5 Historical Goths That Would Fit Right in at Hot Topic
Whether it’s a suburban shopping mall or a dark dance club, America is daubed with clumps of eye-linered bummer-lovers known as goths. Harboring a love of dark T-shirts, darker thoughts and droning tones in a minor key, if you want to chat about the futility of life, a goth is a willing conversationalist. I’m not here to bag on them, and I would be lying if I tried to pretend that Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy didn’t have some absolute bangers. Regardless, they’ve got a pretty defined role and vibe as far as subcultures go.
Some figures throughout history, though, might have checked all the boxes to easily make it as a dyed-in-the-wool goth, but unfortunately for them, no one had decided on a standard sad boy uniform yet. They were stuck being plain old weird and depressed, instead of at least getting to wear some cool boots and scare jocks outside of an Orange Julius.
Here are five historical figures who could crash a goth get-together tomorrow, no problem…
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want to see their illusions destroyed.”
“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”
Tell me those two quotes aren’t ready to print on a black T-shirt. They’re both from the favorite philosopher of insufferable smarty-pants with undiagnosed clinical depression: Friedrich Nietzsche. The bleak thinker, who can lay claim to ownership of both nihilism and an extremely bitchin’ mustache, railed against a lot of the same things modern goths might — the church, morality as it relates to power and the general uselessness of life.
None of it’s too surprising, given that much of his life wasn’t exactly bright and sunny. In 1870, at the age of only 26, Nietzsche picked up the less than comfortable combo of dysentery and diphtheria, and would never be fully healthy again. Though he’d publish many books after this point, Nietzsche continued, on every level, to be straight up not having a good time until he finally collapsed in 1889, suffering from extreme mental distress. He spent the rest of his remaining years in an asylum or under family supervision. That said, through all the darkness, like goths, he still did enjoy a tasty jam, famously saying, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Edgar Allan Poe
This one might be a little easy, seeing as he’s practically an archetype as well as a top author in what is literally called Gothic literature. Regardless, brought back in some sort of Bill & Ted style scenario, he’d absolutely be chopping it up in front of the Piercing Pagoda with various Damiens in no time. Look, if you’re writing poems about ravens, whether you know it or not, you’re a goth. Add in his sweet hairstyle, and you know Poe would be dating the hottest keyboardist you’ve ever seen.
Of course, all that melancholy doesn’t come easy. Poe’s parents both died before he was three years old, which is an unpleasant but highly effective entry point into the world of general doom. Even if you’re a glass-three-quarters-full optimist who spends your days posting Instagram stories of spicy margaritas and sunsets though, it’s hard to turn your nose up at Poe’s writing. He might not have been great at birthday parties, but the man could spin a yarn.
In modern days, the word goth basically occupies a middle-ground between sexy and sad. We’re in a world of heartthrob vampires and international models wearing clothes that look pulled out of the back of a black metal band’s hearse. If you want to look through history for somebody that was mixing Satan and sex before pentagram lingerie was on sale, Aleister Crowley is your guy.
A famous occultist figure around the turn of the 19th century, the only thing Crowley enjoyed more than wearing weird magic hats was being bisexual. He spent time as an author alternating between “erotic poetry,” aka old-timey fan-fic, and questionably effective textbooks on how to do black magic. He even founded his own religion known as Thelema, since, as you might expect, he wasn’t a big fan of classical morals.
Basically, he was a goth cult leader who’d probably have half of Bushwick paying dues if he existed today.
Look, goths love art, and painting is the gothiest art of all. Drawing, photography and especially graphic design just don’t have nearly as much of a dark, romantic feel as anything that uses a long swishy brush. Looking through the history of painters, then, who better to lead the goth battalion than the guy who’s known for a series called the “Black Paintings”? Early on, his works were decidedly more sunny, looking, for example, at The Parasol. Then he saw a whole lotta war in Spain in the early 1800s, and as war does, it changed him.
Suddenly, he was painting things with a whole lot less sundresses, and a whole lot more people getting stabbed in the gut. He eventually spent the end of his life living alone and completely deaf, painting the 14 works that make up the “Black Paintings” directly onto the walls of his house. These paintings are about as bleak as you might imagine, and their titles could easily be the tracklist of a pretty good gothic metal album. “Saturn Devouring His Son”? You know there’s a face-melting solo in there.
Look, he may not be real, but he is unavoidable in day-to-day life. He’s also a big time sad baby. He might not have the rail-thin physique, but in every single way outside of muscle mass, Batman is deeply goth. He only goes out at night, he wears all black and he seems like he’s constantly on the verge of tears. Also, like some goths, he’s constantly hiding the fact that he’s secretly from an incredibly rich family.