What is steampunk?
A style of writing, a fashion statement, a way of life?
There is some debate to this as everyone interprets Steampunk as they see it which is why it is a continually growing subculture accessible to all. Steampunk is all of the above, and as with all things that are worthwhile and simply splendid is also more than the sum of its parts and more than the content of this article!
The phrase Steampunk was coined to separate those who wrote about a Victorian-industrial future from those writing about a similar future from an anarchist perspective - the anarchists became Cyberpunks. The way most of us experience steampunk is through clothing - the underlying style of steampunk is really visual and creative, so it’s no surprise that so many people are adopting steampunk, whether in tiny details or as a total approach to fashion.
The Steampunk Ethos
Blending contemporary and old, fusing modern technology, fabrics and systems with the designs and preferences of the Victorians, making a deeper, darker and more gothic statement than the retro and vintage fashions that are currently popular. Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam have both made films that verge on the steampunk. Comic writer Alan Moore edges into steampunk too. Johnny Depp is always on the cusp of steampunk!
Steampunk Games and Programmes
For those seeking Steampunk resources, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is a contemporary Steampunk, and the games Bioshock and Final Fantasy VI offer many opportunities to explore steampunk ideas, from architecture to jewellery. There are a huge amount of films that are described as Steampunk and we have a blog on those here.
Many people blend bought steampunk fashion with home-made or bespoke clothing items. Corsetry, frock coats, button boots and cravats are all commonly worn as the basis of steampunk style, but it doesn’t end there. Copper, glass, peacock feathers, fascinators, kid gloves, tie pins and pocket watches provide steampunk details that appeal to anybody seeking steampunk styling, and these small but significant steampunk accessories can be worn as part of more everyday outfits, adding a hint of dark glamour and intensity to the wearer’s appearance.
Steampunk fashion has a central premise based on ‘origin’ or ‘profession’ so the steampunk look that each individual chooses will tend to reflect this: explorers, military personnel, lords and ladies, street girls, gamblers and undertakers are all popular themes. Vampires, vagabonds and gypsies, scientists and poets all abound, along with steampunk vernacular, so people heavily into this lifestyle may say they ‘dock’ (their flying craft) rather than ‘arrive’ (in a car!)
Creating your own steampunk style
Beginning your journey into steampunk is easy. Start by defining your key style - do you want to be dandy or down-to-earth? Are you scary or sweet? Would you want people’s first impression of you to be masculine, feminine or neutral? Are you an aristocrat or a street urchin? Once you know the main feature of your steampunk personality, it’s simple to build a wardrobe that reveals it. One signature steampunk garment - such as a tweed suit or a leather corset, a pair of patent leather boots or a long velvet skirt - can be used as the basis of a series of ‘looks’ from the simplest, where you pair that signature item with contemporary clothes to hint at your hidden steampunk persona through to full on cosplay where everything from your haircut to the tiniest details of your appearance are carefully chosen to enhance your steampunk image. Serious steampunk enthusiasts may dress as:
- Chrononauts - people who travel in time, often they do this by wearing a garment that is anachronistic, like Dr Who, who is rarely seen wearing the clothing of the period he’s visiting.
- Lolitas - not in the Western sense of sexually wanton females, but the Japanese originating porcelain doll types, always with ringlets and often tiny hats, hair ribbons and gloves
- Mechanics - with goggles, braces and weird and wonderful inventions carried about their persons.
- Wild West – Blending the American Wild West with a Steampunk edge
- Vampires and Vampire Hunters
- And anything else you can think of – If you are creative, inventive or extraordinary in any way then you already embrace the Steampunk ethos and we salute you!
That is a very quick overview into what this word Steampunk Means –really it is whatever you want to create out of it, Steampunk celebrates the individuality of its flowers, the creativity and inventiveness of creating something unique to you and dressing up in fabulous Steampunk Clothes and sharing laughter with Steampunk friends.