The goth Bible

by Nancy Kilpatrick

Like the Christian bible, The goth Bible is disappointingly human. It serves as a passably good introduction to the goth subculture, but the information given is not given systematically. I do not recommend this book, unless you can get it for free; however, there is some good information inside. In the interest of giving a fair review, I will list the good points of the book before explaining my complaints with it.

The book is comprehensive. It covers all the main areas of the subculture: clothing styles, makeup, music, favorite books and authors, and adapting the subculture to grown-up life. If you're looking for futher reading, every chapter has a list of web links at the end, to various clothing retailers, auction sites, and information sites.

The goth Bible also features an interesting survey, apparently conducted on an internet forum, of about 200 currently practicing goths, on everything from sexuality to the Columbine massacre to their favorite music. Their opinions are interesting, and shed some more light onto the subculture. This survey is called "The † Section," which is a little annoying until you get used to it, and appears along the margins of the page.

The book sheds some light on the evolution of goth style and philosophy. Many goths, for example, combine beauty ideals from different cultures: Egyptian, Victorian, Romantic, Celtic, Norse, and so on, to make their own ideal. You also don't have to wear black to be goth, although most goths prefer black for various reasons, from "Memento Mori" to "It looks good on me."

Every chapter starts with a picture of an extremely attractive, androgynous goth, which makes it worth at least browsing through. And if you're looking for magazines on gothic fashion or retailers of gothic clothing, this is a good book to start with.

One of the best parts of the book is an exposition on the favorite colors of most goths. Black, of course, comes first, followed closely by silver, popular because it's the color of the moon, the stars and thus of the night. I love color theory and understanding why people choose a certain color and not another one.

However, the book lacks a coherent structure, and features too many distracting asides. The fashion sections, for example, feature many profiles of modern-day designers, makeup manufacturers, goth jewelers, and so on. Some of the stories are neither germane nor interesting. A sentence or two, describing how different retailers emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, would suffice. This also leaves less room for a straightforward history of goth fashion, which would be more interesting and more comprehensive.

Transfiguration of the Dead by Angelhęad.

The author also interjects her own opinions as facts or quasi-facts. This is a serious fault, especially in a book called "The goth Bible." I would have liked to see more attention paid to history and detail, not just of antecedents to gothic style (e.g. the Victorian era) but to modern gothic fashion.

How, for example, did the gothic style emerge from the punk and new wave movements? The author doesn't say, although she does list some styles carried over from punk. How do goths relate to other subcultures, such as metalheads, punks, skinheads, hipsters, and so on? And what direction is the movement headed in? I put down this book with more questions than when I picked it up. Sometimes that's a good thing; a great book can pique your interest in a topic and make you want to read more. But this book is not such a book.

Buy The goth Bible at Amazon.com.

Related Reading:

Gothic Fashion Influences

Nick Cave

Wednesday Addams

Black Lipstick

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac


"transfiguration of the dead" by Angelhęad (Somnium Phasmatis). Used under CC Attribution-No-Derivs license.

Our review of The goth Bible is part of our books section.

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