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Traditional Goth (sometimes shortened to Trad Goth), also known as Batcave and Positive-Punk, came about with the original music genre in the late 70's and early 80's, making it based on the goth aesthetics of that time, hence the name 'traditional' goth. Trad Goths have been cited to listen to (but not be bound to) officially classified goth music, such as Goth Rock, Deathrock, darkwave, coldwave, minimalwave and ethereal wave.

The aesthetic is most often used in reference to the 80s British and Celtic Goth rock scene that developed in clubs like The Batcave, although it is a generalization. The truth is that Post-Punk and Goth came up all around the world during this time, including in America (Deathrock), Spain (Moldova/Sinestro), Japan, Germany (Grufti), Vienna, Argentina, etc.

It peaked in the 90s, but soon collapsed with the over-popularity of industrial/EBM music, which was associated with Goth (although it hadn’t grown out of Goth rock or Post-Punk).

The Scene

Modern Trad Goths or OG Goths are devoted to the core Post-Punk-born musical scene, from the late 70s to the modern era. They also revere and respect “Elder Goths”, namely individuals who experienced the 80s and 90s scenes.

Due to this devotion, they are often misunderstood and misconstrued as “elitists” and “gatekeepers” by people who like the clothing and aesthetic but don’t put proper focus on the music involved. For this reason, many Nu-Goths and Pastel Goths are frustrated with Trad Goths and vise-versa.

In truth, most Trad Goths are extremely open-minded in terms of what constitutes Goth music and towards the modern scene. All that matters to them is the understanding that it did develop from Post-Punk, and understanding Goth as a legitimate musical genre with certain guidelines to its sound and subsequent evolution. They listen to all kinds of music, but they know the difference between Goth and other darkly inclined musical genres.

Unlike newer dark sub-cultures with the “Goth” suffix (like Nu-Goth and Pastel Goth) modern Trad Goths try to be mindful of the religious, cultural, and political iconography used (in comparison to the 80s and 90s scenes) in their fashion. They are well-read in these fields and understand the influences in the imagery they use.

In the modern era, much Trad Goth information comes from blogs like Post-Punk.com (vital to learn about new music in the scene and in related scenes) and YouTube channels/playlists by Cadaver Kelley and KaiDecadence.

It’s important to remember that people of all religious, cultural, and political backgrounds are in and have been in the Goth scene since it began. They aren’t limited in their style and aesthetic expression (ie, black is not always used despite its popularity in the scene). The only thing that draws them together is their love for Goth music, their appreciation of the culture’s past, and an excitement over its future.

They can be found in Goth and 80s-rewind nights at clubs, coffee shops, bookstores, and record shops having stimulating conversations about literature, music, and the arts. They can often be spotted wearing DIY jackets covered in pins and patches of their favorite bands, exaggerated dark-colored eyeliner, and smoking clove cigarettes (with or without nicotine).

Music

The Cure.jpg

Music is incredibly important to Trad Goths. Here are some examples (mostly from the 80s just to show how many bands there have been around the world since then):

Goth Rock/Batcave

  • Bauhaus
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • Joy Division
  • The Cult
  • The Cure
  • Gene Loves Jezebel
  • The Virgin Prunes
  • The Specimen
  • Alien Sex Fiend
  • Xmal Deutschland
  • Madame Edwarda
  • Auto-Mod
  • Seres Vacios
  • Flesh For Lulu
  • Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
  • Zero Le Creche
  • Asmodi Bizarr
  • Exces Nocturne
  • Danielle Dax
  • Lords of the New Church
  • The Mission UK


Deathrock

  • Christian Death
  • 45 Grave
  • True Sounds of Liberty
  • Patricia Morrison
  • Paralisis Permanente
  • Phaidia
  • Neva
  • Bone Orchard
  • Voodoo Church
  • Skeletal Family
  • Blood and Roses
  • Play Dead
  • The Birthday Party
  • Garden of Delight (80s)
  • Kommunity FK


Darkwave

  • Clan of Xymox
  • The Danse Society
  • The Vyllies
  • Astaron
  • Die Form
  • Kirlian Camera
  • Depeche Mode
  • Psyche


Ethereal Wave

  • Cocteau Twins
  • This Mortal Coil
  • All About Eve
  • Lowlife
  • Breathless
  • And Also the Trees
  • Black Tape For A Blue Girl


Neoclassical Darkwave

  • Collection d’Arnell Andrea
  • Dead Can Dance

Coldwave

  • Opera de Nuit
  • Martin DuPont

Dark Cabaret

  • Marc and the Mambas
  • Rozz Williams

Fashion

Trad Goth girl school photo

It’s important to note that 80s Goth styles were far more varied than they became popular in the 90s. There was no restriction to black or dark colors and different bands evolved different looks. Because of this and because Goth is mainly a musical scene, it’s possible for a Trad Goth to dress in any way they want to, particularly since the scene has had so many different looks and aesthetic facets.

In the 80s, they tended towards stereotypical Batcave and Trad Goth styles, Deathrock (which is a somewhat more punk variant), or the nameless ethereal, romantic, and bohemian type styles now grouped under Woodland Goth and Ethereal Goth.

Shared Aspects

  • Androgyny
  • Clove cigarettes
  • Ripped items
  • Tattered edges
  • Winklepicker boots
  • Platform boots
  • Cross necklaces
  • Black beads
  • Mesh gloves
  • Various piercings
  • Egyptian eyeliner
  • Teased hair
  • Dark red lipstick
  • Dramatic blush/contour
  • DIY effects


Trad Goth/Batcave Styles

  • Leather jackets
  • Short, low waisted skirts
  • Studs/Studded accessories
  • Fishnet
  • Band Tees
  • Spiky, puff-ball hair
  • Body paint
  • Western styles
  • Flat black hats
  • Felted coats
  • Mid-length skirts
  • Black and white
  • Inspired by Bauhaus, Specimen, Virgin Prunes, Alien Sex Fiend, and The Sisters of Mercy


Deathrock Styles

  • Wedding dresses
  • Dramatic hats
  • Veils
  • Opera gloves
  • Metal grommets
  • Military fatigues
  • Bright hair dye
  • Punk elements
  • Rips and holes
  • Vintage
  • Vibrant colors (like red or gold)
  • Inspired by Christian Death, 45 Grave, Kommunity FK, True Sounds of Liberty, and Patricia Morrison


Ethereal Goth/Woodland Goth Styles

  • Long maxi skirts
  • Lace details
  • Brocade and velvet
  • Kimonos
  • Puff sleeves
  • Pearls
  • Jewel tones
  • Draped scarves
  • Handkerchief hems
  • Bangles
  • Sequins and glitter
  • Inspired by Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, The Mission UK, The Cult, and Gene Loves Jezebel


Subgenres

This is mostly using names and terms from the 80s before the term “Goth” was used. (This is also before the terms Ethereal Goth and Woodland Goth were used or fully delineated, so the generalization of 4AD is used to describe the aesthetic.)

Nico (of The Velvet Underground) is considered by most OG Goth bands to be the godmother of the scene. Frustrated with the twee folk genre she had been lumped into, she rebelled (with encouragement from Jim Morrison) and created the album The Marble Index in the late 60s.

This is widely considered to be the first Goth album (see the main Wiki page for Nico). For this express reason, Nico was later adopted into the 80s Goth scene. She performed with Bauhaus, opened for Siouxsie and the Banshees, and toured with Gene Loves Jezebel, thus cementing her status as an overlooked Goth legend.

UK - Batcave

The term “Batcave” is in reference to the niche British club The Batcave, which helped start the Goth (at that time called Positive Punk) movement in that country during the early 80s.

It was owned by Ollie Wisdom of The Batcave house band, The Specimen. What made it unusual at the time was that it exclusively played alternative/independent music and refused anything remotely “pop”. As such, many other bands developed in this club including The Virgin Prunes, Alien Sex Fiend, and Danielle Dax.

Yet before The Batcave, in the late 70s, there were several bands that later performed there, and are now considered progenitors of Goth. Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Damned all appeared slightly before The Batcave, indulging in what they described as “punk” or (in Bauhaus’ case) “dark glam”.

The seeds these three bands had sown with their gothic, almost-costume fashions, morbid lyrics, and bass-driven Post-Punk lead to an explosion of bands that made music and used imagery in a similar vein (including the most famous, The Sisters of Mercy).

USA - Deathrock

Under Construction

Spain - Moldova/Sinestro

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Germany - Grufti

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Japan - J-Goth

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Australia - Swampie

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UK - 4AD

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UK - Cureheads

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World - 90s Goth

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Other Media

Movies

  • The Hunger
  • The Company of Wolves
  • Vamp


Books

  • Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Post-Punk and Goth in the 1980s


Comic Books

  • James O Barr’s The Crow
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

Gallery



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