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We're Goths and Not Monsters

In any other week, the disclaimer on the door of Inkubus Haberdashery, a Gothic fashion store in Miami's Coconut Grove district, would have seemed as out of place as the boutique itself. THE GOTHIC COMMUNITY IN NO WAY CONDONES THE USE OF VIOLENCE, it read. WE ARE APPALLED BY THE KILLINGS AND BY THE INFERENCE THAT THE MURDERERS BELONGED TO OUR CULTURE. Inside, owner Malaise Graves lamented the spotlight the Littleton killings had suddenly thrown on Goth culture. "I'm afraid this violent stereotyping of us is only going to get worse now," she sighed.

The initial assumption that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were Goths--simply because they wore black trench coats, painted their fingernails black and listened to Marilyn Manson music--got real Goths everywhere hot under the black leather collar. "Teenagers tend to go after the most powerful images they can," explains Seth Baker, a Los Angeles Goth. "They put together a lot of images." Real Goths have nothing to do with violence.

Still, if Klebold and Harris were wolves in Goth's clothing, there was plenty to identify with. "We romanticize the darkness of humanity," says Peter Stover, 21, a photography major at Chicago's Columbia College, who has midnight blue hair and regulation pale skin. "We're creatures of the night."

The current manifestation of Gothic culture began with the British punk scene in the early '80s. Bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division created the atmospheric doom-rock sound. A clothing style evolved that was part Johnny Rotten, part Anne Rice and all black. Acolytes sometimes took an interest (purely academic) in subjects such as Satanism and blood drinking, which ensured this was one rebellion that would never enter the mainstream. In the '90s shock rockers like Manson appropriated the image and blurred the lines--until any shaggy-haired, trench-coat-wearing teen could be considered a Goth by his peers.