What is Steampunk?

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Futuristic, yet retro at the same time, Steampunk is amazing. The genre blends the aesthetic and technology of the 19th century with elements of science fiction. Its take place in an alternate reality where electricity have never being discovered and instead steam-powered machines were constructed with unrealistic proportions. Imagine flying ships, steam-powered robot insects, humongous submarines and so on...

steampunk machine

Steampunk is the fashionable baby of Victorian-era aesthetics and science fiction imagination. The line between steampunk and period Victorian is narrow and smudged leaving much open to interpretation. In a nutshell, it is the appropriation of futuristic technology, gizmos, and gadgets assembled into elegant 19th-century attire, but also encompasses retro-futuristic styling, technology, philosophy and scientific theory in literature, movies, lifestyle, home decor, recreation (conventions and roleplaying) and philosophical outlook.

 

Steampunk, a World of Steam

People from the Victorian era imagined all sorts of modern technology such as submarines, space travel, and aircraft. However, their fantasies looked very different from how these technologies have developed in reality. The emphasis on steam references a world that may have been completely built on steam power. It is this idea of reimagining the present or future as the Victorians would have - often with a dystopian mindset - that is at the core of steampunk.

Many subcultures such as Goth, neo-Victorian, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic and some fandoms identify with elements of steampunk. As a result, it can be thought of as a super-culture as opposed to a mere sub-culture.

The steampunk ethos is vaguely interpreted to emphasize human capability and the value of invention and ingenuity. Some punk-like anti-establishment ideals can also be attached to the genre.

Steampunk pays homage to these antique dreams through fashion, inventions, role-play, literature, and pop culture.

Steam is a central element of steampunk. The technology featured in this universe is generally just as advanced as that of our modern world, but it uses steam as its energy source instead of electricity, gas or oil. As a result, steampunk technology takes on a retro look reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution era.

As Douglas Fetherling so aptly put it, “Steampunk is a genre that imagines how different the past might have been had the future come earlier.”

steampunk costumes

The steampunk aesthetic is inspired by the fashions of Victorian Era in England (1837-1901), but also by the Belle Epoque in France (1871-1914) and the Civil War era in the United States (1861-1865). The clothing from these eras is often modernized by the addition of mechanical elements with gears showing.

The rules of steampunk fashion: For men, long coats and top hats are de rigueur. For women, corsets and steampunk goggles are recurring elements. Wearing a steampunk watch is great for both genders.