When you think of goth, the first thing that pops into your head probably isn’t the mall. Shiny, preppy and filled to the brim with the latest trends. It would be right to assume that goths would avoid a place like that… if you’re talking about them in the traditional sense.
The goth subculture is like a huge, dark umbrella containing multitudes of different styles under its bat wing. Some of these include traditional goth, which is the style most people think of.
It originated in the United Kingdom during the 1980’s, birthed from the smoldering embers of the ‘70s punk movement, and then post-punk. Think Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Joy Division. It was originally a music and fashion based subculture, but many people who participate in gothic fashion share similar worldviews as well.
Some more examples of styles that fall under the gothic umbrella would be vampire, cyber, gothic lolita, pastel and so many more. However, one of the relatively newer branches would be mall goth, which rose up in the late ‘90s to early 2000’s.
They were also known as “spooky kids,” as many people believed them to be posers who dressed up in dark clothing without knowing the history behind the styles that came before their own. It was like an insult, honestly.
The people partaking in this subculture were called this for shopping at places like Hot Topic and Spencer’s, commonly found in American malls.
Instead of tradgoth bands, mall goths often preferred nu metal, emo or even scene music instead. Despite being lumped in under the term “goth,” they are probably more like metalheads than anything.
Bands and singers such as Korn, Kittie, Slipknot and (unfortunately) Marilyn Manson were only a few of the most popular symbols of mall goth music. Characters like Emily the Strange and Jack Skellington were also major symbols, as well as plenty of other characters.
Many had thought that this sub-subculture had died out a long time ago. After all, malls definitely weren’t as popular as they were, and many struggle to make ends meet even to this day.
Nevertheless, the mall goth movement crawled out of its coffin into the year 2022.
Well, it’s debatable exactly when the whole style returned, at least in my mind. From around 2020 to this year, everything “Y2K” was coming back with a vengeance.
This is most likely due to the kids being born this year, growing up and yearning for the nostalgia of childhood, myself included.
Although, you could argue that the reemergence of mall goth and the Y2K style as a whole is attributed to kids on apps like TikTok, seeing it as vintage and cooler than what’s trendy. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s exactly like kids in the ‘90s and 2000’s claiming older styles and making them their own.
This comeback was not without its drawbacks though. With the ever-prevalent presence of social media in our lives, more people feel comfortable enough to hide behind a screen to bully those who may look and act differently than them.
Believe it or not, strangers will pull out their phones and record these kids. What, mall goths can’t even be in the mall now? That’s their natural habitat! Don’t be that guy who records people in public, especially if they’re not causing any harm.
Well, aside from the harassment that people who dress in alternative styles may face, I really do believe that the return of the mall goth style, as well as similar subcultures, is a great thing.
It’s great to see kids enjoying these fashions that I couldn’t when I was younger, and I hope that bullies never make them lose their joy in expressing themselves.