In his article on being steampunk – which is wrongly being touted as “the best one page write up on what steampunk is” – G.D. Falksen says “The basic rule of thumb for steampunk is “start period and then add.”” The problem with this statement is that it does nothing but pigeon hole a vast culture that embraces past, present and future. Falksen’s own style is reminiscent of the past; the dapper young gent around town. It works for him, but that’s not to say it works for everyone. In essence, you most certainly DO NOT have to start period then add. Ask a million different steampunks for the definition of the culture and you’ll get a million different answers. It’s completely personal and any outfit you decide to wear should be your choice without influence from anyone else.
Logically, there are three main categories to make a start from:
Because steampunk is such a broad interest genre starting in the past and working to the future, it’s a veritable minefield of knowing what’s right or wrong. But that’s the point; there is no wrong. Many people have argued that you can’t class someone wearing Dayglo as steampunk. This is where it all starts to get interesting and it interweaves with other principles. You see, if you create a background then you can easily explain why you’re wearing that outfit.
Example: It’s the far future and the world is shrouded in darkness. The Victorians failed attempt to recreate the power of the Sun resulted in a cataclysmic explosion that destroyed a quarter of landmass, killed millions and covering the sky in thick cloud. Wearing dark clothes blends you into the background. You become unseen and prone to accidents. Fast moving vehicles and heavy machine operators can’t see people in the constant dark. It costs thousands of lives through lack of visual aids before neon clothing is developed. Your character is sent back in time to before the Sun experiment in order to try to stop the destruction of the World.
However, in contrast, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to turn up in that kind of clothing to an event and wouldn’t that be classed as Cyberpunk? Arguably, although it’s only really touching on the foundations of Cyberpunk.
So how do we work this? Well I’m working on a set of guidelines to help steampunks who may be struggling with the lack of rules in the genre. I welcome everyone’s input because people are what make steampunk and it should be people who define it.
Remember this isn’t a fashion show and you have absolutely no obligation to impress anyone or dress in a way that could be conceived as “acceptable”. Steampunks aren’t judgemental. Turning up at an event shouldn’t be a scary prospect over what people will think about your clothes. There’s only been one article I read that Tennis Shoes would probably not be seen as steampunk attire, but if that’s all you’ve got, then wear it. That echoes the thoughts of steampunks the World over, yet we all feel the need to work ourselves to the bone to wear an outfit that is wholly steampunk.
Why do we do this?
- Acceptance: As non-conformists, many of us will have felt out-of-place at one time or another. By indulging our passion, we feel more welcome.
- Pride: We are creative people and as such wish to express our creativity in our clothing and accessories.
- Vanity: Steampunk is a beautiful aesthetic and is popular with photographers from tight corsets, to mechanical arms. And we enjoy showing off.
Remember, how you dress is entirely up to you. It can all depend on if you want to go for a look, if you’ve created a character or if you simply want to wear stuff you like. Clothing is a very important part of steampunk. Arguably the most popular way to showcase your talents is to arrive at a steampunk event wearing clothes that you’ve conceived, designed and made yourself or spent hours trawling through second-hand shops looking for the right items. Not only does it give you an enormous feeling of pride, but it can provide talking points of interest with other people.