Friday, 22 July 2011

I suppose I can call it my subculture.

My decision to identify as Goth didn't come lightly. For four years after I first became attracted by alternative clothing, music and viewpoints, I refused to label myself, mostly because no label ever fitted. In my early teens I looked emo and got referred to as emo from time to time, and yet I... wasn't. Not really. I remember being told I looked too 'planned'- that is to say, the emos looked like they just threw on whatever was on the floor at the time, I looked liked I made conscious choices about what to wear and put some effort in. I wasn't the same. 

After a while, I began to move on from that, and I briefly shifted into a not-mallgothy stage. I was one by a lot of people's definitions, but I never called myself 'Goth', didn't act the oh-so-angsty part (on the contary, I spent a lot of time Stepford Smiling in an attempt to hide my actual depression), and was really too aware of how I came across to count. I was quite self-disparaging of it too, never feeling I'd got 'it', whatever 'it' was. quite right. It was from this moment on that I really started to understand the differences between the various subcultures and consciously shun them. I spent ages describing myself as generically alternative, not really belonging to any particular group. 

However, as I pulled away from my more Mallgothy image and started listening to a wider variety of music, I noticed I was a lot closer to Goth than I was to anything else. In fact, the looser descriptions of what Goth is seemed to fit me pretty well. It took me a while even then, and I think in the end I only started self-identifying as a Goth because I ran out of reasons not to. Once I'd realised that labels were shorthand, and that you didn't have to be restricted by them; that I fitted too many of the so-called 'criteria' to get out of it on that account; and that my taste in music, while still eclectic, was drifting ever closer to Goth and Goth-friendly genres, I started to feel as though I may as well just... well... go with it.

"Screw it, I'm Goth." Not the most elegant way to join a subculture, admittedly, but that's basically how it happened, and I don't think anything's the worse for it. It certainly didn't stop me walking uncertainly into the Head of Equality and Diversity's office to point out some subcultural discrimination in a French exam paper and ask if something could be done about it, please. I say uncertainly because I half-expected to be laughed out. My relief when she took my complaint seriously was immense. 

A lot of people think joining a subculture means conforming, but it doesn't, not if you don't let it. While it's true that people will try to impose their standards, but there's no rule stating anyone has to pay heed to them when they do. It's also a fact that some people regularly try to bluff themselves extra cred. They listen to bands they've never heard of out of insecurity, or a desire to appear 'in the know' or fear of setting off the spider sense of some self-important git who fancies zirself as the Poseur Police. They do things for no reason other than that most of the rest of their subculture does it. But they're a minority. Most people who join subcultures do it because it already fits them, not because they aspire to fit it. I mean, when I became Goth officially, I already liked the music. I already felt like 'me' when I wore the clothes. I was creative, and have spent the vast majority of my life making up stories, if only for my own entertainment. I have a love of weird and subversive things that can be traced back to early childhood. I'd shied away from major attempts DIY fashion for due to a lack of hand-eye co-ordination, but I'd been doing little bits and pieces for years completely of my own accord, and I genuinely want to go for more ambitious projects in the future.

I, like most people who made the same decision as me, fit without even trying. I don't fit perfectly, no, but then again, who does?

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