Goth hairstyles have remained fairly constant from the subculture's inception to the present day. Hair color is more important than hairstyle, and colors like black, deep red, purple and green are always in fashion.
Some of the following hairstyles have been co-opted by, and from, other subcultures.
The Big Black Hairdo
Robert Smith, the lead singer of the Cure, might be most famous for his dramatic up-dos. This look did not originate with Smith; however, it's most closely associated with him. His hair is backcombed within a milimeter of its life, then held in place with hairspray or some kind of fixative. Long, straight bangs also fall into his face and over his eyes.
Big hair isn't limited to goths; Southern belles, funk musicians, and 1960s soul singers all wore their hair "closer to God." But there are a few distinctive, if not universal, features, which distinguish a gothic hairstyle from the rest: 1. The hair color. For most people in the goth subculture, hair color matters more than hair style. Many goths dye their hair black, which lends it a unique bluish-purple tinge in bright light, and gives the hair (depending on the dye) a smooth, synthetic feel. 2. General unkempt-ness. Unless they're in the third act of a Tennessee Williams play, most Southern belles wouldn't be caught dead looking like Robert Smith in his Sunday best. 3. Sectioning. Even curly-haired goths will go for pieced or razored layers of hair, rather than a puffy, billowy accumulation of hair, or a mess of curls.
The "big black hairdo" is the most recognizable goth hairstyle; it's what most people think of, especially when they think of 80s goths. However, it's an umbrella term. A few subtypes of this look are listed below.
As Seen On: Robert Smith, Edward Scissorhands, Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice
The Psycho Mullet
Unlike the generic big black hairdo, the psycho mullet––a deranged, unkempt take on the mullet hairstyle––requires that hair on the top of the head be shorter than head at the base. The aim is to get the hair as big and as dirty as possible. These are the only main differences.
As Seen On: Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, Siouxsie Sioux, Lux Interior
This look first gained popularity in 1950s America. This is a very high-maintenance hairstyle (just try wearing a bicycle helmet!), favored by gothabillies and people who do not have to drive in closed-top cars.
As Seen On: Elvira, Cindy Wilson, Marge Simpson
Colored Dreadlocks are a popular cybergoth accessory, if not hairstyle. Usually these dreadlocks are either added as falls or extensions, not dyed from the original hair. Strips of braided neon plastic, felt, shoelaces and even belt straps sometimes substitute for synthetic hair.
A bob haircut is a chin- or jaw-length haircut, cut at the same length all the way around the head. Some bobs have bangs in the front, but it's not an ironclad requirement.
The bob was originally a haircut for little children. In the 1920s, film stars like Louise Brooks, Colleen Moore and Clara Bow popularized the style. It became seen as a statement of female independence and freedom from social constraints.
It used to be the fashion to shave all hair on the nape of the neck, and under the line of hair going around the head. This is sometimes taken to extremes, leading to a mop of hair on top of the head and completely shaved sides. It's also traditional to make the hair framing the face longer than the hair at the back of the head.
As Seen On: Lydia Lunch, Exene Cervenka, Emily the Strange
As far as goth hairstyles go, this is the most low-maintenance you can expect. Yes, you will need to brush it and wash it often (I speak from experience!) but beyond brushing, and perhaps braiding, no styling is required.
Some women, and men too, will put their hair into two braids, or put their hair in a braided bun. This lends an "American Gothic" feel to any outfit, especially when accompanied by a high-collar dress and a scowl.
This hairstyle is copied from little girl dolls with very tight, uniform ringlets in their hair, straight bangs, and bows holding the hair away from the doll's face.
This hairstyle is popular in the gothic lolita subculture; it's also sometimes called "sausage curls in pigtails," though that sounds pretty disgusting, so I'm not going to call it that.
As Seen On: Mana (Japanese pop star)
The Bettie Page
Rather than having tight, doll-like curls, the Bettie Page involves slightly curled bangs, and soft, wavy hair falling away from the face, thus framing it. This is a popular look among fetish models, burlesque performers and goths into vintage fashion.
As Seen On: Bettie Page, Dita von Teese, many Suicide Girls
The pompadour involves combing the hair on the sides of the head back, while curling the hair on top of the head over itself. The height of the hair on top of the head is up to the discretion of the wearer, as well as how it looks on their head.
Various augmentations, like the quiff, are popular in the rockabilly and psychobilly movements.
As Seen On: James Chance, James Dean
The Pompadour Without The Pomp
Short hair, pomaded and slicked back from the forehead. No pompadour; when combined with a button-up shirt, it looks too Gordon Gekko-ish. A good look for corporate goths who want to look conservative without completely subsuming their individuality to the banal hive mind.
As Seen On: Kraftwerk
The Pixie Cut
A pixie cut is a short hairstyle, usually shorter on the back and sides, and slightly longer on top. A favorite among androgynous goths, as well as lesbians.