Goths age gracefully

Surrey University sociologist Dr Paul Hodkinson conducted a series of follow-up interviews with goths he'd studied as teenagers in the 90s and found that the cohort has made a pretty graceful transition into middle age and parenthood:

"It's a relatively middle-class subculture, so despite … all the going out and being into the music, goths have always had a fairly positive view of people who are also achieving academically."

It means goths may have better career options than an outsider might expect. Succeeding in their chosen career had, Hodkinson observes, become increasingly important to those he interviewed as they moved into their late 20s and 30s, and he was surprised by how much participants in his study were willing to adapt their look to fit in at work. "I even gave people scenarios where they couldn't wear certain things. I expected them to say that they'd have to leave [their job], but they said they'd have to seriously consider it."

Most of his sample said they still were recognised as goths at work, but had toned down their look. "They retained a residual element of the appearance, but felt, for example, that colourful dyed hair wasn't going to work, and they'd stopped painting their nails black."

Growing-up for goths (via Whatever)

(Image: Faust, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from fumtu's photostream)

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  1. I don’t know what this says about aging gracefully, but after about 5 years in goth scene in SF I realized that while the scene was still the same size, the number of participants was declining dramatically…

  2. I don’t consider myself a goth but black is definitely my favor color.  I drive a black car, wear black t-shirts and have a black wool coat and I have black hair.

  3. “teenagers in the 90s and found that the cohort has made a pretty graceful transition into middle age and parenthood”

    Yeah, that’s my generation, and I’d like to think that our early to mid 30’s is not middle aged for us.

    1. Thank you, I was about to post much the same thing. I was a teenager in the 90s, I’m now 29, I am certainly not middle aged. The generally recognized range for being middle aged is 40-60 years old.

      1. I’m now 29, I am certainly not middle aged. The generally recognized range for being middle aged is 40-60 years old.

        Female life expectancy in the US is 81.3 years. Wouldn’t that make the period between 27.1 and 54.2 your middle years?

        I believe that the generally recognized definition for middle-aged is “older than me, definitely older than me.”

  4. Bauhuas lead singer and solo artist Peter Murphy pretty much said the name should probably be changed to “Moths” now — but at his SF Show in June, I gotta say, looks like Goths are doing ok cause the wardrobes were definitely top notch!

    And I’d say Peter is aging well — still bringing it, coming back in Dec to the Fillmore!

    1.  Peter showed his man-boobs at the last DC show. He’s been decidedly more chatty on the last couple of tours. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

  5. “Goths age gracefully”– well duhhh, the closer they get to death the closer they are to their ideal.   Why would they fight it?

  6. Well educated people  with good taste in music, drink, clothes and friends retain these qualities later into life? Who knew?

  7. Think of a hero.  Someone who has personally inspired you. 
    If that person had black-painted fingernails, would you discard them from hero list?
    Probably not, but if someone with black fingernails applied to you for a job, would you take the time to get to know them or dismiss them outright?
    The real question is: is the *work-world* aging gracefully or is it trying to cling to the past?

    1. “Think of a hero.  Someone who has personally inspired you.”

      Okay.  Easy to do.  A bit of a non sequitur given the rest of your reply, though

      “But if someone with black fingernails applied to you for a job, would you take the time to get to know them or dismiss them outright?”

      I would absolutely take the time to get to know them.  I see no reason to treat a goth any differently than anyone else I’m interviewing for a position.

  8. Yep, goth in youth, now early-middle-aged business guy.. but my wardrobe is mostly black, my friends on the weird side, my politics socially-liberal, fiscally..midlling-conservative (and adjusting fast).. I know I’m not the first gen of folks to reach middle age, yet still feel like we still support the younger gen. perhaps we haven’t grown up… or haven’t grown bitter…

  9. goths and their deathrock cousins have always been just-shy of punk rock rebellion. one well placed flip of the devil-lock and you’ve a corporate part. toolboxes, all of them. ;

  10. Well, what did they think would happen to them (/us and no I’m not middle aged either!) ?  We all eventually gotta eat and it’s hard to avoid the corporate overlords and still have the basics. To avoid completely selling out you either have to be wealthy beyond work mattering or willing to commit to a *very* humble (and possibly somewhat homeless) life.  Most people opt for the mid ground and try to rebel in the little ways they still can.  Unless they live with their parents.  

    1. “Didn’t the hippies wind up doing the same thing(s)?”

      And the Beatniks before that, and the Flapper’s before that…probably all the way back. Every generation has sub-cultures that seem weird or disturbing by the mainstream. But eventually most of us cut our hair and put away the tie-dye (or start wearing colors and get a tan) when we realize that outward appearance is only one small part of who we really are.

      Besides, an old fat, balding Goth is just … sad.

      1. Besides, an old fat, balding Goth is just … sad.

        Whereas looking like Lawrence Welk is really….happy? Apparently, we’re all meant to look like c. 1960 middle-aged office workers once we reach 30.

        1. I don’t know – that ‘flat-top haircut, black horn-rimmed glasses and white button-down shirt’ look is pretty timeless. I can see the Goth’s kids adopting it out of rebellion.

          Now for my accordion solo; Myron, will you join me?

        1. Too true. Age certainly isn’t favoring me.

          Perhaps the reason Goths are aging gracefully is that they can make whatever accommodations they need to for work, but still adopt the aesthetic after hours.  You can’t have a crew cut at work then long hair on the weekends, or only show facial piercings and body mods when you’re out partying. But if the boss doesn’t like black fingernails at work, you can always paint ’em again when you get home.

          Incidentally, I didn’t know anything about the Goth subculture (other than their appearance) until I surfed around a bit and checked out some of the Goth websites. They’re not a bunch of baby eating devil worshippers – in fact, they seem to be a pretty tolerant, accepting group. Spending a bit of time surfing certainly helped me see past the weird cosmetics.

  11. I’ve known enough middle-aged goths to know you really could have found a better photo, like maybe one that suited the headline.

  12. “he was surprised by how much participants in his study were willing to adapt their look to fit in at work. “I even gave people scenarios where they couldn’t wear certain things. I expected them to say that they’d have to leave [their job], but they said they’d have to seriously consider it.”

    So goths trade one uniform for another?

  13. In other news, overstereotyped subculture fails to live up to stereotype in the long run. Jeepers, I saw a hippie get a haircut the other day! And put on shoes!

  14. Hodkinson was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 sociology show Thinking Allowed a few months ago. Good show, good episode.  Worth a listen – he talks about the very research this article introduces.  The rest of the show is about chav culture, also an interesting topic.  Here’s the link for anyone interested: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0124nty
    Unfortunately it isn’t available as podcast anymore, so I’m not sure if it is accessible outside the UK and Ireland.

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