avatar for Andi Harriman

Andi Harriman

Located in NYC, Andi Harriman is a writer on all things dark and Eighties-centric. She is the author of the book Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s and her writing has appeared in the Village Voice, Noisey, Bandcamp Daily, Electronic Beats and L.A. Weekly. Additionally, she is a contributing editor to Post-Punk.com and most recently curated the photography exhibit “Nick Cave Smoking” with Lethal Amounts Gallery in Los Angeles.

"Like Cockatoos: Femininity and the Other in 1980s Goth/Dark Electronic Subculture (a/k/a Robert Smith’s Lipstick)"
Goth, like most things, began with David Bowie. His transformation from human to supernatural for his androgynous Ziggy Stardust personae influenced the first slew of impressionable youth in the UK—Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, and Daniel Ash of Bauhaus, just to name a few. Ziggy’s makeup—a pale face, lipstick, bright eyeshadow and gold accents—gave these heroes permission to be different, to relish in the “unnatural”. In conjunction with the romance and beauty of death (as portrayed through literature and film à la Dracula or The Hunger), it spawned an entire subculture of macquillaged, vampiric boys and girls engulfed in black clothes, painted on white faces and teased hair to skyscraping heights.

The uber femininity of Goth, alongside its overarching genres of dark synth and the industrial femininity of Skinny Puppy, orchestrated a new form of beauty with its melancholic music and shadowy semiotics. But it was the androgynous look of the men in the subculture that made the most impact, becoming a neutralized gender—known as the “other”—because of their hyper-femininity. This invoked a shock for those outside of these scenes as something both grotesque and foreign. With Robert Smith’s sloppily applied red lipstick, Martin Gore’s borrowed fishnets, and Peter Murphy’s contoured cheekbones, Goth men embraced the uncanny appearance of their personae. The 1980s Goth subculture was just like a young, beautiful corpse: horrific, yet romantic and alluring—embracing the unnatural, as reflected in their music.