Subculture is a term whose meaning has evolved over time. As reported by McLaughlin & Muncie (2006, p. 427), subculture was initially used by anthropologists and criminologists to refer to various forms of social deviance and criminal attitudes resulting from values that were different from the ones associated with a dominant culture. In broader terms, subculture may be defined as a special group of people who share similar beliefs, values, behavioral patterns and interests that differ from those of the dominant culture or other subcultures (Hanson, Venturelli & Fleckenstein, 2014, p. 499).The Goth subculture originated in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, when gothic rock and punk music was extremely popular. Unlike other cultural trends which were limited to specific art forms, the Goth subculture has influenced a vast array of fields, including music, fashion, literature, films (e.g. The Matrix, Donnie Darko and Buffy the Vampire) and even the cosmetic industry. As far as music is concerned, the Goth subculture encompasses various genres, including gothic rock, neoclassical, industrial, deathrock and darkwave, to name but a few. With regards to clothing, goths tend to wear dark clothes and Victorian-inspired dresses, which contrast with their remarkably pale skin (which is either natural or achieved through specific make-up products) and black hair.
Research has revealed that goths use their appearance as a tool to stand out from the crowd, run away from peer pressure and support their main values, including freedom and authenticity (Goodlad & Bibby, 2007, p. 325). In a certain way, gothic values reflect the ideologies of uniqueness and self-expression that are commonly associated with rock music (Goodlad & Bibby, 2007, p. 325). Despite being a large and rather homogeneous group, the Goth subculture is not characterized by a set of rules; on the contrary, goths are free to wear anything they want and are not required to favor a specific type of music in order to attend events (Goodlad & Bibby, 2007, p. 325). That is because the Goth subculture celebrates individual differences and encourages its members to stay away from what is considered to be normal and ordinary (Goodlad & Bibby, 2007, p. 325).
Cooley’s (1902) looking-glass self theory states that people develop their identity in response to social interactions and others’ perceptions of them. Based on his theory, people who choose to join the Goth subculture do so because they perceive themselves and their chosen group in a specific way. Specifically, they perceive themselves as unique, different, free, strong and unusual, and as a result of that, they join a subculture which embodies all of these attributes.
In conclusion, the Goth subculture has managed to attract numerous people all over the world thanks to its distinctive values and features, which have helped many goths develop a strong identity.
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