Makeup trends come and go, but 80s goth makeup remains as popular and relevant now as it was when Robert Smith first sang of being lost in a forest. With just a bit of black lipstick and a bold smokey eye effect, you can conjure up a look that’s guaranteed to dazzle the living and undead alike. So what makes this classic style so iconic?
How 80s Goth Makeup Came About
In 1956, in his Los Angeles apartment, Bela Lugosi died. Twenty-three years later, four lads from England released the bats from the bell tower with their song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” And just like that, the creepy tune became the dark Pied Piper anthem of a movement. As if eyeliner and hairspray materialized from the ether, young and old alike rode the sound waves into a new era.
Long before Hollywood stars were removing their buccal fat to look thinner, the goths were leaning into the lean look with dark contour on pale white skin to give that “dead inside but still alive” hollow appearance. The boys of Bauhaus sculpted their hair, painted their faces, and channeled the goth rock aesthetic, and as the 80s continued, the look grew and evolved.
Shocking to some, the vampiresque elements of this new generation mirrored the more introverted and self-examining tone of its predecessor, punk rock. Borrowing from the grungy and DIY style of punk, goth clothing added a Victorian and sophisticated twist while the makeup added the drama and darkness of the occult and macabre.
Image Credits: thecure
The spirit of Edgar Allen Poe infused itself into the subculture, giving way to a sleek and tailored look complemented by heavy and dramatic makeup. Cleopatra herself would approve of the winged eyeliner (on both guys and gals) and the dark stained lips.
As the style gained popularity, it took a lot of trial and error to evolve the punk aesthetic into its newer, darker cousin. There were no internet tutorials (and you could forget about asking the JC Penny cosmetics counter for help), so old-school goths relied on a more traditional kohl eyeliner as they tried to emulate the boldest visual statements of the scene—from Peter Murphy’s cheekbones to Siouxsie Sioux’s reimagined eyebrows.
Goth, as punk before it, was embraced by the working class as not only a way to define themselves but to rebel against the carbon-copy vibes of the political and corporate worlds. Decades later, the goth influence continues to cycle through the music and fashion scenes, finding new recruits in the audiences of such acts as Motionless in White, The Birthday Massacre, and even My Chemical Romance.
Image Credits: netonkent
The 80s Goth Look
Whether you are die-hard and dark to the core or just looking to level up your Lovecraftian essence, there are some essential steps to achieving the goth look.
- Foundation.It starts with foundation, the lighter the better. Think Count Dracula, bloodless and undead.
- Black eyeliner. Use liquid if you dare, but a purist will stick to a good old-fashioned kohl pencil.
- Black mascara. Lots of it. The goal is thick, heavy, and dramatic eyelashes.
- Eyeshadow. Dark shades never fail, but every so often a dramatic dark red is a good way to shake things up and add some “I may or may not have tuberculosis” drama.
Queen Siouxsie went lash-to-brow to create her iconic style, concentrating on black and gray with highlights of silver under the brow and in the corners. Contour the cheeks for that aforementioned look of emaciation, and top off the look with a bold, dark lip.
Image Credits: vonviolett
How to Complete the Look
There is no one way to be goth, but those who came before us had signature styles that have endured the ages. Dave Vanian of The Damned knew how to rock both the rat’s-nest look (with copious amounts of aerosol hairspray) and the prince-of-darkness look (with wet look gel), embracing the full spectrum of hair products and styles. Similar styles were donned by Siouxsie as well as The Cure’s Robert Smith, both of whom became hair goals for many 80s and 90s alt rock enthusiasts.
Although many 80s goth legends went the “big hair, don’t care” route, there is something to be said of Peter Murphy’s vampire-inspired pompadour/ducktail combo. The tight sides and elevated crown matched perfectly with his gaunt appearance.
Once the face and hair are set, it’s time to assemble your wardrobe. You can go total Batman and choose 50 shades of black, or you can get colorful with a rich pastel goth ensemble. Mix textures such as leather, denim, and lace, or if you’re feeling frisky, go one extreme or the other. No goth goddess would shake an ornately carved cane at head-to-toe black rubber latex, nor would anyone in the scene take offense to a corseted waist cinched in with silk and teeming with ruffled lace.
Keep it dark, keep it naughty, and keep it sexy and shrouded in mystery. Accessorize with skulls, crosses, bats, daggers, and spikes. Add a splash of old-school punk with a spiked choker necklace, and sprinkle in some taboo with a belted harness and velvet cape. At the end of the day, being goth is about being unique, artistic, visionary, and free. Follow in the stiletto and Doc Marten footsteps of the matriarchs and patriarchs of the movement while forging your own path toward androgyny, angst, and stardust.
Image Credits: anastasiaofthedark
Unleash Your Inner Siouxsie Sioux (or Robert Smith)
If your soundtrack to life bends toward the macabre, line your eyes, tease your hair, and deck yourself out with the shades of the most vampiric night, and enjoy the beauty of the dark side.