What is Goth Style?
The Goth style is a distinctive and mysterious way of dressing with aesthetic roots in the ornaments of gothic architecture and literature, the Victorian, Elizabethan, and Medieval eras, and the post-punk subculture.
The Goth fashion style blends corsets, lace, velvet gowns, sturdy combat boots, leather pants, silver jewelry embellished with macabre symbols, dark lipstick and black eyeliners on pale foundation, black nails, and voluminous dyed black hair to confer an occult, ghostlike appearance.
Types of Goth Style (Substyles)
In this chapter, we dive into the diverse world of Goth fashion, exploring the myriad styles and substyles that emerged from the original post-punk aesthetic.
Trad Goth Style (Batcave)
Trad Goth, short for “Traditional Goth,” is a symbolic late 1970s and early 1980s post-punk fashion substyle.
Hallmarks of the Trad substyle include pale skin, backcombed dark hair, fishnet stockings (ripped), grommet belts, double helix piercings, chains, bracelets, and clothing made from lace and leather.
The Trad Goth substyle has dramatic smoky eyes, heavy eyeliner, and dark lipstick to enhance the intentional skin paleness.
Leather footwear, such as New Rock boots, are very popular, adding a touch of aggressive feel to the style.
Notable icons of the Trad Goth fashion style include Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith, The Banshees, The Damned, Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Birthday Party, and Einstürzende Neubauten.
1. MallGoth Style
Mallgoth, or “baby bat,” or “spooky kids,” emerged in the late 90s and early 2000s as the Goth fashion style of the newer (and younger) members of the Goth subculture.
Mallgoth comes from the association with mall-based fashion retailers.
Everyday Mallgoth fashion style includes platform boots or chunky sneakers, oversized dark sweatshirts and trousers, strippy jackets, checkered shorts, and leather accessories.
Ankh necklaces, chokers, combat boots over striped tights, lip rings, and heavy, raccoon-esque eyeliner were also emblematic of the Mallgoth fashion style.
The substyle’s makeup featured bold black eyeliner and deep reddish-magenta undertones, while hair – dyed with Manic Panic dye – was in multi-colored hues and styled in diverse ways.
During its revival, the Mallgoth substyle reflected the broader fashion trend of the late 2010s and early 2020s, exemplified by the “big pants, little shirt” look.
Korn, Kittie, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Lip Service, Tripp, JNCO, and Demonia are some of the most iconic names repping the substyle.
Fictional characters like Emily the Strange and Jack Skellington also became major symbols within the subculture, contributing to its distinctive visual aesthetic.
2. Nu Goth Style
Nu Goth is a modern substyle of Goth fashion style that originated in the late 2000s.
While Nu Goth follows the traditional aesthetics of the Goth subculture, it enriches the roots by infusing aspects of witchcraft, dark fantasy, and current fashion trends.
Nu Goth fashion style features garments from black crop tops from lace, leather boots, velvet high-waisted shorts, leggings necklaces with cross motifs, round sunglasses, and star symbols in an alluring yet eerie look.
Layering and playing with contrasting textures, black lipstick, and sallow or yellowish makeup choices emphasize the style’s gothic underpinnings, leading to an ethereal and otherworldly appearance.
Porcelain Black and Grimes are renowned personas cited as Nu Goth fashion style icons.
In contrast to the futuristic-oriented Cybergoths, Nu Goths embody a modern perspective with deep connections to traditional Goth ideologies.
Nu Goths see themselves as transcending the simple ‘Goth’ label, encompassing broader interests like punk rock, metal music, the occult, tattoos, the filmography of David Lynch, and music from bands such as Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.
3. Romantic Goth Style
Romantic Goth emerged as a distinct sub-subculture within the Goth scene in the ’90s, carving out a niche for those who loved literature, poetry, and the dramatic flair of Victorian times yet were unconfined to these influences.
Instead of sticking to an all-black color scheme typical of traditional Goth attire, the Romantic Goth fashion style incorporates many colors.
Red, orange, green, and purple are notable highlights, conferring the style with vitality and energy.
The Romantic Goth fashion style includes luxurious materials like velvet, lace, and silk, used in long ballgowns and elaborate coats adorned with collars and crowns.
The Romantic Goth fashion style shares aesthetic similarities with Victorian Goths, who love opulent silk, velvet, lace dresses, corsets, crinolines, and other Victorian-era attire.
Both styles are affiliated with 19th-century Romantic literature, finding inspiration in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Lord Byron, among others.
4. Southern Goth Style
Southern Goth fashion style takes inspiration from real-world events and societal issues like racism, sexism, and classism in the South during the 1800s and 1900s, rather than focusing on the supernatural or the fantastical,
Unlike the classic Goth look, the Southern Goth style is not all-black attire or heavy kohl eyeliner but a softer, historical approach.
With linen skirts and high-necked prairie dresses, Southern Goth is an offshoot of the cottagecore trend and a nod to a modern rural fantasy incited by the pandemic.
The Southern Gothic style revival draws on the image of Southern Belles, characters depicted in cultural narratives as wearing long, flowing dresses, corsets, straw hats, and carrying parasols.
5. Soft Goth Style (Casual Goth)
The Soft Goth, or Casual Goth fashion style, has a laid-back and relaxed look compared to the traditionally intense classic Goth look.
While the Soft Goth style features black clothing, it doesn’t adhere to a specific Goth subculture’s attire.
The outfits lean towards a casual, everyday style rather than extravagant gothic ensembles.
Despite the relaxed approach, Soft Goths add a touch of the mysterious and obscure through jewelry on their hands, arms, neck, nose, and ears.
While dark lipstick is ordinary in Soft Goth makeup, heavy eye makeup is avoided, creating an understated look compared to other Goth styles.
Hairstyles also play a role in the Soft Goth look, with long, straightened hair being a common choice.
The Soft Goth style is dynamic, demonstrating the subculture’s evolving nature, and while the preference for dark clothing remains, Soft Goths are not limited to wearing black.
6. Vampire Goth Style
The Vampire Goth fashion style draws aesthetics from folklore and mythology, identifying with and imitating vampires.
One of the most striking features of this subculture is the modification of teeth, as Vampire Goths sharpen their teeth to mirror the iconic vampire fangs.
Apart from the signature fangs, other distinguishing traits define a Vampire Goth, such as dark eye makeup that accentuates a mysterious and eerie aura.
Ghoulish teeth aren’t the only body modification popular among Vampire Goths; they also have long, pointed nails that intensify their eerie aesthetic.
Dark, curly, and wild hairstyles also add a dramatic effect to the spooky ambiance and intricate, mysterious metal jewelry that complements their overall look.
Vampire Goths’ pale complexion, ranging from white to a yellowish hue, enhances their vampiric appearance, starkly contrasting their dark attire.
A unique aspect of this subculture is the occasional use of makeup to simulate bloodstains on their clothes or faces, popular during Vampire Goth gatherings and parties.
Vampire Goths are influenced by iconic vampire-themed movies like Nosferatu and Bram Stoker’s Dracula; their influence is reflected in their style choices, from dark makeup and pointed, blood-red nails to the prevalence of tattoos and piercings.
7. Cybergoth Style
The Cybergoth subculture emerged in the late 1990s as a futuristic, vibrant offshoot of traditional Goth culture.
Rather than favoring the typical gothic palette of blacks and deep purples, Cybergoths distinguish themselves with neon-colored hair and clothing.
Despite the bright hues, there’s still an emphasis on materials associated with darker fashion, such as leather and PVC.
A striking feature of the Cybergoth aesthetic is the incorporation of glow-in-the-dark accessories and perceived cybernetic enhancements, like goggles and gas masks.
Platform boots and piercings contribute to their distinct appearance. Other style trademarks include original hair extensions dyed in vivid neon colors.
Signature clothes such as “cyberlockers,” furry leg warmers, fishnet stockings, colored lenses, ultraviolet jewelry, and symbols signifying biohazard and radioactivity also abound in Cybergoth styling.
Prominent figures within the Cybergoth community include Dani Filth, Rei Ayanami, and Kerli, who have all embraced the high-energy, neon-infused style. When dressing in the Cybergoth fashion, a typical Goth outfit, such as a PVC dress, is accentuated with contrasting neon accessories, hair, and makeup.
8. Glam Goth Style
Glam Goth fashion style emerged during the 80s and 90s, merging the opulence of Glam Rock of the 70s with the somber undertones of the Gothic aesthetic.
The palette extends beyond the typical dark hues of Goth fashion, incorporating vibrant colors such as red.
Darker colors such as plum, black, chocolate brown, and Bordeaux enhance the gothic glam vibe.
The fusion of gothic components with androgynous cuts is also a distinctive trait of Glam Goth.
The look includes textured lace, velvet, or pleather, which add depth and edge to the overall look.
Jewelry is essential in nailing the Glam Goth fashion style: chokers with grommets, spikes, amulets combined with black, platform, lace-up combat boots, heavy makeup, and frilly, dandyish outfits.
Glam Goth also has strong ties to the New Romantics movement of the 1980s, emphasizing dark, ecclesiastical imagery like crosses while incorporating punk studs and leather.
Glam Goth also shares popularity with New Romantic and New Wave artists like Ultravox, Visage, Gary Numan, and Glam Rock artists like Alice Cooper and Lou Reed.
9. Pastel Goth Style (Kawaii Goth)
Pastel Goth, or Kawaii Goth, is a distinctive sub-genre that interweaves traditional gothic aesthetics with the Japanese Kawaii style in playful and colorful ways.
Central to Pastel Goth fashion is a contrasting color palette that combines black with soft pastel shades, such as baby pink, baby blue, lavender, mint green, and lilac.
The outfits feature a black top emblazoned with occult or religious prints, paired with a mini skirt in black and pink.
Over-the-knee socks and edgy leather high-heel boots or platform shoes complement this ensemble.
Pastel Goth style borrows gothic motifs such as skull prints, cross necklaces, spikes, and chokers and integrates them into this candy-colored aesthetic.
A notable divergence from traditional Goths is the makeup style; instead of the classic black and white gothic look, Pastel Goths feature pink and baby blue eyeshadows for a softer, youthful vibe.
Similarly, hair is dyed in shades of pink, blue, or purple, combined with black, enhancing the blend of darkness and pastel hues.
Prominent icons of the Pastel Goth style include Melanie Martinez, Venus Angelic, Jazmin Bean, and Moriah Rose Pereira, also known as Poppy.
10. Hippie Goth Style
The Hippie Goth fashion style marries two distinctive cultural ideologies – the carefree, peace-loving attitude of the hippies and the intense, mysterious vibe of the Goths, where bohemian freedom meets gothic darkness.
Fashion that leans towards Hippie Goth is characterized by the strategic juxtaposition of light, flowy bohemian apparel with sinister-looking black lace, leather, and metallic embellishments.
Imagine the visual of a long, airy skirt paired with robust combat boots or a tie-dyed t-shirt worn under a sleek black leather jacket.
In this unique fashion style, there’s a harmonious balance between the light and the dark, creating a look that’s both mystical and grounded.
Accessories such as wide-brimmed hats, silver jewelry, and dark sunglasses are integral to the Hippie Goth look.
Hippie Goths prefer flowy hippy outfits with splashes of darker, gothic components and accessories like black bandanas and oversized rings.
Moreover, the hair and skin color lean toward pale and dark tones, emphasizing the characteristic contrast inherent in the Hippie Goth aesthetic.
Hippie Goth fashion style icons like Brian Molko and Lorde have made the look famous.
11. Corp Goth Style
Corp Goth fashion style merges corporate attire’s prim and proper realm with the captivating allure of Goth fashion, offering a sophisticated look yet laced with a touch of dark intrigue.
Corporate Goth fashion is recognized by tailored black suits or dresses, conjuring a sleek, professional image infused with gothic elements like leather boots, chokers, and silver jewelry.
Makeup in the Corporate Goth realm is intense and dramatic: strong red lips and smoky, mesmerizing eyes.
The style allows individuals to express a unique persona within the confines of a professional environment while being professional yet non-conformist, corporate yet creative.
Hanako Arasaka, Dead Can Dance, and Alexander McQueen have influenced the Corporate Goth style by showcasing that one can wear corporate attire blended with gothic aesthetics and still create a professional impression.
12. Victorian Goth Style
The Victorian Goth style is an intriguing subculture that emanates an air of antique elegance, drawing inspiration from the black mourning attire prevalent during the Victorian era.
A distinctive Victorian Goth look involves long, elegant ballgowns that emulate Victorian aristocracy, wealth, status, and an aura of royalty.
The style features black dresses crafted from intricate brocade fabrics, complete with a fitted bodice and corset, accompanied by men’s black suits.
Adding a touch of mystery are the lace veils and the dark, smoky eye makeup, both integral to this vintage-infused aesthetic.
Accessories common to Victorian Goths, such as skull-themed rings, tees with wilted roses, and silver cross jewelry, mirror this fascination with death and the ethereal.
Corset belts cinched around the waist add to the vintage feel, while hats introduce mystery to their gothic appearance.
Jewelry is also crucial to this style, with pieces like choker necklaces adding an elegant touch to the ensemble.
Much like traditional Goths, Victorian Goths sport pale skin and long hair, and their makeup involves smoky eyes paired with soft lips, lending a delicate balance between bold and subtle.
In homage to the elegance and aristocratic charm typical of the Victorian era, Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Ives stand out among the renowned figures embodying the Victorian Goth style.
13. Medieval Goth Style
Drawing inspiration from the Dark Ages, the Medieval Goth style is a captivating blend of somber aesthetics interwoven with historical.
This unique style adopts a palette of black or dark hues, accentuated with rich, textured fabrics such as velvet, lace, and leather that hark back to the era of knights and castles.
The quintessential Medieval Goth attire incorporates long, flowing dresses and robes, hugging corsets, tunics reminiscent of the Middle Ages, and dramatic capes accessorized with chokers, crowns, jewelry, and intricate headpieces.
Dead Can Dance, and Sharon den Adel are among the icons of the Medieval Goth fashion style.
14. Fairy Goth Style
Fairy Goth takes its inspiration from mystical and fantastical themes, showcasing an affinity for the mythical creatures of fairytales over the typical Goth influences of vampires, werewolves, and witches.
Garments that fall into the Fairy Goth style have a fluid and ethereal quality, resembling long, flowing robes that could be straight out of a mystical tale.
Loose, flowing, wavy hairstyles and accessories like chokers, crowns, staffs, and wands add a layer of fantastical charm.
Those identifying with the Fairy Goth style lean toward lighter hair colors, as they enhance the ethereal, magical aura.
Makeup choices for men and women involve a pale foundation paired with a smoky eye makeup style.
Adding a striking piece of jewelry that resembles an enchanted emblem or stone enhances the overall look, and of course, a pair of wings is the perfect final touch.
Artists like Cocteau Twins, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and The Changelings are popular among Fairy Goths, providing a melodic backdrop to this enchanting Goth style.
15. Health Goth Style
One of the most intriguing offshoots of the Goth subculture is the advent of Health Goth during the 2010s.
The trio shared images depicting hi-tech, dystopian styles and artwork, where ‘health’ conjured up images of sterile environments, biomechanics, and transhumanism.
What began as an internet meme transformed into a real-life fashion phenomenon, with Health Goth fashion style showcasing black, futuristic sportswear that draws aesthetic inspiration from the realms of science fiction.
The designs are reminiscent of the costumes from iconic films like The Matrix and Blade Runner but not exclusive to Goth-rock fans; enthusiasts of hip-hop, grime, techno, and electronica genres are also sporting this trend.
Overall, the Health Goth is a contemporary interpretation of the goth look, designed for the 21st century and beyond, linked to the sports Goth look popularized by US metal bands like Korn in the late 90s.
Even mainstream sportswear brands such as Nike and Adidas have caught onto the trend, producing workout wear inspired by the Health Goth style.
16. Industrial Goth Style (Rivethead)
Emerging in the 80s in parallel to Goth in the US, the Rivethead (Industrial Goth) dressing style represents a unique marriage of a darker, grittier expression with the strictness of military aesthetics and industrial elements of metropolitan areas.
Aesthetics of punk fashion, such as mohawks dyed in striking colors and fetish wear featuring black leather and PVC, are typical in the Rivethead fashion style.
The style integrates modern primitive body modifications like tattoos and piercings to emphasize a post-apocalyptic, dystopian influence inspired by movies like Mad Max and Strange Days and novels like William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy.
Rivethead fashion embodies a stripped-down, utilitarian aesthetic as “street survival wear.” The idea is to make a statement with as few fashion components as possible.
Male attire includes black, gray, or olive tank tops, cargo pants, combat boots, shaved heads, or with dreadlocks or mohawks.
Accessories incorporate industrial nails, screws, cogs, black PVC and leather corsets, miniskirts, and stiletto boots.
The style is popularized by the subculture’s icons like Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor, and Emily Autumn.
17. Emo Goth Style
Introduced in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the Emo Goth fashion style is built on the fusion of Emo and Goth aesthetics.
The Emo subculture, shorthand for Emotion or Emotive Hardcore, has roots in alternative rock, metal, and Grunge music and is very popular among teenagers.
Instead, Emo Goth fashion is casual and comfortable, with a staple wardrobe and skinny jeans, band t-shirts, and Converse sneakers or boots.
Still, Emo Goth fashion incorporates a darker, sleek Goth aesthetic.
It’s not uncommon to see dark eye makeup and dark hair, either styled sleek or voluminous.
Accessories feature symbols associated with Goth culture, such as skulls, bats, and coffins.
Leather accessories or jackets, along with studded bracelets and belts, may be included to infuse the look with a hint of punk edginess.
Piercings on the nose, eyebrows, lips, and ears are common, and in line with other Goth types, pale skin is a characteristic trait of Emo Goths.
18. Gothic Lolita Style
Gothic Lolita, or GothLoli, is a fashion style that merges the aesthetics of Western Goth fashion with the intricacies of the Japanese Lolita style.
Unlike other gothic styles, Gothic Lolita is characterized by a polished, cute, and conservative appearance. Makeup is applied in a soft and feminine style using natural shades of pink, red, and brown.
This eclectic fashion style uses a palette of dark colors and a substantial amount of black.
Platform boots are replaced with low to mid-height Mary Janes and Tea Party shoes, and lace umbrellas, wigs, and knee-high socks add to the overall aesthetic.
The attire has Victorian-era details such as lace and ribbons, which look vintage and nostalgic. Gothic Lolita style incorporates petticoats, bloomers, bell-shaped skirts or dresses, and tailored blouses in black adorned with frills and buttons.
Accessories and prints are crucial in creating the Gothic Lolita look; bats, coffins, crosses, rosaries, top hats, headbands, bows, and parasols are critical. Footwear consists of black Lolita boots or Mary Jane shoes adorned with bows.
Gothic Lolita was introduced by a Japanese musician and was adopted by prominent GothLoli icons such as Moon Kana, Caroline Charonplop Kyary, and Mana.
19. Pin-up Goth Style (Gothibility)
Pin-up Goth is an exotic and unusual amalgamation of different styles: Elvis Presley’s flair, the rock rhythms of The Cramps, the vintage feel of old horror movies, and a hint of lounge style.
Gothabilly has its roots in “Rockabilly,” a style derived from American 1950s rock n roll, and “Psychobilly,” a subgenre that emerged in the 1980s, combining punk rock with a strong rockabilly influence.
In a nutshell, Gothabilly is a fascinating blend of the playful and the macabre, incorporating bright colors, retro aesthetics, and a distinct rock and roll edge.
Accessories are essential to the Gothabilly style, with platforms, garters, corsets, and cherry-themed jewelry being common choices.
The bright colors of the outfits contrast with the vivid tattoos, a key feature of the Gothabilly aesthetic.
This subculture is striking and diverse, standing out for its vibrant tattoos, cherry accessories, and ever-present polka dot clothes.
Drawing inspiration from the iconic 1950s fashion icon Bettie Mae Page, Gothabilly embraces the seductive aura of Page’s raven black hair, deep red lipstick, and colored outfits.
20. Cabaret Goth Style
Cabaret Goth style originated from burlesque shows, which were essentially the seductive striptease performances of earlier times when revealing anything other than an ankle was seen as risqué.
The attire of a Cabaret Goth is characterized by corsets, garters, fishnet stockings, feather accessories, and dresses that follow either a mermaid style or feature a mid-thigh length front with a trailing back piece.
Makeup leans towards the bold side, featuring smokey eyeshadow, a defined cat-eye liner, and a striking red lip.
Male Cabaret Goths don tiny bowler hats and suits featuring patterns like pinstripes paired with a bowtie.
The result is a unique blend reminiscent of Dracula, Charlie Chaplin, and a mime, but with a distinctive class.
One notable influencer of this style is Dita von Teese – the first wife of the metal musician Marilyn Manson – known for her burlesque fashion choices.
Artists like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Voltaire, Sex Gang Children, and the infamous Tiger Lilies have experimented with burlesque imagery and music.
Marilyn Manson has also dabbled in this style, mainly by associating with Dita Von Teese.
21. Tribal Goth Style
Tribal Goth emerged when Goths took an interest in belly dancing, creating a new and unique subculture. Its mysterious, sensual allure and association with goddess worship resonated with the Gothic aesthetic.
As Turkish and Egyptian belly dancing grew in popularity in the USA, it birthed a new style, “tribal.”
Tribal Goths share aesthetic similarities with Hippy Goths, sporting longer hair or dreadlocks, inspired by belly dancing costumes, modified with black dye, or adorned with gothic elements such as lace to add a darker touch.
Traditional tribal clothing, such as shirts and pants embellished with faux furs and bone or wood decorations, is also standard.
Hairstyles associated with Tribal Goth include dreadlocks and long, unkempt hair. Dark, smokey makeup complements the look, and tribal tattoos are favored.
The “tribal” aspect of the style is accentuated with accessories crafted from organic materials like shells, bone, and wood.
In the past, “Tribal” Goth was a term used to describe Goths who dabbled in primitivism, adopting elements like bone jewelry, dreadlocks, beads, braids, and heavy body modification.
This subculture mirrors the original Goth tribe, the Visigoths, who inspired the term for the goth scene.
22. Mopey Goth Style
Mopey Goths, seen as the archetypal representatives of the Goth subculture, are marked by a distinct sense of not fitting in with society, using symbolic use of black associated with mourning and melancholy.
A distinguishing trait is the dramatic use of black eyeliner, applied to resemble tear streaks as a symbolic representation of crying on pale skin, which contrasts with their dark clothing and makeup.
Mopey Goth style blends black mourning clothes, corsets, chockers, and many metallic accessories.
It is common to see a Mopey Goth carrying a symbolic dead black rose, adding a theatrical element to their persona.
23. White Goth Style
White Goth or Ice Goth flips the traditional Goth aesthetic by embracing white instead of black.
From being a bizarre choice, white aligns well with Goth interests—it’s the color of ghosts, bones, and cobwebs and symbolizes death in cultures.
Another practical reason for choosing white is that it reacts under UV lights, a common feature of Goth clubs, creating a glowing and ethereal appearance.
However, White Goths need to exercise caution not to wear black underwear, lest it become visible under white clothing, in the rain, or under specific lighting.
As for makeup, White Goths aim for a pale, almost ghostly complexion via powder or foundation to lighten their skin to match their ivory attire.
White Goths appear in forms of media, from movies to music. Films like The Matrix feature characters like Switch, who embody this aesthetic, and bands such as Tones on Tail, Cocteau Twins, and Lacuna Coil adopt a similar look.
24. Bubble Goth Style
Bubble Goth is a newer, unique branch of the Goth subculture created by the Estonian pop singer Kerli Koiv.
Her vision was to blend elements of light and darkness, to “make the beautiful, creepy and the creepy, beautiful.”
Bubble Goth style is unique for its embrace of color, with participants adding colored highlights to their hair and clothing.
The aesthetic of Bubble Goth also extends to makeup, which, similar to the clothing, features brighter colors.
Standard colors include silver, white, and black, and it’s not uncommon to see the use of rhinestones.
Despite the bright colors, the makeup also maintains a smoky, romantic element, embodying the mixture of light and dark that Bubble Goth represents.
When comparing Bubble Goth to Pastel Goth, there are differences. Pastel Goth uses pastel and black colors with a strong Japanese influence, whereas Bubble Goth can include a broader range of colors and has Cybergoth elements.
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A University of Oxford graduate in Design History, Katherine Saxon is researching arising TikTok cultures from a consumer psychology perspective while covering emerging aesthetics in fashion and beauty for TheVOU, Forbes, Business Insider, and more.