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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 13:29 GMT
Upwardly gothic
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Mia Joseph
A goth for life
Behind the black hair dye and white make-up goths are simply art lovers, who aspire to middle-class values, says a new study. Is that right?

The moment their teenage son or daughter dyes their hair black and starts getting creative with eyeliner can be a nightmare for parents. But a report suggests it should be a time for celebration.

Goths are likely to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or architects, the study by Sussex University says.

They are refined and sensitive, keen on poetry and books, not big on drugs or anti-social behaviour. They are also likely to carry on being goths into their adult life.

They have an ability to express their feelings and are believers in romance rather than one-night stands, it says. In fact, the only things dark about them are their clothing and their sarcastic sense of humour.

The term comes from Germanic tribe that invaded the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 5th centuries
Goth was thought to be first used to describe bands around 1979, with Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees
There are sub cultures within the sub culture, such as cyber goths
Goth band Bauhaus graced the cover of Smash Hits in 1982
"They won't like me saying it, but their lifestyle, unlike the punk scene, is a middle-class sub culture,'' says Dunja Brill, who carried out the study.

"They are usually intelligent youngsters who have rejected the idea that teenagers must fulfil certain criteria.''

But is that right? Will the pale faced, sullen-looking teenage goth next door end up being your bank manager in 10 years' time? The Magazine headed to the gothic Mecca that is Camden Market to find out.

"Where I live it's usually the chavs who start all the trouble not the goths, so I think we are quite a peaceful lot," says Antoinette Drakes, 16.

"We just mind our own business and get on with what we like to do. But goths are like any other group, a lot depends on the individual.

"On the whole we are quite sensitive but you get some who aren't, who are just posers and are just on the pull. Some will end up being doctors and some will end up being unemployed. Goths are a mix of personalities, just like everyone else."

Antoinette Drakes
'Chavs cause trouble'
But Keeley Dale, 18, says the study is just putting another label on goths.

"It's always about labels in today's society and that exactly why I dress the way I do, I don't want to fit into other people's stereotypes," she says.

"So I'm not only a goth now, I'm also aspiring middle class. What is that anyway? I don't want to be a doctor and read the Daily Telegraph, I want to be a writer and read whatever takes my fancy.

"There are some things that I do recognise in this research, goths can be sensitive and aren't usually violent, but at the end of the day I think such things depend on the person, not the way they choose to dress."

Mia Joseph, 40, has been a goth since her early teens and says it is a way of life for her now. She runs a market stall specialising in gothic wear, leather and PVC.


"It's not about fitting in to a particular subculture, this is just my life. I'm beyond thinking of myself as a goth, I'm just me.

"There are characteristics in the study that I think are true, goths do tend to be peaceful and sensitive, interested in literature and it is a way of life for many that continues long into adulthood. Why that is middle class I don't know.

"I think people are a lot more accepting of us now. Years ago people found my piercing and tattoos threatening, now they are part of everyday life. A lot of people have their nose pierced or a tattoo.

Essential footwear for a goth
"I have grannies who come up to me and say they wish they'd been able to dress the way I do when they were younger."

But there is one trait that seems to cross all teenage sub cultures, whatever they wear, whatever music they listen to and whatever a study says - and that is sex.

"Of course I want to fall in love, but I'm fully prepared to try out quite a few ladies to find the right one," says Dan Taylor, 18.

"I'm still a hormonally-charged teenager after all, as well as a goth."

Keeley shouldn't worry about Goth's reading the Daily Telegraph. Goth's tend to have socialist political views. Furthermore from 10 years of being a Goth I'd say they are more class less than middle class, that's sort of the appeal of the scene.
Vicky, London

I tend to agree with this column, Most of "us" have jobs and we mostly work in high tech where its not what you look like, but can you do the job! Yeah the older ones look at the newbies with pride because they tend turn out ok.
Bill, San Jose Ca. USA

I've been a goth for well over ten years now, it's a big part of my identity. I'm currently a phD student researching Chemistry, and although it may suprise some people, I'm not even the only goth in my lab. It's good to see that someone is attempting to shake off the bad image we goths sometimes get.
Ross Forgan, Edinburgh

Back in 80-84 my mates and I loved the banshees and the cure,they would do the eyeliner and the black lippy while I was happy to listen to the music. None of them are doctors or lawyers or fulfilling artistic ambition of any kind.neither are they still cutting around in pvc trousers or slashed t shirts...they have grown up...they have kids of their own and no doubt will fret just like our folks over their sons and daughters going out dressed 'like that!' the only sustainable element of the goth era was the music...it was brilliant then and brilliant now! Robert Smith for Prime Minister!
mic docherty, Cairo Egypt

I am a 40-something Goth (and have been since my late teens), so is my teenager daughter and my 20-something partner. I would say its definitely a way of life for a me but although I am educated to degree level, I wouldn't say I have particularly middle-class values. I foresee being a 'Goth' until the day I die as it is a part of who I am rather than just a fashion trend or a phase I am going through.
Vicky, Leicester

being a goth myself i agree that goths are more likely to be intelligent and artistic. i come from a working class background, so don't agree that it's a middle-class thing. but it's certainly fun to be in the company of like-minded people
eamonn, brighton

Please don't lump Siouxsie and the Banshees in with the terrible 'Goth' movement. The Banshees may have inadvertantly started the movement but they couldn't control it. Thats why its so bad! Goth is pure pantomime- silly clothes, silly music by fools for fools. Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim- all vile. The Banshees were musical innovators- its a shame Goth didn't take more notice to them...
Simon Jones, London

This is news? Goths have always started off as the kids who were bullied at school for being intelligent or geeky, so of course they'll end up in the more prestigious jobs. It's the "normal" blokes wearing white shirts and drinking Stella that cause the trouble in town centres at night. This is obvious to anyone who's actually met a goth and who doesn't just rely on tabloid stereotypes.
Alice, Brighton

I get accused of being a goth because of the black hair, piercings, evil demeanor etc. But i'm not a real goth (or is that the test?)- i work for the National Trust and do loads of activism with Greenpeace and other groups in my spare time. I wish other "goths" would be less mopey and apathetic and down on the world and take action to change it instead of just superficial aesthetic rebellion!
Felicity, London

It makes perfect sense that authorities and people generally frown on Goths. Goths quite simply have learned to think for themselves and express their own views. Something not generally approved by the state Paolo
Paolo, St Albans

I certainly would prefer a child of mine to be a goth than some tracksuited-baseball-cap-wearing gobby hoody. I know which one would concern me more! I would certainly hold out more hope of a goth actually knuckling down and getting on in life.
Mary, London

Yet more stereotyping and thinly-veiled patronising. Attitude and lifestyle maketh not the goth - it's a club and music scene and nothing more. Those who choose to take the fashion onto the streets are very welcome to - I myself show a tad of it at times - but it's becoming very tiresome to see every black-wearing, shelley-reading intellectual labeled as such. The BBC misses the point once again
Tom, Reading, UK

During the late '80s and early '90s I got in to being a goth. The music, the scene and above all the people were brilliant, absolute diamonds. Although we've all grown up and drifted apart there are few days when I don't think back to those heady days when we were head to toe in black. Goths shouldn't be afraid of labels and certainly shouldn't be afraid to shatter the paradigms. As to the middle class bit, now I'm a Chartered Marketer... Guilty as charged I guess.
Scott, Tamworth (previously Swindon)

Given her rejection of the concept surely Keeley shouldn't label the middle classes as 'doctors who read the Daily Telegraph'?
Laura, Lincoln

Why do people need to follow like sheep and label their taste. I have always had my own personal and very individual style,considered in my teens to my 30's,as gothy, weird,striking, unusual etc.Some elements of which are very much still here(I am now 50)but more in tune with my changing shape and years!!I never wanted to look like anyone else or follow anyone else, and if someone thought my image was bad or a problem, it was actually their problem, I know who I am.
jan, suffolk

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