My Gothic Revival | FinancialTimes
My complexion is ashen; my eyes are rimmed with black; my hair has been crimped and backcombed in Ryvita’s texture; my lips are oxblood red. In photographs from the late 1980s, I am part Theda Bara, part deranged doll-clown.
I wouldn’t have called myself a goth, but I clearly was. The look was a big commitment – it took me two hours. As an 18-year-old college student, I wore it every day, waking up early to have time to do my hair and makeup before class. It was a kind of ironic anti-beauty. In a decade of glitzy glamor and preoccupation with fitness, I wanted to look like the walking dead.
In fact, I was late. The gothic aesthetic — horror-influenced, often genderless, with lots of black — had been around since the late ’70s and never really went away.
Gothic is global, but England has always been its heart, with an early post-punk scene centered around clubs like the Batcave in London and The Phonographic in Leeds. At the end of the 20th century, Gothic again rose with Emo. Now he scares the main streets into crowds of E-Kids. There is an annual Gothic gathering in Whitby, North Yorkshire – a setting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula — where middle-aged appearances mingle with TikTok teens, and even an annual World Goth Day in May. From Siouxsie Sioux to Eric Draven, goths endure because their look is a kind of folk art: elaborate, yes, but open to everyone, however defined.
“Goth has always been a subculture about androgyny,” says Catherine Spooner, professor of literature and culture at Lancaster University. “Teenagers who might be discovering their gender and sexual identity always find a welcome home in goth. They can experiment. Today, she adds, goth shows up in drag culture too, with performers such as Sharon Needles and Charity Kase, whose extreme goth art makeup features appendages such as horns, tubes and surreal masks. “It’s part of what’s called Alternative Drag – an exchange between different subcultures. And haute couture grabs it because it’s exciting.
She’s right. Gothic-influenced makeup and hairstyle haunted the Spring 2022 runways. Rick Owens sent pale-faced, electric-haired cyber-goths in exaggerated platform boots, while Valentino models had bleached eyebrows, one-liner dark winged and dark red lips.
The Givenchy runway makeup also included black panda-ringed eyes inspired by manga and E-Girl and designed by Lucia Pieroni. “The look was created using liquid liner to enlarge the eye and add drama with scraped, feathery lines,” says the brand’s national makeup artist, Claire Mulleady. It took time to achieve symmetry, but “there is a feeling of spontaneity in the liner strokes and an importance of not working on every line exactly”.
Mulleady’s trick to replicating the look is to first trace the shape using a light pencil like an eyebrow pencil. “Keep the eyes open so the liner conforms to the shape of the eye and sits above the line of the socket.” Then, with Givenchy’s Disturbia Liner, trace the line and add touches on the outside of the shape. Apply mascara to upper lashes or false lashes for added depth.
For models, gothic makeup means extra patience. Nassia Matsa, an ethereal-looking Greek model, has featured in Balenciaga’s recent gothic-inspired campaigns, among others. “I had a goth-inspired photo shoot on Tuesday. Today is Thursday and I’m still trying to take my makeup off,” she says. “And I had to stay very still while they drew the lines. eyes.”
Matsa says her introduction to goth led her to try a version of the look that works with the classic clothes she prefers in her everyday life, like Chanel suits. “I wear dark eyeshadow to give this look a darkness. I even have some natural dark circles that I try to make more distinctive. I want to advertise them, not hide them.
We early goths didn’t have makeup artists’ tips or tools. In the 80s, I remember using charcoal on my eyelids, buying a dark purple lipstick in bulk called Black Cherries, and stealing leftover Mary Quant black paste mascara from my mom for lumpy tarantula lashes.
Rose McDowall, one half of Scottish 80s goth-pop duo Strawberry Switchblade, recalls resorting to even lower tech for dramatic stage makeup. “I used to do my eye makeup in rainbow colors, but I used markers. And I used to put cheap foundation and talcum powder on it. The makeup was mostly shiny, but I liked matte, so I had to use a lot of old 60s makeup that had lead in it. comedy, but also the dark side of life.”
Goth is associated with misery. So why is he back now? Says Spooner: “There’s a tendency to map gothic looks on current anxiety – a pandemic, an economic crisis – but I think that’s problematic. This ignores the fact that this is a subculture that has lasted 40 years and a cultural tradition that dates back 250 years. You can’t just pin it to a story.
Going back to my old photographs, I am struck by how happy I am with my self-imagined, elaborate and very time-consuming image. I gave up crimpers and charcoal a long time ago, but calling the living dead was a lot of fun. It’s always like that.