The term steampunk refers to a set of anachronistic technological aesthetics as they appear in fiction, fashion, and design. Although the terms and aesthetics associated with steampunk evolved out of science fiction works, these artistic tastes have been developed and applied in a real world setting, and impassioned designers have been developing functional technology in the steampunk style for some time.
At the heart of steampunk aesthetics is imagining how technology might have evolved if the major advancements of the last several decades had occurred during the nineteenth century. These anachronistic creations blend the value of form over function with something resembling Victorian tastes and fashions.
The steampunk subgenre of science fiction gets its name from the fact that much of the genre deals with the era in which steam power was how most of civilized society was powered and many of the genre’s writers were influenced by the cyberpunk genre. Much like cyberpunk, steampunk features a heavy amount of focus on the individual and human potential, with a decidedly rebellious bent.
Fans of steampunk fiction and fashion enthusiasts have adopted some of the styles discussed in the genre into real world fashion. This takes form as both modeling and using technology such as watches or gadgets in keeping with neo-Victorian precepts as well as neo-Victorian dressing in general. The style is heavy on Victorian attire, with an especially large focus on accessories, such as goggles, parasols, and the like.
The accessorizing enters the world of true design when steampunk devotees go about outfitting their home furnishings, computing appliances, modes of transport, and downright lifestyle to the steampunk aesthetic. Proponents of maker culture and DIY are creating worlds onto themselves through tireless hours at the drafting board and work table fashioning simply beautiful functional objects for daily use. Please visit some of the links below for examples of these designs.
As far as the works of fiction that have inspired this style, they are a twentieth and twenty-first takes on the scientific romanticism that began with earlier writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. From the 1980’s on into the present, steampunk has developed into a genre that mixes speculative science fiction with fantasy and good old fashioned D.I.Y. self-determinism. Some of the genre’s more notable contributors include William Gibson, Paul Di Filippo, Alan Moore, Bruce Sterling, and Kevin O’Neille. Some films that have featured the steampunk visual style include City of Lost Children, Van Helsing, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.