Although the 'Gothic subculture' will mean different things to different people, the general perception of 'what is Gothic' usually entails an appreciation for the darker themes in life, be it in literature, art or music.
The way I'd look at the Gothic subculture is that, rather than being constrained by a set of rules that you'd need to follow to 'fit in', it is more a set of 'conventions' - so if you're interested in 'turning Gothic' as you put it, I'd suggest examining the conventions of Gothic music or Gothic fashion and picking out the aspects that appeal to you.
Having said that, going to a Goth club can be just as cliquey and pretentious as going to the trendiest scenester or hipster club-night, so be warned that you may be judged on everything from the type of boots you wear through to how you have your hair (or hair extensions) styled.
The Gothic way of life
The two main misconceptions of Gothic culture are that a) worshipping the devil is common practice and b) Goth music consists of screaming, shouting, growling and noisy distorted guitars being thrashed to death and beaten against the ground until they splinter into shards of pure darkness.
On the topic of Goths and Religion, there is nothing to say that being a follower of any religion will get in the way of being a Goth. In fact, most Gothic art and literature relies heavily on Christian themes and visiting a church can be a great way to soak up some Gothic architecture (and, yes... Writing poetry in graveyards is a cliché that is founded in reality).
As far as Gothic music goes, it can actually be divided into a number of different sub-genres (everything from the Goth-rock of Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees through to the ultra-modern sounding EBM-influenced Apoptygma Bezerk). Although there are definitely noisy moments, Gothic music tends to be quite sombre and subdued. The misconception of it being reckless noise is probably down to the fact it gets tarred with the same brush as heavier styles of music like death-metal, thrash, or black-metal; all of which share common themes with Gothic culture, but are markedly different.
As far as 'turning gothic' goes, there's no better place to start than by listening to some Gothic music to get you in the mood. Seminal bands I'd recommend you check out are as follows:
- Sisters of Mercy
- Alien Sex Fiend
- Death in June
- London After Midnight
Once you've got a feel for the music, you may want to make some wardrobe choices. Whilst still testing the water, you may not want to splurge out on a whole new wardrobe, even though clothing is one thing that Goths use to distinguish themselves.
Luckily, it's not necessarily all about the clothes that you wear (although sticking to the colour black is advised), although accessorizing will be key.
Most Gothic-types tend to be reclusive and sullen creatures, which means that these days they spend a lot of time on the internet rather than venturing out into the light of day. This is good news for those that are after some information regarding Gothic lifestyle, clothing, and culture because there is an abundance of information available on the internet as a result.
Sites like Gothic Portal host large volumes of information on the Gothic lifestyle: For example this whole section on Gothic fashion.
Sites like netgoth.org.uk host forums, event pages and are a useful hub for the online-Gothic community.
The internet can also be useful for ordering hard-to-find Gothic clothing, and this is especially useful if you don't live in a major city which is where most Gothic stores tend to be located.