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Friday, 21 February 2014

Music versus Fashion: The Eternal Goth Debate


Fields of the Nephilim, collar, spiked, goth, music, fashion

Egads. Here we go again. Music or fashion? Is it more important that you wear a Bauhaus t shirt, or know all their B sides?

Since goth music started branching out from post punk, we've been having the debate over whether the clothing or the crooning is more important to the scene. Varying opinions are seen, from Jillian Venters belief that it must be fashion, as turning your wardrobe over to the dark side takes a lot of effort (whilst this is true, I could argue that collecting my gothic rock LPs has taken just as much time and money to amass) to the oft repeated assertion that music is 'the backbone' of the subculture and came first. Every goth is expected to have an opinion on it, even if it's just to say that it's a dumb dichotomy and holding one over the other isn't going to make any difference to goth as a whole.

Just because I like feeling self important, I'm going to buck the trend and say that not only can one be held over the other, but for me they are intrinsically linked.

I mentioned the issue to a friend of mine jokingly sometime ago, and what came out was a quite heated discussion. He asserted that goth wasn't equal to other genres such as punk or rock, because fashion was such an integral part of it. To this I replied by hitting him around the back of the head with a pair of my Dr Martens and pointing out that the fashion evolved naturally from the music scene (and it did, according to the original post punkers), and to look down on something because it focused more on fashion was ridiculous (also, extreme amusement for holding rock above goth or punk, when one of the reasons punk came about was because rock became too self important).

I don't like this kind of fashion phobia. It's the kind of belief that is rooted in centuries of sexism, which says taking an interest in what you wear is frivolous and womanly. I can understand some people just aren't interested in fashion as much as others and music takes precedence when picking your favourite bands, but to criticize something or someone as vapid or self obsessed because they like coordinating their shoes with their bag? That's just playing 'my values are better than your values'. There's also a lot of snobbiness in the music side of the debate, as if it makes you 'greater' or more sophisticated in your enjoyment of the scene. I don't believe that because something came first that it's automatically worth more. Equally, though I wouldn't ever tell people not to take part in the subculture, I do find it odd that some can only enjoy the fashion and not listen to the music, and it's undeniable that goth is a music based subculture.

I find the music/fashion debate irrelevant to me, because not only do I love both parts (it's like asking me do I prefer breathing or pumping my heart more) but, for me, you cannot have one without the other. I mentioned it briefly in a previous post, describing why goth fashion is such an important thing to me -


"I could relate it to dressing for the occasion, but it's more central than that; it's dressing for how you feel."


As someone who likes fashion, I enjoy dressing to match how I feel. This applies to everything for me; if I'm dancing swing, I will pull out the pearls and the seamed stockings. If I'm feeling lazy, it will be jogging bottoms and a t shirt. Goth has heavily influenced my world view - not only that, but the music itself is incredibly moving; you can't help but get into the dissonance and the morbid romanticism of the whole thing. I can't express how strongly the music resonates with me. It takes you up in it.

And because I dress for how I feel, this is expressed through my clothing. This is the reason, I believe, that goth encompasses so many styles - from the winklepickers and the back combing of the early post punkers, to the hair falls and the leg warmers of the cyber goths. Obviously outside influences do play a part (e.g. the lifestyle and availability of clothing, the eighties fashion trend for mahoosive hair), but for me this is the core concept.

For goth, I don't believe in a music fashion dichotomy. I feel that people should have a choice in the matter, and they don't have to like one over the other or even either. It's a personal decision to each and everyone of us, and we shouldn't be telling one another which we feel is more important to the subculture as a whole, because whatever the answer it's not true for everyone.





Fee



18 comments:

  1. I think everyone gets too caught up in these arguments and forgets to have a good time. Which is what life should be all about. If whatever someone is doing isn't hurting anyone, who cares? :D

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    1. I do agree - equally, however, it is important to individuals to be aware of what is important to them in goth (and life generally), but placing them as an all important dichotomy is over exaggerating the importance of the issue.

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    2. I second this...and there's nothing I can't stand more than a music snob. personally, I think music-wise you should support the underground and not the 80s/90s cannon if you want to make a statement with your music. but when it all comes down to it, music is a happy thing and everyone should listen to whatever gives them joy. and have a good time.

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    3. 1666 X 30 - agreed! Music snobs make my blood boil. I think a lot of the reason most gothic blogging and writing focuses on fashion is because the music scene is 'unchanging', in that we still listen to the same stuff as we did thirty years ago. Let's promote new bands now!

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    4. I think this sums up my feelings. Even though she's talking about religion, I think the same thing applies to opinions.

      http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/1e/74/2b/1e742bc47f148954608dad7a6bc9889f.jpg

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    5. Hence the Bambi Rule - 'if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all".

      It's something of an elitist thing, being a music snob in goth (those who prefer the fashion don't seem so bad to me for some reason?); the truth is that no matter what your opinion is, the scene is going to continue on regardless of what you think.

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  2. I have often argued about this topic with myself and reached the conclusion that what is important is to feel comfortable with what you are wearing, regardless if it's fashionable or not, goth or not goth. And as far as music goes, it is a matter of taste. I am a fan of goth music but I cannot say I only listen to goth music. Classical music, ambient, folk and whatnot have also made their way into my playlist. I agree with Liberty Fox, what matters is having a good time and not criticizing what others do. :) (end of blabbing haha)

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    1. I agree completely! Being comfortable and happy in what you wear and listen to is the most important. :)

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  3. For me both sides of this 'goth' coin are equal, with music maybe slightly prevailing.
    I don't have any punk or metalhead past, I went straight from flowy and colourful bohemian clothes to gothic fashion. I was interested in dark romanticism since I was a child, but I didn't wear any black clothes, I even avoided that colour thinking is 'too adult'. At one point I heard The Sisters of Mercy and for the first time in my life I felt a sudden urge to wear everything in black and ripped (ripped! It was the time I thought the only type of goth was romantigoth, so it's even stranger). So it was and still is natural for me to feel gothic fashion is unseparably connected to music, because the music changed my style at once and various subgenres of Dark Independent I listen to continue to affect my clothing style.
    Then again, this story is true only for me and I can understand people who feel otherwise. But, nevertheless, it saddens me a little to see people listening to goth music and not wearing sophisticated alternative clothes (okay, maybe I'm the last one entitled to say this since I myself abandoned this fashion for some time >D).

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    1. That's exactly how I feel! Similarly, I had never seriously considered the gothic fashion as something I could wear, and then I listened to the original Gothic Rock and it all changes. As ever, however, it's individual for everyone, and the most important thing is doing what you like. :)

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  4. I think some people elevate the music above the fashion as they see the music as "art" and the fashion as just "mere clothes", but a lot of the more elaborate outfits I see out there are certainly as much art as clothes. Sure, throwing on some skinny black jeans, a band t-shirt and some spikes may not be the most creative endeavour, but many of us sew and modify our own clothes.

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    1. That's a really good way of phrasing it, actually - fashion isn't considered on the same level as fine art or music. Fashion most definitely is art, though I'm not sure if saying that more regular fare such as jeans and t shirts isn't art is true - on one hand you could argue that it's more of a dress code built on accepted features that doesn't display effort or skill in putting together, and is replicated by many to the point of homogeneity, but you could equally argue that a lot of art is also easily assembled and is enjoyed on a mass scale (for example, the sheer number of Banksy posters at university poster sales).

      I feel like everything can be regarded as art - both simple yet incredibly skilful Japanese folding and pre-written songs sung by music artists of questionable talent. The quality of it is what is really up for debate.

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    2. (Should say that I don't actually think Banksy's work takes very little effort (or, indeed, isn't very skilful) - just that some art is easily reproducible and homogenous in its uptake. Oops!)

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    3. Some of the stuff, especially that displayed at festivals such as Whitby and WGT, or for more elaborate photo-shoots, is stuff that is practically costumery, or wearable sculpture, or textile art; something that's definitely not meant as just a way to clothe your body, and something far too impractical for everyday use. I think there's a LOT of artistry that goes into that sort of stuff, and it is just as thought-out and probably more time-consuming, than many paintings or traditional arts.

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    4. There's definitely a lot of snobbery when it comes to fashion, outside and inside of goth; it's insulting to the artists who are involved in it to devalue their work to a place below traditional art forms.

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