Divorced from the style’s roots in the fashion provocateurs of the 1980s, today’s perennial goth – sitting at your bus stop, looking awkward on the beach – can be easy to dismiss. But before the health goth, mall goth, and even the term ‘goth’ was used to describe these children of darkness at all, the movement’s beginnings are intriguing and complex. In its original form, goth style was as much about startling individualism as belonging to a clique: something encapsulated by Sioux’s exotic make-up, bejewelled gloves and nipple-baring fetish gear. In early-80s London, you might find Sioux so outfitted at the movement’s high church nestled in Soho’s backstreets, known as The Batcave.
“It’s a name that people know, even if they never went to it,” writes Liisa Ladouceur, author of the Encyclopedia Gothica. Founded by Olli Wisdom and his band Specimen, the Batcave was the hub of the burgeoning gothic rock scene from 1982 to 1986. The club’s regulars ran the gamut of goth’s hall of fame: there, you’d find Robert Smith, Nick Cave and, of course, Siouxsie and her Banshees watching shows by Specimen or Alien Sex Fiend. More than a club night, The Batcave hosted scary arthouse movies and cabaret nights. In 1983, it even produced a definitive compilation record, Young Limbs and Numb Hymns.
Where we talk about goth under the Stasi and the greatest goth fest today. House searches could be conducted without a warrant (often when the…