Accessories, Extra touches, Fashion, Finding your style, Hair, Makeup, Outfit Ideas

A Step-By-Step Intro Guide to the Mall Goth Aesthetic

mall goth aesthetic

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern Celeste MacMurray. Find her on Instagram at @@clsmsanchezx. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

Maybe you have heard the term floating around on TikTok and have wondered what it means. Maybe you’ve recently been listening to bands associated with the scene and admire its aesthetic. Or, perhaps, you’ve recently learned about the subculture and want to learn more about it out of curiosity. Whether you’re a new listener or a seasoned one, if you love the music and want to incorporate mall goth fashion into your wardrobe, you’ve come to the right place.

Mall goth aesthetic as a subculture heavily revolves around its music scene. Popular bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Deftones, Evanescence and System of a Down were some of the most widely listened to ones. If you need help discovering more artists, there are many playlists like the one down below that can be found. Exploring your options is a great way of finding your niche and what really piques your interest. Navigating the music scene can be pretty hard at first as there are so many bands to listen to, but that’s part of what makes the journey exciting.

But first, before we get into the fashion, let’s have a little history lesson.

The mall goth aesthetic is one of many subcultures within the alternative scene with its own unique music and fashion sense. The scene was very prominent in the ’90s and 2000s, and with its reemergence, it is heavily laced with Y2K nostalgia. The style originated from where you think it did: the mall. When Hot Topic first opened, alternative fashion became more accessible for people interested in the scene to purchase. Not only could more people participate in alternative subcultures and buy alternative fashion now, but it was also entwined with the bustling mall cultures of the 2000s. Malls used to be widely popular community centers anyone could visit and roam for hours, especially young teens.

So with the combination of mall culture, the opening of stores like Hot Topic, and the very lively rock scene of the 90s through 2000s, mall goth culture was born. TikTok creator Bamela Von Doom explores this phenomenon of the mall goth scene in their TikTok, recounting its birth, style, and character.

The birth of mall goth would seem that simple, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. The term mall goth didn’t always have the most positive connotation, as there used to be a sense of bad blood between mall goths and goths during this time. This was due to the notion that mall goths weren’t “goth enough” and were frequently called posers—and sometimes even still today—because of their fashion sense and music tastes. While goth music includes genres like post-punk, cold wave, dark wave and goth metal, mall goths listened to genres like nu-metal, industrial metal, occasionally punk music and even grunge as well. While sometimes mall goth fashion can look different than goth fashion, there are times in which the two styles do overlap! Some mall goth fashion does lean heavily into more gothic looks. It isn’t all bad, as the mall goth aesthetic was sometimes a way for people to explore alternative fashion and maybe even venture into the goth scene as well.

However, in more recent years, the mall goth style has become more popular and has gained a more positive reputation. The term has changed from something negative to something endearing and nostalgic; these days people are more proud to call themselves one. That being said, if you enjoy the music associated with the subculture and are interested in its style, here is a step-by-step guide to mall goth fashion.


One of the greatest parts of mall goth fashion is just how versatile it is. A staple within the community is the band tee. If the t-shirt features any of the aforementioned bands, it can be equipped with nearly any outfit. Band tees, tank tops, camisoles, sweaters, whatever you can find. Outerwear such as lengthy jackets, even fur-lined, are just as appropriate. Common colors within a mall goth’s wardrobe are black, red and white, but you can also have patterned pieces such as stripes, plaid and even cheetah print, for example. If you could see a character from a coming-of-age 2000s film wearing your outfit or piece of clothing, then you’re on the right track.


Much like the wide selection available for shirts, you can get just as creative with the bottoms you choose to wear. Jeans and tripp pants such as these are the most commonly worn, and in the 90’s JNCO pants were huge. The pants mall goths wear are also usually baggy and accompanied by accessories we will happily explore later. Skirts are also an option for those who want to wear them, and they can either be floor-length or not. Any length is acceptable, really. The only thing that matters is you feel good in it. If you also like wearing shorts, those are definitely an option as well.

If you’d like some inspiration for mall goth fashion in the summer, take a look at this TikTok down below.


The two most common types of shoes worn were either sneakers or boots. Members of Kittie—a badass, all-girl band—often sported Converse or Adidas Trackstars. If boots aren’t your thing, you don’t necessarily have to wear them as there are options. However, if boots are your thing, you can get pretty creative with them. The most popular brands people wear are Demonias or Doc Martens, but these are on the more pricey side and you can buy any brand that fits your style and budget. Platform boots, combat boots, lace-up boots—any kind can go perfectly with a well-styled outfit.


The key to finalizing any look is accessories, and this is something mall goth fashion uses very well. Common accessories are anything fishnet related: tops, gloves, tights, whatever you can get your hands on. Necklaces are often layered on top of each other, much like the thick bracelets with spikes or studs you can stack together. Rings, big or small, are another item you could add to your look. Other types of necklaces you could adorn are chokers, whether they’re plain, lacey or even accompanied by spikes. Belts are another accessory that can go a long way, and mall goths in the 2000s were known for the chains they had dangling from their jeans. Piercings are not a requirement, but many people within the mall goth subculture also have facial piercings and ear piercings as well.

To see how accessorizing can add to an outfit, here’s an example of an outfit without accessories versus when they’re finally added.


Mall goth aesthetic hairstyles are something I’ve seen recreated in many unique ways, on many different hair lengths and hair types. Pigtails, space buns and high ponytails are common hairstyles I’ve seen, and they are often accompanied with teased or spiked hair to add to the look. If you have bangs, they can work well with any of these styles. Whether your hair is dyed or its natural color, you can still rock any of these looks. Mall goths also used to be notorious for their dyed hair in the past as well.

If you would like an example of any of these looks, a hairstyle that went viral was creator Arya Ink’s spiked ponytail look.


Now makeup and how you do it is a very personal thing completely up to your taste and style. If there are aspects of mall goth makeup that you don’t like or aren’t your style, you don’t have to use them at all.

That being said, the key part of mall goth makeup is the eye look. Thin eyebrows, dark or neutral colors on the eyelids and either mascara or fake eyelashes can be used according to your preference. If eyeshadow isn’t your thing, eyeliner is also a popular option that can never go wrong. Lipstick can go either one of two ways: dark red and black shades, or lips lined with brown or black lip liners. These looks can be as casual as you want—messy, even, if that’s what you desire—or it can be a full glam look if that’s more your style.

While there is a lot of emphasis on the fashion of this subculture, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to buy expensive brands for any part of your outfit. Thrifting and DIY-ing are viable options for building your wardrobe. DIY-ing has been a huge part of the punk subculture for years, and even goths DIY their clothing as well. Knowing you made an item in your wardrobe or customized it yourself adds a unique flare and sentimentality to it that can’t be bought.

Do you have any tips or key pieces to your mall goth aesthetic look? Share them with us and let us know!

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