Every now and then, Snarklings, the Gothic Charm School mailbox sees a gentle flurry of correspondence from older readers asking about returning to their gothy roots. How should they dress? Where can they find other older Goths? Are they too old to
seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade return to the velvet-shrouded gloom? This letter from Bobby is a perfect example:
question: I was goth back in college (I’m 33 now) and have since become a regular joe working as a medic for a rescue squad and all the niceties that come with having a wife and 2 year old daughter. But the past few years I’ve felt the pull to go back to black so to speak, but have suppressed it. The pull is getting stronger and I’m wondering if I’m too old to return. I don’t know and haven’t seen any goths where I live that are my age to talk to. So I’m curious how to even go about it. I know you say even at my age there’s nothing wrong with returning but I don’t even know how to dress as an adult goth. I’m 6’2″ 325lbs so I can’t pull off what I used to wear and would need to tone it down anyway. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Now, it’s been a while since the Lady of the Manners addressed this topic, but everything she said in 2003, 2008, and multiple posts from 2009 still holds true. However, to examine some of Bobby’s concerns:
- No, dark heart, you are not too old to return to your extended Addams Family. The Lady of the Manners is older than you, and many, MANY of the people she admires are older than her by quite a lot. Revel in the fact that you are old enough to know who you are and what you want to spend your time on, and (the Lady of the Manners hopes) secure enough to not worry about other people’s opinions. Be who you want to be; if that involves darker colors and music full of dark bombast, so much the better.
- You haven’t seen any Goths your age around where you live? That’s what the internet is for! What is drawing you back to the shadowy side? The music? The literature? Horror movies? An appreciation for the overall glamorous decayed aesthetic? Whatever your interests are, type them into the search engine of your choice and start looking around. No, you may not find a community of older Goth types right away, but you will almost certainly find sites that appeal to your interests and help you find those like-minded adults. And don’t forget to search whatever your preferred social networking site is for online communities for grown-up Goths, because there are a lot of them.
- Also, keep a close eye out for concerts and events in your area that would probably attract an older Goth crowd. It’s become something of a running (skulking and lurking?) joke that certain Goth-friendly bands on reunion tours will pull all of the Eldergoths out of their coffins. The Damned, Dead Can Dance, Peter Murphy, Sisters of Mercy all have played shows in the past few years, and have been fantastic events for reconnecting with spooky people of a Certain Age.
- How to dress as an adult Goth? Wear whatever appeals to you, and works for your lifestyle! However, slacks, jeans, some dress shirts and a nice tie or two, and a sharp blazer are all good pieces to have in basic black, and can all be found at a wide variety of shops (including thrift stores and big-box retailers). Add in some concert tees for beloved bands, and you should be all set. (Tho’ the Lady of the Manners feels she should warn you about the outrageous secondary market prices for vintage concert shirts, as she has not quite recovered from seeing a shirt for The Damned priced at $500.)
- Don’t forget jewelry! Tie tacks, cufflinks, and lapel pins can add a dash of ghoulish glamour if you’re aiming for a more dandified look. While your job as a medic on a rescue squad probably means you can’t indulge in substantial rings or bracelets, you probably could wear a necklace under your uniform. (Kudos to you for being one of the heros who work with rescue squads – your work is hard and very appreciated.)
- Of course, one of the best things about being an older member of our spooky subculture is that we don’t (well, shouldn’t) have the constant societal pressure to justify what catches our interests, or to defend why we are drawn to things. And if you find yourself feeling like you need to justify your interests, or find yourself using phrases such as “guilty pleasures”, try to remember that there are times when the phrase “Because I do. And?” is completely appropriate to use.
Another flavor of Eldergoth correspondence that occasionally flutters into the Gothic Charm School mailbox is from people who are not questioning a return to the darker side of things, but want to express their support, which is wonderful! But sometimes that support comes with mixed messages:
As an early adopter, or original ’70’s bat caver, I will only add that goths are born not made.
At 54, the eyeliner is out, so although I admire Criss Angel copying the look we had in 1980, we elders can’t pull it off. An understated, sophisticated look is best.
One must keep their weight down as well, gaunt and pale rules the night.
While the Lady of the Manners is always happy to see mail from the first generation of Goths, this message troubles her a tiny bit, because sweeping blanket statements about Goth (or any subculture) usually do.
“An understated, sophisticated look is best”. Perhaps for some, but the Lady of the Manners feels that Goths, especially Eldergoths, should decide what looks they think are best for themselves. One of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite fashion blogs is Advanced Style, precisely because it shows people who aren’t afraid to embrace elaborate styles that aren’t “understated” by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Lady of the Manners is going to save the photos of this fabulous lady for future reference. (Oh yes, the plan is that once the Lady of the Manners’ hair goes completely white, the black dye will stop and it will be brilliant pink hair all the time.)
If you are a person who has embraced an over-the-top and “overstated” style for most of your life, you shouldn’t be afraid to flaunt it as you get older. The comment about understated and sophisticated looks, while almost certainly well-meant, is perilously close to the sentiments of Goth being a phase and something to grow out of.
As for the notion that “gaunt and pale rules the night” — NO, the Lady of the Manners most vehemently disagrees with that. Yes, the classic images that the Goth aesthetic sprang from are primarily of pale, wan, and gaunt creatures of the night, but that doesn’t mean those are the only acceptable forms of the Goth aesthetic. Goths are of all ages, sizes, and skin tones, and the notion that someone must tortuously and slavishly contort themselves to fit the skinny and pale mold is not acceptable.
In other words, Snarklings, if you want your personal vision of Goth to be understated, sophisticated, gaunt, and pale, by all means, do so! But don’t feel that you have to look like that to be part of the Goth world, and absolutely don’t think that you must change who you are to be accepted by the rest of your spooky and shadow-clad subculture. And finally, if someone tries to tell you that you are too old, too young, too … something to be a Real Goth, feel free to laugh at that person. The Elder Goth Cabal (That Does Not Exist) doesn’t agree with them at all, and thinks it’s terribly quaint when someone tries to insist on such ridiculous and arbitrary false rules.