Why the gothic look is far more than just black lipstick

Gothic beauty is being touted as the trend of the season, but scratch a little deeper and there is more than meets the eye, explains Anita Bhagwandas

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By Anita Bhagwandas on

Goth is in. You’re going to see a plethora of it over the next few months in fashion and beauty, with arguably the darkest season in years. Magazines and tutorials will exhort you to "Vamp up your make-up routine" or "Go goth this season", like it’s purely an aesthetic trend to be dipped in and out of with wild abandon. But, let me tell you, my friends: it isn’t.

I didn’t fully become a goth until I was 15, but I’d been wearing crushed black velvet for a couple of years, instinctively, and had found a curious sense of joy in the macabre and a love of bands like Clan Of Xymox and Nine Inch Nails. But, back in the 90s, if you looked like you were part of something "different", other people had an opinion. When I started truly identifying as alternative – wearing Slipknot hoodies, baggy black jeans and hitting my local rock club TJ’s in Newport, South Wales – there was a definite feeling of them versus "us". I was called a few harmless names at school, like "mosher" or "sweaty" – but I didn’t care. Nothing mattered as much as the music and my friends – that was a barrier to any negativity.

Anita in 2002

Anita in 2003

I went to Cardiff University and joined – wait for it – GRIMsoc (Goth Rock Industrial Metal society), which is still going strong today. I made so many of my good friends through the society and, as a clan, we had protection and kinship. For the most part, we were left harmoniously alone; although, with blue plastic hair and no eyebrows, you do attract some attention. But, truthfully, the worst I remember was walking back to my house after a metal club night and somebody shouting "Smelly goths" at us from their car. We knew people were staring at us, constantly, because we weren’t wearing Ugg boots and Jack Wills hoodies, like everyone else. But we had a community – and that was special. But that wasn’t the case for everyone and, in 2007, everything changed.

Anyone who has been part of a subculture knows – from bikers, to cosplayers and emo kids – that if that subculture has a divisive aesthetic expression, you’ll attract some attention and derision

On August 11, the news reported that Sophie Lancaster (20) had been mindlessly attacked by a group of teenagers who initially set on her boyfriend, Robert Maltby (also 20). Sophie later died from her brutal injuries. Police reports told of how the group boasted about beating up some "moshers" – and, suddenly, being goth didn’t feel quite so safe and fun anymore. My mum now pleaded with me to tone down my gothic attire on nights out. My dad gave me the cash to get cabs home after DJing at rock clubs, instead of flouncing home along Cardiff’s notorious St Mary Street like I always had. Meanwhile, goths everywhere went into shock and united in mourning. 

Anyone who has been part of a subculture knows – from bikers to cosplayers and emo kids – that if that subculture has a divisive aesthetic expression, you’ll attract some attention and derision. But this was the first time any of us had heard that somebody had died for looking the way that we did.  

Anita in 2014

Anita in 2015

It’s been nearly 10 years since Sophie’s death and there’s more tolerance around appearance and subcultures now, which is progress. And, without wanting to sound haughty, everyone wants to look like us now, which seems ironic. Back then, only Stargazer did black lipsticks – now, everyone, from Dior to MAC, does them. While I’m not saying that nobody should be allowed to wear a black lipstick until they’ve memorised every line from The Crow (and, yes, I can; you can test me), what I am saying is that before you leap into goth-inspired make-up this season, spare a thought for our history and do our traditions justice. Here’s how to really do goth this season, brilliantly and respectfully.

1. Go dark, or go home

From punks to Harujuku girls and skinheads subcultures, all rely shock factor. That’s why there is no half-arseing goth. Your lipstick should be darker than night (try Lime Crime Velvetines Liquid Matte Lipstick in Black Velvet, £15), your eyeliner extra black (please buy Illamasqua S.O.P.H.I.E Eye Colouring Pencil, £16 because £3 of every sale goes to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.) Finally, your eye shadow should resemble a swipe of soot – try Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Blackout, £14. It’s the blackest I’ve found.



2. You can still wear colour

Goth is usually referenced in beauty with the colour black. But that’s just the shades your standard Trad (traditional) Goth would wear, though. Actually, if you’re a Cybergoth, you might veer towards neon shades (like Sugarpill’s Elektrocute Neon Pigments, £10.95, whilst Romantic or Medieval Goths like a hint of purple and green (try Bobbi Brown’s Long Wear Liquid Liner in Forest Sparkle, £23.50.) Many EGL’s (or Elegant Gothic Lolitas inspired by Japan’s Harajuku girls) are quite partial to pastels like NYX Vivid Brights Eyeliner in Petal, £5.50. But for a more grown-up goth look try Tom Ford Matte Lip Colour in 10 Black Dahlia, £39, which makes a beautiful burgundy stain for lips, cheeks and eyes and Lunatick Labs Supernatural Coffin Palette, £29.99, which are perfect cool-toned soft purples and burgundies. 






3. Goth up your accessories, too

It’s not just about make-up – gothic lashes are plenty of fun (try Paperself or Illamasqua) or track down one of Rebel Refinery‘s Capital Vices Skull Lip Balms, £8.50. There’s plenty of fun skincare too – Too Cool For School’s Fresh Gore Sleeping Pack, £17, is a night treatment for ghoul-worthy skin. Finally, a coffin-shaped lipstick or brush holder from Life After Death Designs is the only way to stash all your new loot. And if you’ve read this all the way through – out of curiosity – or because you want to indulge in the trend, please pop over to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and donate to help support Sophie’s legacy before you get shopping. 






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