Why Fitness Has Gone Goth

The image of fitness has changed. So has “Goth”. If you look back to the ’80s, Goths and punks were portrayed on television as a group of malcontents, curiously propelled by rock music (it was always rock, never goth) to take drugs, be introverted, and yet be bold enough to commit all kinds of crime.

Obviously, this picture was nonsense. And recent studies have shown that, for example, Goths “are refined and sensitive, keen on poetry and books, not big on drugs or anti-social behaviour.” They’re more likely to become lawyers and architects, apparently. 

More recently, the Goth image is dragged in to frame the thoughtful, slightly geeky rebel (such as the Chloe O’Brian character — a hacker with thick black eyeliner and black attire in the “24: Live Another Day” television drama)

Today there’s a new craze, apparently: Health Goth.

It’s for people who like working out and listening to dark, edgy music that’s outside of the mainstream.

Undoubtedly, one link between Goth and health is the ideal body image for members of the subculture and for many fitness fanatics: slim.

But, it may also be that elevating the physical body has become, for some people at least (perhaps me included), an act of defiance against the tendency to see the body as worth less than the intellect. We live in an age, after all, where we’re beginning to hear talk about “uploading” our consciousness, as if the physical was totally inconsequential. As if beauty were inconsequential.

In the bigger cities, sport and fitness also provide a relief from the cubically-confined, corporate life. It’s a way of getting in touch with more primal instincts — something that Goths might traditionally have found in the imagery of ancient cultures, the occult, or vampires.

While we can’t exclude Yoga from the mix of fitness activities, it seems that Health Goth flies in the face of its more commercial, morally wholesome image. Health Goth seems to be about rage, and about going against, as much as it is about wearing black and looking cool while working out. It’s an expression for an age that has been influenced by the Matrix movies, with its black clad, Kung fu-practicing heroes, whose physical being is an embodiment of “mind over matter” and being against the system.

You might also like:

Vampire fashion lives on
Etheric body: Fashion and the image of God
Black cabaret: how Goth got its look

Angel MillarAngel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.

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