Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Goth: Dar'st thou dye?

Do Goths have to dye their hair?

It's something I've heard often in conversation among goths or people interested in the gothic subculture: if I want to be goth, do I have to dye my hair a weird colour? And get piercings and listen to death metal? 

Any elder goth will tell you the answer is definitively no. You do not have to do any of those things and no one is going to make you do anything against your will. However, the question as to whether or not these things make you goth is debatable. The definition of goth can vary dramatically per person; there are those who advocate that the classic goth is the only goth and others who believe more abstract interpretations are deserving of the title.

If by chance you met me at random, you might choose to classify me as goth based solely upon what I wear. I would disagree with you because I am not sure I identify myself as goth. I just happen to like bats and Hallowe'en a lot (but according to some people that is goth). Recently I was purchasing a piece of gothic clothing from a girl. She mentioned that when she was looking for me she was attempting to find some kind of indication that I was the buyer: dyed hair, piercings, goth clothes. She assumed that I would be goth because who else would buy goth stuff? Well, I'm glad I decided for that day I would dress entirely in black and carry a bat purse, otherwise she may not have spotted me and sold it to the next girl with dyed hair and piercings. I'm not slamming her for her thought process, this is how she perceives goth, but it got me thinking: what makes a goth?

Dyed hair does not a goth make

As I mentioned above there are no set rules for becoming a goth, however it is expected of you to at least educate yourself in regards to the history of the gothic subculture. This means learning about original goth music, its club scene and the lifestyle associated with it. You don't need to necessarily enjoy any of it, but knowing it is important because it's how the gothic subculture came to be. You don't become a Christian without going to church or reading some of the bible; real Christianity is not just adopting a belief in god, the same can be said for the goth culture. As in your educational pursuits, you will be expected to learn shit that you feel has no real relation to your life or any application within the real world, but it prepares you for lengthy conversations with other goth enthusiasts and on a deeper unconscious level it opens your mind to the gothic world as a whole.

That being said, there are many stereotypes that have developed within the gothic community that people have adopted and perpetuated. Dyed hair is among them. Does dyed hair really make you goth? In recent years I've seen all types of people dyeing their hair weird colours (including me), so it's clearly not restricted to the gothic scene alone. Yet there appears to be a stigma against people with normal hair claiming to be goth. Without an alternative hairstyle it's as though you become just a person wearing black.

I have read many gothic blogs where an individual will lament their return to denim jeans and natural hair dye. To the point they want to break down in tears. It's really quite silly! Where does this pressure to conform come from? Why do so many people believe they won't be considered goth if they have brown hair? It's ridiculous. The original female goth idols, like Theda Bara and Maila Nurmi, were not strictly box black dye jobs. In fact, Nurmi is photographed with a variety of hair styles and colours and I believe her natural hair was a dirty blonde or light shade of brunette. Does that make me think any less of her as a gothic icon? Hell no! It commands respect.

Theda Bara and Maila Nurmi

I certainly envy the fact that these women lived in a time long before the goth stereotypes were established. They were happy to be themselves. Sure they received criticism but it wasn't from their goth peers; they didn't walk into an underground nightclub only to be ostracized for not having piercings! This is what I want to do away with, the stereotypes that segregate people within the gothic community. It pisses me off. I've watched friends struggle for social acceptance within the scene, after being told they're not "goth" enough, and it just confuses the fuck out of me. Who are these people to stand in judgment of you and tell you that you aren't good enough? Since when did the goth community become an impenetrable fortress or secret society that only the social gothic elite could enter?!

I believe there is something to be said about goths with natural hair. They are not just people wearing black. To me they look dainty and beautiful, well everyone is beautiful, but natural hair allows for a degree of delicacy whereas unnatural colours are shocking to the eye and are not always complimentary to the skin. Where certain boxed dyes can look garish and overpowering, natural hair colour is subtle and often provides a lovely accent or breaks up the all black outfit. As you can see in the photos below (not judging by outfits!) the girls with the fair, natural looking hair stick out. Their light hair colours contrast their outfits and make for a more interesting appearance. Can I say how much I adore ginger goths?! They're like Hallowe'en incarnated.

So let's please stop criticizing goths with natural hair colours! Let's be more accommodating towards the different styles of goth so that we may develop a friendlier and more accessible subculture for future generations. Perhaps one day we can achieve the expressive and creative freedom that Maila Nurmi experienced, before those nasty stereotypes seeped in and pissed all over everything.

What do you think about these stereotypes? Do they help or hinder the gothic community?

Kind regards,


  1. I totally agree with you on the fact that there's more to goth than what meets the eye. I think the same can be said about rockabilly for instance. What is it that makes you a rockabilly person? Bettie bangs, victory rolls, red lipstick, tattoos, always wearing Hell Bunny dresses or (on the contrary) head to toes 50s vintage, posing as a pinup...? Nah, I don't think so...

  2. Lol that is exactly what I see with rockabilly these days. Apparently to some it is just victory rolls, cat eyes, red lipstick and polka dot dresses with peep toe pumps. There's times when I just want to shake those girls and say, "ditch the red handkerchief and do something different!" but I know it wouldn't make a difference. Just as in every subculture there will be groups of people who see everything in black and white.

  3. My hair is baby soft and thin, it's too frail. I have dyed it a couple of times but it was too weakened, so I stopped dying and overprocessing it and I started taking a supplement. It looks shiny and healthy and that's what matters the most for me. I heard about henna and non-chemical dyes but I don't have the time to look into it. I'd appreciate an article about more natural dyes

    1. That supplement sounds great! My hair is very fine also. I haven't tried henna dyes, but I've heard they keep hair healthy and have subtle results, although people are at a greater risk of being allergic to henna dyes. I'm not sure if I'll dye my hair again, right now I'm growing out my natural colour and it's nice. :)


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