Mikita Brottman in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
As an undergraduate, I liked to annoy the dons at St. Hilda’s College by turning up at my tutorials in a leather biker jacket, a miniskirt, ripped fishnet stockings, and Doc Marten boots. My hair (which has never recovered) was crimped and sprayed into black and pink spikes. “Épater le bourgeois” was the idea, I suppose. I never identified myself as a goth, nor do my own students today who dress in a similar way, but they’d probably accept the term as a fair description of their style and sensibility, as, in retrospect, would I.
Now, of course, I realize the dons at St. Hilda’s had seen it all before. Goth style has been around since the 1970sif not in full bloom, then in hints and gestures, from dyed black hair and pale makeup to Doc Martens, crushed velvet, black nail polish, and fingerless gloves. When I was at college, we added Crazy Color hair streaks and motorbike leathers; my own students add body piercing and tattoos. Goth obviously emerged from punk, but punk didn’t last. The same is true of most subcultures: Hippies are old hat; skinheads have come and gone; grunge is yesterday’s news. Why does goth alone remain undead?
That question is one of many considered in two new books on the subject: Contemporary Gothic, by Catherine Spooner (Reaktion Books), and Goth: Undead Subculture, edited by Lauren M.E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby (Duke University Press). Both books situate the goth movement as a post-punk phenomenon, emerging from the socioeconomic decline of late 1970s Britain.