades had paired music and style. Is it even a subculture if it’s only about the fashion?
Nu Goth is a Sub Genre of the gothic community heavily rooted and influenced by traditional gothic music, aesthetics and philosophy. Popular bands among Nu Goths include Siouxie & The Banshees, Bauhaus, and Switchblade Symphony among many others from the Batcave and Post-punk era.
From a fashion stand-point, most older Goths consider it to be awatered down version of a true subculture with kids picking and choosing which Goth fashion elements to include in their look. The Gloom Generation has a great post on how the style differentiates from trad Goth style.
Also called hipster Goth and related to pastel Goth – Nu Goths have a predilection for long, straight, pastel-coloured hair instead of the black or red spiky styles of old, mirroring current mainstream hairstyles – the look includes lots of black: dresses, tight jeans or leggings, Wednesday Addams-inspired dresses, big hats, round sunglasses, long t-shirts worn as dresses, thigh-high stockings and big boots. Scarves, shawls and fringed ponchos round out a cold weather look.
But how did we get here? The influences include Japanese fashion – both Gothic Lolita and Dark Mori – and Strega. And while probably everyone is at least vaguely associated with the frilly, pastel-colored crinolined outfits of the Gothic Lolita style, the others require a bit more explaining.
Dark Mori is a version of Japanese Mori style – Mori is a flowy, natural look, with plenty of layered pale, pastel or natural fabrics, and lots of woodland imagery – think Miss Havisham in her yellowing wedding dress covered in faded, tattered lace and you’ll be getting close. Dark Mori, which supposedly came about without any musical influence, is the same silhouette, only in shades of grey and black. There is a fair amount of crossover with more architectural Japanese fashion design (Yamamoto, for instance), and this is where we get all of the asymmetrical layers, massive scarves and ponchos. Dark Mori comes with an odd set of rules or suggestions, but that seems to be standard in these style groups.
Strega is Italian for witch, and strega fashion is about all things witchy. If you want a prominent example of strega style, look no further thanAmerica Horror Story Coven series, in which all of the students wore examples of strega fashion, from high end to low end to plus size.Strega fashion too, comes with a list of rules, although one of the rules is that there are no rules. Strega enthusiasts are quite open about the fact that while they pull influences from Goth style, they are not Goth and have no association with the music or subculture. There also doesn’t seem to be any connection to Wicca, or actual witchcraft, which pushes it into a weird area of religious appropriation that might not be terribly cool… but then these are the kids whose peers show up to festivals like Coachella wearing ceremonial First Nations headdresses, so it’s likely they just haven’t researched where their iconography is coming from.
But will it stick around? I’ve come across posts from as early as 2011 bemoaning this trend, so it’s got legs, to be sure. I suspect that for any of the kids who feel an actual affinity for the culture, those who are in it for something more than just the fashion, and who have growing respect for the music, literature, films and overall lifestyle, there will be reasons to hang on to the fashions. But with a style (note that I’m actively avoiding the term subculture) so interwoven with contemporary trends, I can see it dying off as the mainstream picks up on something new. Despite the claims to vintage and retro garments, high street shops such as Forever 21, Torrid and ASOS in the UK are definitely selling a variety of the standard Nu Goth/Strega gear. Will Nu Goths keep wearing the big floppy hat, for instance, when that item drops from favour in the mainstream? Or will they find black versions of whatever is new and hip?
In the interim, old gits, there has never been a better time to access Gothy/alternative fashion in regular old shops. Yes, a fair amount of it is very “young” and plays to youthful trends, so picking carefully is key (I’m not sure I could personally pull off a Wednesday Addams dress), but almost all high street shops have picked up some variation of the trend, and it’s available in all price and size ranges. So before becoming offended when a bunch of teenagers seem to be disrespecting the style many of us have cultivated for decades, consider instead following them through the mall to find where they’re shopping and beating them at their own style game. Sure, being geared to a younger demographic, much of it will be cheaply made crap, but there just might be a few gems that an old Goth could work into their wardrobe and make their own.
This article originally appeared on Still Weird Zine.