The chances are that you will have already heard of Steampunk. From its humble beginnings as a literary genre it has expanded to become an extremely popular subculture, encompassing fashion, philosophy and way of life. Steampunk inspired items are nowadays visible in both high street retailers and mainstream media, but you might be wondering what its actually all about.
The movement originated around thirty years ago, as a literary genre stemming from cyberpunk. Books in this category were distinguished by the fact that they were set in worlds that resembled a gone-by generation where steam was the primary form of power, but in which there were also fantastical elements and futuristic touches. An example would be a world similar to Victorian era Britain in which people had invented futuristic steam powered machines, possibly to allow time travel or long distance communications.
Themes and ideas from these works of literature soon began to infiltrate other forms of media, and fans began to include elements in their everyday lives. Reading about these fantastical machines soon inspired people to try to create their own, and an underground style sprang up of dressing in the fashion of the characters. The subculture began to develop from the original ideas portrayed in literature.
The crucial theme in this subculture could be described with the idea of retro technology. It is this concept that participants attempt to apply to their lives through fashion, philosophy, media and home decor. The growing popularity of this subculture has led to it becoming an inspiration across many kinds of media, and recognition of these may also be a part of the lifestyle for some.
Nevertheless it is debated exactly what kind of music is a part of the subculture, numerous bands have claimed themselves to be inspired by it and for many, this music is an influential feature of their lifestyle. Recently PC games and movies have also begun to appear with Steampunk inspirations, and again many people embrace these as a part of the culture.
This lifestyle sometimes also includes the creation of machines similar to those found in the literature, and numerous also choose to decorate their homes in the fashion of the genre. This would usually include extensive use of materials such as leather, brass, rivets and mahogany, and the presence of items that look old-fashioned but might be technologically advanced. Some followers choose to rebuild gadgets such as laptops or watches to make them look as though they came from a bygone era or might be powered by steam.
Fashion and clothing are an important part of the lifestyle to numerous people. While there are no set guidelines, it is common to see old-fashioned, Victorian fashion clothes such as waistcoats, long dresses and frock coats. These will often be accessorized with technological fashion accessories such as elaborate watches, ray guns and even robot arms.
Perhaps the key aspect to the Steampunk lifestyle, however, is that none of these features are strictly defined. You do not have to wear certain clothing, act a certain way or do certain activities to be included in the lifestyle. Rather, whatever you choose to do to define yourself as Steampunk tends to be acceptable, and it is the way that individuals choose to interpret the theme themselves that is influential