Gothic scene “You sometimes have to lower your expectations in day-to-day life”

“The idea that we go into the cellar to have a laugh”, “That we’re depressive and hang around graveyards all the time” – are the responses from Clara, Robert and Sonja when they are asked about the most common clichés associated with the Goth scene. This youth culture, which has always been current, took hold in Germany in the 1980s and still faces many prejudices even now. A steampunk, a Goth and a black romantic tell us about the Gothic scene. And it’s more colourful than you would guess at first glance.

Clara, 22, steampunk

Clara, 22, Steampunk Clara, 22, Steampunk | Photo: privat I’ve been involved in the Japanese fashion scene for a few years, with the “Lolitas”. The name often triggers false associations. The inspiration for this is not Nabokov’s Lolita, it’s the Victorian one. It’s closely related to the steampunk culture. Whilst I was looking for inspiration I came across an outfit on the internet that was captioned “Steampunk Lolita”. I researched further and realised that I had always liked many of the things that are associated with steampunk. Do-it-yourself is paramount for steampunk. That also means “Help each other!” I found steampunk through sewing. If someone finds a good dress-making pattern, it gets posted so that others can share it too. It isn’t a case of individuals trying to do something great to benefit themselves, it’s everyone together. I think that’s brilliant.

Punk is always about rebellion, with steampunk it’s rebellion against the consumer society. Steampunks recycle a lot. If they find a broken clock at a car-boot sale, they take it apart and use the bits to make jewellery. Or I look for clothes that no one else wants and use them to make something new. I like wearing my steampunk clothes for conventions and photo shoots. But in everyday life you can’t always tell I’m a steampunk.

Robert, 39, Goth


Robert, 39, Goth Robert, 39, Goth | Photo: privat Gothic is still a youth culture, but over the years it has matured into a culture you can belong to even when you are older. I found the Goth culture at 15 through the music and clothes. I was and still am an ardent Depeche Mode fan and listened to The Cure. I felt drawn to the cool figures in black on the school playground, who were wearing band shirts and didn’t want to belong to the others. I was attracted by the way they styled themselves and the almost elitist way they stuck together. At least that’s how it looked from outside. Some of them looked like Robert Smith or Martin Gore, and they stood in the darkest corners whispering. I thought that was cool, and because I liked the same music I wanted to be one of them. It was all over by the time I was 19 because I didn’t find what I was looking for.

It was not until I was 30 that I had a sort of reincarnation. It is the wealth of different aspects that fascinates me today. The Gothic culture is more than music and black clothes. It’s a living sub-culture in which an incredible amount of creativity lies dormant. I’m not afraid of being labelled. I call myself a Goth. Most people in the scene are open and approachable if you treat them as equals. It’s harder if you want to get to the “core”, in other words that place where the Gothic culture is seen as more than just a catwalk in black. For me, being a Goth is a life attitude. I don’t want to suppress anything, and I accept the dark side and the light side within me. As far as the outfit’s concerned, you sometimes have to lower your expectations in day-to-day life. At my work I can hardly wear any jewellery because of safety regulations, and I’m forced to go round in a blue work overall.

Sonja, 28, black romantic

Sonja, 28, black romantic Sonja, 28, black romantic | Photo: privat I was only seven when I started listening to classical radio. If they played a dark side of Beethoven, it gave me goose bumps. Later on I loved the night, moonlight and dark forests. The origins of the scene are rooted in 19th century literature, in the Gothic novel. The black romantic idea means a lot to me. I got into the black scene late and via a circuitous route. I started to wear black and listen to the music at 14. But as a teenager I slipped into the punk scene at first. I was 21 when I really started to become involved with the Gothic scene. At first that seemed alien to my family. Some of my relatives are very Christian. They assumed I had joined a sect. But I spoke to my family and explained what it was all about. Now it’s OK.

Being a Goth is a break with convention. But there are also arch-conservative people amongst the black romantics who stand up for old-fashioned values. For me, black romanticism means having a penchant for past times. I feel drawn to the Victorian age and late 19th century industrialisation. I think the fashion looks nice, the style, certain cultural conditions. For instance the fact that the French language was held in such high esteem in those days, and that women were taught to dance, play the piano and do needlework. But as a woman back then you were limited in your capacity for self-fulfilment – I prefer how things are today.