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Goths and their many subcultures are still incredibly niche and often misunderstood throughout most of the world. But in the far north of Scandinavia, and especially in Finland, they are almost poplar enough to be considered part of the mainstream.
Finland has large communities of goths, punks, metalheads and a growing fanbase for steampunk. Heavy metal is especially popular, since nearly one in 50 people in Finland is part of a heavy metal band, yet all gothic subgenres can be found in the country.
Even in a remote Finnish village, it wouldn’t be unusual to see men in their 50s wearing T-shirts for their favourite 70s punk bands while teenagers blast heavy metal from their speakers. Mainstream radio stations frequently play rock music subgenres, meaning you could hear Ragnarok playing in a grocery store or Nightwish in a doctor’s waiting room.
An obvious answer to the popularity of the goth subculture in Finland is that it is one of the most suitable fashion styles for the harsh and cold Nordic winters. Temperatures can drop to as low as -30° Celsius (-22° Fahrenheit) and pavements can be covered with snow and ice for up to seven months of the year. Tight black clothing, heavy boots and leather jackets are typically far better at keeping out the cold than clothing found in high-street stores, which are rarely, if ever, designed with Scandinavian winters in mind. Summers in Finland also tend to be mild, sometimes hovering just over 10° Celsius (50° Fahrenheit) for weeks at a time, which lends itself much more to gothic clothing than summer dresses.
Short hours of daylight and isolation can also lead to increased levels of depression, with suicide rates spiking in Finland every winter. This creates a morose atmosphere, which also makes alternative fashion and music more attractive than bubbly pop music or brighter colours.
Yet this isn’t true for all goths in Finland. Dealing with the wild winter weather can also give Finns an extremely ‘hardcore’ outlook on life. This need to be different and greater sense of self-confidence is perhaps the simplest explanation for the multitude of goths in Finland. It isn’t as if things like pop music and fashion magazines aren’t still popular throughout the country. It is more that people aren’t afraid to diverge from these brands and explore their own interests without feeling pressure to conform.
It isn’t difficult to become a part of the goth subculture in Finland. Even wearing your alternative clothing when out and about is deemed socially acceptable. Practically every town has at least one alternative fashion shop such as Underground or Cybershop and most also have their own rock bar where goths hang out.
It isn’t too difficult to find alternative music, either. All you have to do is turn on the radio or head into a record shop to hear the most popular Finnish gothic metal bands such as Nightwish, Apocalyptica and HIM. They can also be heard live at regular rock concerts such as Ilosaari Rock in Joensuu or the Tuska Open Air Festival in Helsinki.
Once you join the Finnish goth scene, you’ll probably find that there is no particular reason why the subculture is so popular in Finland. If you ask a Finnish goth why they love alternative fashion and music so much, chances are they’ll simply reply, ‘because it’s cool’.