Goth is first and foremost a person who listens to certain types of music and dresses the part. The music includes deathrock, batcave, certain postpunk, certain non-electronic darkwave and other music that is goth. The person dresses the part by wearing makeup either all black clothes or deathrock-style, which can include colorful mohawks, painted leather jackets, colorful ripped t-shirts and fishnets. Real goths always wear makeup to the club, and often daily, no matter what their gender is, otherwise they look like posers.
Goth is not merely a person who embraces "the darkness" or "everything dark". Their makeup, style, dance moves and music choices make or not make them goth--don't confuse "goth" with "gothic". "Gothic" can be applied to many different people who aren't goth and denotes a person or trend that borrows from Goth, that is "into things dark" but is not goth. Example would be a person who occasionally listens to goth music (but to a lot of other kinds too), who likes BDSM and goes to all kinds of "dark" clubs, not caring too much what to dance for, basically, looking "goth" only when they go out. Gothic is a dark streak that is not to be confused with real Goth. People who prefer "gothic" music that is not Goth, can be called different ways: darkwavers, rivetheads (who love industrial scene/music), moshers, metalheads, etc. Fetish scene is not to be confused with Goth scene: they have very little in common. Goth has a lot of fetish elements in clothing style and many from fetish crowd attend goth clubs on occasion, but that's where the resemblance ends. "Vampires" aren't Goth either; Goths like to play with vampire theme quite rarely, but those who think they're vampires, who wear white contacts, fangs, or paint blood on their faces aren't Goth at all.
Goth has a very strong androgyny element: It is common for Goth males to wear traditionally female elements of clothes/makeup to the clubs. Deathrocker Goth females also prefer androgynous styles, and dress hardly any different from deathrocker males. Truly Goth dancing is characterized by original, assymetric and often a-rythmical moves, cat-like stepping, wavy arm movements. Goths never bare too much of their body; if they do, they belong to a different scene, but depending on gender (example would be: girl wearing a bra instead of a top to the club or showing garter and stockings isn't Goth, a guy wearing mini-skirt to the club and showing stockings and garter looks Goth).
Goth is about extreme individualism, yet, it's about belonging to a group and fitting in, at the same time, paradoxically. Goth is about looking at things, at human nature--and oneself with extreme honesty and accepting what mainstream culture doesn't accept--death, melancholy, decay. Like Mike Mercer had put it Goth is about ultimate dignity. Goth hates the mainstream culture, real Goth doesn't watch television. Goths like to shop in thrift stores or specialized Gothic stores, they also have tendency to make their own clothes and jewelry and be creative about their outfits and makeup.
Favorite Goth boots are very pointy ones with buckles, though army-style boots (with include Docs) are also acceptable, as well as platform boots. Layered torn fishnet and sheer tights worn over the arms and legs and Victorian clothes are old time favorites. Modern goths wear more PVC/vinyl clothes than before, which includes tight pants, dresses, corsets and long skirts made of PVC. Black nailpolish is very popular and is worn by males and females, both.
People who claim that Goth is only about "mindset" and "lifestyle" versus the look aren't goth: real Goth takes great care of their looks and alway strives to look beautiful and goth. Dark beauty is something that is at the core of the Goth--beauty of art, or appearance and of melancholic mind. Each real Goth is an art piece, essentially, as a person is being creative about their look.
Of course, those goths who're stuck in only one way and criticize new style developments lose creativity.
Gothic person: "There's a new goth club that plays emb, goth, synthpop, darkwave and industrial!"
Goth: "This is not a goth club"