There are times when we catch a glimpse of an alternative way of life on the streets and wonder “where on earth did THAT come from?” or “how did that look come about?” For steampunk, made popular in England and now gaining steam (pardon the pun) in the United States, these questions actually have legit answers that satisfy the question “what IS steampunk”?
Steampunk started as a subgenre of science fiction. It combines a 19th-century Victorian aesthetic with the machinery of the Industrial Era. In fiction, it often appears in an alternate reality in Victorian Britain, the American West or a post-apocalyptic world. The genre is sometimes referred to as Neo-Victorian.
The genre is also associated with a very specific style, which has become popular as the genre has grown in popularity. In fashion, the baseline of the style is Victorian, include tailed coats for men and corsets and flowing skirts for women. Other hallmarks of the style include top hats, aviator goggles, gas masks, and monocles.
One of the most important aspects of steampunk style are the many gadgets created from a variety of gears and other brass parts. These gadgets don’t have to work. They may work in fiction, but in real life, they are just for show. All the inner workings of the gadget are usually visible from the outside. The more gears and moving parts, the better.
Not many people wear steampunk fashion in their everyday lives. Instead, they wear these costumes to conventions and festivals, such as DragonCon or the Burning Man festival. There is even a Steampunk World Fair where aficionados of the style come together to show off their creations.
Steampunk culture also includes artistic sculptures, designer jewelry, and specialty games, such as Penny Farthing Racing and Tea Duelling.
Steampunk has made its way into popular films, such as the Sherlock Holmes series with Robert Downey, Jr., television shows, and music.
For some, steampunk is about a philosophy, as well. It embodies a rejection of social rules and favors intellectualism and individuality. There is also an underlying sentiment of optimism about the future of humanity, even if there is extreme criticism about the current state of affairs.
If you’re interested in steampunk culture, you should check out some local festivals to get a firsthand view of the style. You might also try reading some novels in the genre to be a better understanding of what it’s all about.