In 1988, dusty old artgrump Tim Burton gave us the gift that is Beetlejuice: the ultimate vehicle for Michael Keaton’s unhinged antics and Winona Ryder’s moody wraith act. The planned sequel was the now-mythic Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. We never got it, because haunted poppet full of spoiled milk and filmmaker Burton got yanked off it by Warner Bros, who instead demanded a bonkers production of Batman (1989) featuring Jack Nicholson, Prince, and a slightly different flavor of unhinged Keaton.
The real tragedy here is that the flavor we never tasted was tropigoth.
Everybody knows there are subtypes of goths. You’ve got your Victorians in their bustles and waistcoats, your ersatz-vampires, your cybergoths and rivetheads and those weirdos in brown: the steampunks. One of the lesser-known sets, over by the punch bowl, to the left of the pastel goths, lies the archipelago of tropigoth. It’s a combination of warm nights on an island in the wine-dark sea and the usual suspects: romance, mortality, and spookiness. Wherever a goth has a wet specimen in a bell jar, a dark floral with jewel-toned birds, or a casket full of cute white fruit bats, tropigoth is there.
Like anyone who has held a satin cape at arm’s length and asked yes but when will I ever wear this??? you may be wondering upon what occasions one might try out a tropigoth look. Never fear; suggestions will follow.
Have you ever been the only person in a black broadcloth duster at a tiki bar? Look, there’s no reason to not be your whole self, but you can also be your whole self on theme. Clothing maker Black Mast has a whole tropigoth collection for just such an occasion, heavy on dark florals and fun details for folks of all genders.
Perhaps an invite has landed in your inbox to a luau, or a luau-themed retirement party. This can also be a bon voyage or an over the hill party; either way, showing up looking like a pall bearer can give folks the idea that you’re taking the theme too seriously. Try a look like a Disturbia dress or slithering snake dress shirt. This look melds well with dark botanicals, like a Dolls Kill take on a river mermaid caught in a fishing net. A dedicated enough tropigoth might even track down a vintage pair of the Doc Martens’ Bird of Paradise boots.
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Much of this subgenre might look familiar to those who serve the overlapping currents between rockabilly and goth. There might be a Jimmy Buffet album on, there might be some ska. This is a region characterized by creole; the place where different languages meld into one. Consider a goth Hawaiian print shirt or some unsettling headgear situated not in the implacability of death, but in the endless weirdness of life.
Tropigoth is also a great way to decorate a space. The red velvet and roaring fireplace is all well and good for goths who live upon the misty moors, but what about the creepy kids living along the gulf coast? In sunny California? A black parasol is a step, but the ocean is only steps away. Think about the classic creep factor of a creature in a jar, or the impossible beauty of artwork depicting the tropical creatures of the night.
Even if you haven’t got your own island on which to hoard preserved octopi and perch on your eerie wicker throne, consider little touches of tropigoth vibes: a black pineapple, a garland of Spanish moss, or a conjoined skull vase in which to grow a riot of tropical flowers who love the humidity than you ever could.
Whether you’ve been invited to the rum runner’s outpost, your mom’s Jamaican-themed birthday party, or just want to shake up the Halloween décor you leave up all year round, tropigoth can be a bright palate cleanser, an acid to cut through the richness of your usual flavor of death. It’s not the same and getting to watch the film that would never be, and it almost certainly won’t dull the sting of the Beetlejuice film yet to come from stop-motion whites-only problematic goth grandpa Tim Burton. But it could make you happy and add some slices of sweet freaky fruit to your shades of black.