Several years ago, I read an article by The Onion about fashion trends. The headline went something like, "Fashion trends running out of decades to replicate." This whole "steampunk" movement proves that "America's Most Trusted News Source" was quite correct indeed. Devout followers of this trend are actually dressing up in clothes that are supposed to look like they've been scavenged from an alternative vision of the Victorian Era, or a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where the Industrial Revolution held out a while longer and used steam power rather than electricity. So basically, the "steam" part is used to reference some kind of whack historical context, while the "punk" part refers to the DIY, underground element.
The NYT describes it as such:
...a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines. First appearing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, steampunk has picked up momentum in recent months, making a transition from what used to be mainly a literary taste to a Web-propagated way of life.
So apparently, to some folks, "steampunk" is about more than just fashion. This whole "movement" seems a bit strange to me, although I love some of the culture surrounding it. Loved "City of the Lost Children," "Brazil" etc. And the stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are quite exciting, sure. Also really enjoyed that whole pseudo-Victorian aesthetic the Smashing Pumpkins seemed to be going for when they put out the album MelonCollie and the Infinite Sadness. I guess you could call what they were doing in the '90s steampunk. Right? Tell me the video for "Tonight, Tonight" does not fit that description:
I think the fanatics of this movement are a bit ridiculous though. The mania surrounding it seems to attract the type that have the sensibilities of a Renaissance Fair geek. I think I'll hold off on the corsets, goggles and brass flair for now, thank you very much.
Here's a parody (? I am hoping) of a steampunk enthusiast by Merlin Mann. Enjoy:
Steampunk DIY from Merlin Mann on Vimeo.