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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Baby Bats: Finding your way in the subculture

Goth beginners! This is a topic that's been to death, unfortunately - we've all been there once, and quite frankly a lot of us are glad we'll never be back. I, certainly, am glad of that, and arguably I had a lot more support than other newbies did. This wasn't even a topic I'd ever planned on blogging about, but the most recent Gothic Charm School post, where the questioner Krista describes feeling like she's 'lost' and a 'fake' entering goth, made me reconsider this.

Starting out the goth subculture is, I won't lie, bloody difficult; as well as expensive or hard to make clothing, 'the list' of approved bands, the high value placed on looking 110% ooky spooky all the time, trying not to look like you've just entered the subculture, navigating the double standards ('don't wear bondage pants, or you'll look like a mall goth! But of course, wear what you want because goth doesn't have a set of rules or anything.') and arguing about what goth actually is, it's a culture shock. We have our own heritage, our own trends, our own in-jokes and social circles, and entering that completely fresh is difficult.

For most of us who have been comfortably identifying as spooky for some time, this might be difficult to remember, but try and think about it from the newbie's point of view; you've only just started exploring your darker tastes, had a wee look on the internet, and BOOM! You're hit with more information than there are sexist double standards in the US Republican Party. Goth is, as I said, completely separate from the mainstream in a lot of ways, and new goths are expected to learn a lot of information very quickly from complete scratch. Whilst those growing into mainstream culture have the advantage of being aware of trends and music and all that from an early age, newbies don't have that. As the questioner from GCS exemplifies, you feel a bit lost.

Being a baby-bat (not a term I'm particularly fond of, but oh well) is difficult for other reasons; the crippling feelings of inadequacy. A lot of us were drawn to the by the photos of elaborate, perfectly dressed alternative models, such as Emily Pollution or Razor Candi, or by the wealth of atmospheric music. But this comes as a double edged sword - there's no way you can listen to all that music history, or build up that kind of wardrobe, dress sense or make up application skill so quickly (particularly when young goths can't buy clothes online, or when we harp on about thrifting or learning to sew so much, which - though great! - does take a lot of time). And what about those who don't fit the modelesque mold? We've already established that fatphobia and idolization of pale skin and western features are problems in the subculture, but even littlethings like not being able to have body modifications because of school can make a new goth feel inferior. As a result of all this, newbies often feel like they won't ever be a 'real' goth and get disheartened.

I started identifying as goth pretty late (comparatively, anyway) in life, just before I started uni, and I struggled with all these things; it took me time to relearn what worked in an outfit and that it was okay to still have a wardrobe in transition. I was worried about not wearing Wave Gotik Treffen-worthy attire 24/7, and only having listened to a narrow selection of gothic rock bands. I struggled with having brown hair in a subculture that values unnatural colours, and because as the only goth in my social circle, I didn't have anyone to look to for advice or to relate to on spooky matters.

I still feel a bit overwhelmed at the amount of goth music out there; it's like staring into a never ending black hole sometimes. I still have moments of 'damn, I wish I'd worn something better today!' when I see another spooky type. But for the most part, I'm comfortable with where I stand. I probably dress non-goth as much as I do goth, but I don't feel guilty for doing so. My friends, though they may roll my eyes when I start regaling them about the interpersonal relationships between the major gothic rock bands whilst drunk (sorry Ben), but I know that regardless of their lack of interest in spooky things they care about me and support me. I may not fit the uber goth image I had when starting out, but I'm sure as hell happy with where I am.

Mysterious black clad femme fatale? Well, no. Delighted at redisovering snap chat on a study break? Absolutely.
Writing this has made me consider making my own advice for baby bats, but I also don't want to contribute to the problem of ALL THE INFORMATION FLUNG AT YOU, so I'm torn. Until I decide what to do about that, I do have this to say -

  1. Goth can be confusing. Don't try and learn everything, and don't act knowledgeable if you aren't. 
  2. Don't listen to all the 'don't do this horrible mall goth thing' tidbits. If you want to wear crow make up, you go wild. (Just know that some people might turn their noses up.)
  3. You don't have to dress to the nines every day; it takes time to build up a goth wardrobe. It's okay that you don't look like Patricia Morrison just yet
  4. There is no holy group of essential goth musicians; there's a lot of bands and artists which kick started the movement and many other famous ones, but don't worry if you only listen to them, dislike then and listen other goth genres entirely or are only here for the fashion.
  5. Just do what you enjoy! Fuck trying to fit yourself into a box, and take all the time you need to work out what you want to do.

It takes time to become comfortable in your skin, and we need to remember this when we start trying to lecture at baby bats.


P.S. I don't believe this post showed up in update feeds, so this is a repost! Apologies if you've seen it before.


  1. Really good post :) It's also good to remind more... 'established' (I guess) goths that sometimes they take themselves too seriously sometimes. This is about having FUN. :D

    1. Thank you so much! We do have a habit of creating arbitrary rules and making things complicated for new goths. We do sometimes need to remember that it's all about the fun. ;)

  2. A very good post indeed :3 It made me think about how I got to where I am now, especially with feeling comfortable in my own skin.

    1. Thanks! I think that feeling comfortable with where you is the real marker determining whether or not you're a 'baby bat' or not.


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