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We've Goth a style all of our own; Goth fashion began in the late 1970s and has influences as varied as punk rock, Victorian mourning styles and Gothic horror. It continues to attract followers of all ages in Huddersfield. HILARIE STELFOX finds out why.

THEY might look intimidating with their black clothes, black hair, spiked collars, chains and biker boots, but looks can be deceptive.

"Goths really are lovely people", says Sue Mullen, aka the Fairy Goth Mother, who helps her daughter Peggy to run Huddersfield's only shop aimed at members of the Goth community.

"They're the kindest bunch of friendly people."

But what is it that makes someone want to dress in such a distinctive and, some might say, slightly disturbing or menacing way? Why do they want to wear black clothes adorned with skulls, and attract attention to themselves - in some cases unwelcome attention? Peggy, 27, who founded Witchcraft and Wiseman in the Queensgate Market seven months ago, says the style empowers her. "It gives me confidence," she explained. "I was a closet Goth for many years. I was interested but never had the courage to dress up. Since I embraced it I have blossomed." Since joining her daughter in business Sue, 52, has also adopted Goth style, although in a more subdued way. "I think I always liked the clothes but when I was younger I was too busy being a mum to get involved," she said. " It doesn't need to be full on, you can just make your style a bit edgy with a bit of make-up and jewellery. That's what I try to do because I consider myself to be too told to be a full-on Goth."

Koerie Wilsdon, 20, from Milnsbridge, however, doesn't see why he should hold back. An aspiring model and digital artist, he says he was also a closet Goth until fairly recently. "The culture wasn't accessible to me and I didn't have the opportunity to embrace it, but now it's who I am," he explained.

"I like the fact that you can wear whatever you want and you don't have to care what other people think. It's about being a free spirit. You have the feeling of being unique because you don't find too many other people wearing this stuff. It brings you out of your shell."

Among the Goths I spoke to most agreed that adopting the dramatic look was a confidence booster - one that they needed.

"I think I had a lack of self-esteem," said Peggy, "I'd say that people with a lack of confidence seem to do this (become a Goth) more."

It's an unfortunate fact, however, that because Goths stand out from the crowd they can be targets for name-calling, even physical assault. Back in 2007, 21-year-old Goth Sophie Lancaster was beaten to death in a Lancashire park simply because of the way she looked and dressed.

Her mum Sylvia has since set up a charity to campaign for intolerance of sub-cultures to be classed as a hate crime.

Koerie is currently writing a play about Sophie's life and death, which members of Huddersfield Goth community hope one day to perform.

"Occasionally you do get some funny looks as you go down the street," said Koerie, "but people in Huddersfield are tolerant and I've never had any trouble".

He is, however, aware that employers might not appreciate him wearing black lipstick and chain accessories.

"If I was going for a job I would wear a suit, I can dress appropriately," he said.

Sue and Peggy, who both have a background in retail work, launched their Goth shop seven months ago after a previous attempt to start a business failed.

"We had a continental food shop in the market but we were competing with the supermarkets," said Sue. "It only lasted six months. We wanted to start another business and said to ourselves what can we do that the supermarkets aren't doing.

"Because of Peggy's interest in Goth it seemed obvious what we should do." And so far their venture is proving to be much more successful.

"We get a lot of support from the Goth community and a lot of our customers have become friends," said Peggy.

Kelsey Holdsworth, 18, from Halifax, has been a Goth since the age of 10 and asked if she could have work experience at the shop.

She adopted her punk-inspired Mohican hairstyle when she turned 18 but has been wearing the clothes for many years.

"I remember seeing a Goth who was dolled up to the eyeballs and thinking he looked fab," she says.

"I was attracted to the uniqueness of it." Goths talk a lot about the way the clothing style allows them to express their individuality - even if the predominant colour is black. Within the sub-culture, they say, there is the opportunity to look striking.

Amber Brady, 17, and Liam Garside, both from Berry Brow, have been Goth devotees from the age of 11. They are now students at Huddersfield New College and free to wear their expressive clothing every day. "My mum has been through the Goth thing as well," said Amber, "so she's OK with it.

"In fact she's quite pleased because I never used to wear dresses at all until I found Goth fashion. I think it looks cool. It's what we find attractive." Amber wants to study games development at university and plans to continue wearing Goth clothing, as does Liam, who has ambitions to work in IT. "My mum was a bit iffy about me being a Goth but she now enjoys it and likes the fashions," he said. "You do get comments from other people - 'vampire', 'undertaker', 'Van Helsing', that sort of thing - but it doesn't bother us."

Sue and Peggy say that it's not just the young who embrace Goth style, they have customers of all ages - and sizes.

"Everyone from 10 to 80," said Peggy. "We have one customer who is in her sixties who has dressed like that all her adult life. "We had a daughter, mum and grandma come to the shop and all three of them left with an item of clothing."

And the stereotyped image of a tall, thin emaciated Goth is not a true reflection of the sub-culture.

"Our average customer is a size 16," says Sue. "And I'm desperate to find a plus size supplier." Sue and Peggy see their business as more than just a shop - it is a base and meeting place for Huddersfield Goths.

Last month they organised a post Whitby Goth Weekend event in the town's Rock Cafe and they're planning another in February to celebrate Valentine's Day.

"It was an opportunity for all those who had been to Whitby to wear their costumes again," said Sue, "or for those who couldn't go to Whitby."

CAPTION(S):

PUNK STYLE: Kelsey Holdsworth, a Goth since the age of 10 (JH041212Fgoth-11)

| BLACK OUT - AND ABOUT: Koerie Wilsdon, Amber Brady, Peggy Mullen and Liam Garside stroll through the market (JH041212Fgoth-10)

| BLACK WATCH: Sue (aka the Fairy Goth Mother) and Peggy Mullen, right, at their Queensgate Market shop - below and inset Goth fashions and t-shirt artwork (JH041212Fgoth-08)

| GOING BACK TO BLACK: Peggy Mullen, Koerie Wilsdon, Liam Garside and Amber Brady meeting up at the Queensgate Market Pictures by Julian Hughes (JH041212Fgoth-04)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2012
Words:1173
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