How to backcomb hair for a perfect gothic hairstyle
Gothic hairstyles reached their (literal) height with backcombing. So, you’re dressed up like Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd. Your dark make up is precise, right down to the eyelash. You’re due to join your friends for a midnight tea party on the hill. But your hair looks like you tumbled out of bed. Good! Welcome to the art of wild and disobedient gothic hairstyles.
Gothic hairstyles: backcombing
Probably the most common choice of gothic messy hair. Think Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and Razorcandi – all of whom have unruly hair worthy of adulation. Though teased hair does depend entirely on how you wish it to come out, there is a specific way of teasing.
How to backcomb hair
- Firstly, make sure your hair is straight. Curly and wavy hair can be backcombed but it is more prone to damage. Always make sure your hair has cooled after using irons to prevent breaking.
- Secondly, make sure your hair is completely tangle free using a bristle brush. This may seem puzzling, since you are about to introduce artful tangles, but starting with tangle-free hair will avoid the chance of natty dreds.
- Thirdly, choose which areas you want to back brush. This could be the shorter layers of your hair – or all your hair for a more dramatic look. Clip back any areas you aren’t back brushing.
- Now you can begin to actually back brush. Remember, the more strands of hair you try to tease at once, the looser the effect will be. Brush your hair up into your hand and hold it upright. Then take a comb (Rat tail combs are good) and brush the hair from end to root. Then spray with hairspray. Lots of hairspray. Hairspray is good. Then continue with the rest of your hair.
Remember to always wash out all the hairspray you have used as it can damage hair a lot.
For an off the face gothic look, you could create a high ponytail and then tease the top of the ponytail to get an Amy Lee.
Combing backcombing with crimping
Backcombing and crimping are a match made in Heaven, and an absolutely gorgeous way to achieve alternative hair. Crimping irons can be as cheap as £15, and are totally worth it.
You can crimp the whole hair, or sections of it.
Crimping is a style that combines well with other sublime hairstyling tortures to create an overall effect. Crimping, curling, back-combing, teasing – a combination of these will result in a flamboyant bird-nest-yet-beautiful look best shown off by Helena Bonham Carter playing Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Perfect for any style – Victorian, 18th Century aristocrat, you name it.
If you’re really going for it, you can powder your hair white with talcum powder and look like the tragic Mrs Haversham from Great Expectations, moulding away in her wedding dress and dreaming of days of yore.
- Babyliss Pro 200 Tourmaline Ceramic Crimper/Crimping Irons – about £15
- Babyliss Pro Professional Wide Porcelain Rebel Hair Crimping Irons – about £30
Gothic Hairstyles with Vintage Glamour
For special moonlit nights out, you could choose to go for a femme-fatale look. Look at Dita Von Teese’s neat vintage curls for inspiration. I warn, this look is quite difficult to master, and requires a lot of time and hairpins! However, many people have done youtube tutorials which could give you a good idea how to start.
- Read our vintage curls hair tutorial
Gothic hair accessories
A gothic look can be achieved without all the hairspray and pins. Dead straight hair or big curls can look very deadly and sexy too. Or even simpler, just accessorise your hair. Coloured hair clip ins are very cheap and are a quick route to showing your personal tastes. Or you could customise a plain black headband with some net from a haberdashery to make your very own individual fascinator. Totally gorgeous, and no one else will have the same as you!
Remember, you only get one head of hair – So take care of it. Wash your hair regularly to make sure no hairspray is left in, and get your hair cut regularly to get rid of those split ends. You’ll be the sexiest little ghost bride out there 😉
Siouxsie Sioux was one of the vanguard for pushing your hair to its backcombed limits. Her hair may not be as high as some of the girls today – but she had the most balls. Because she did it when it really wasn’t okay to do it.
Comfortable in the knowledge that mile-high evil hair is not as scary as it used to be, thanks to pioneers like Siouxsie, Razorcandi has rather fantastic hair.
Robert Smith – one of the best goths ever. A good British goth – knew the value of a good lie-in and a nice cup of tea. And had fantastic hair.
Helena Bonham Carter has perfected the art of combo-styling. Teasing, curling, back brushing – she does it all to create a ‘refined savage’ look.
Photo: Marc Planard