The Steampunk Aesthetic Fully Explained

Steampunk man wearing mask with various mechanical devices

Steampunk brought elegance and history into the science fiction genre. However, there is a knack for balancing elegance with its grungier, industrial edge. 

The steampunk aesthetic combines vintage Victorian elegance with futuristic, industrial touches, and its palette favors autumn colors, sepia tones, and goth blacks and greys. The distinctive look steers clear of digital technology and celebrates the mechanical with cogs, gears, and divots. 

Steampunk Aesthetic Design Style

sewin accessories on desk

Steampunk aesthetic reimagines worlds that borrow from history (sometimes an alternate history) yet have futuristic qualities. It takes vintage Victorian elegance or the Wild West aesthetic and blends it with industrial elements. 

The look has a robust edge that speaks of intrepid survivors while still classy. Thus, pocket watches, top hats, waistcoats, and corsets are set off with clockwork gears, brass and copper jewelry, and goggles. 

Overall, steampunk has a romance that most other punk and futurism looks lack. However, that doesn’t mean it is all roses and sunshine, as it still acknowledges the grim. 

What Are Steampunk Aesthetic References?

Steampunk styled paddle steamer boat

The base of the steampunk aesthetic is found in vintage periods. Most commonly, these are:

Layered over this vintage look is a celebration of steampunk technology, a fusion of mechanical components and steam-powered machinery that imagines its possibilities in the future and fantastical realms. 

The steampunk aesthetic also shares commonalities with:

  • Technofantasy
  • Retrofuturism
  • Neo-Victorian 

Technofantasy

Technofantasy is an aesthetic movement that incorporates technology into sustainable, functional, and stylish clothing

For example, people are brainstorming ways to use 3D printers to reduce waste from fashion to near zero and cut back on other damaging bi-products of the industry, such as pollution from transportation materials and products. 

There are also experiments on harnessing power from what we wear, such as through kinetic or solar energy. Such clothing could either recharge power banks or devices more environmentally friendly. 

Retrofuturism

Retrofuturism celebrates what people once believed the future would look like. It takes the anticipated “future look” proposed in times before, such as the 40s and 50s, and wears them as fashion. 

It’s much like how the original Star Trek and The Jetsons had a distinct 60s vibe despite being set in the future. But this period of history is typically thought of as atompunk or raygun gothic.

Neo-Victorian

Neo-Victorian aesthetics is heavily linked to hipster culture. It’s a blend of Victorian and Edwardian vintage, but unlike steampunk, it doesn’t contain the intrepid spirit or futuristic mechanical elements. 

However, the movement focuses on the romanticized version of this period rather than the harsher realities. Modern sensibilities and ethics over gender, race, and sexuality are maintained while still enjoying certain mannerisms and customs, such as calling cards. 

Other Comparable Aesthetics To The Steampunk Aesthetic

Beautiful woman with purple hair in futuristic costume over dark background

Teslapunk is commonly associated with steampunk. Like steampunk, it takes vintage history (mostly 18th and 19th, but some early 20th century) and brings it to a futuristic reimaging. 

However, unlike steampunk, electricity is not only available but inexpensive, portable, and clean (no wood burning, coal, or oil involved). 

Solarpunk and cyberpunk are often associated with steampunk, but they generally have a futuristic quality that favors modernity rather than vintage. Although cyberpunk is starting to age into a late 80s and 90s futuristic aesthetic, solarpunk is sometimes blended with vintage Victorian. 

Steampunk Aesthetic Color Palette

steam punk asthethic

The steampunk color palette favors tarnished autumn and sepia tones: golden, brown, bronze, copper, oranges, metallic, and creams. However, black and grey are also heavily incorporated, sometimes to an alternative goth look. 

Steampunk Art

steampunk digital art

Steampunk art typically has a Victorian flair and is often metal-based, primarily copper, brass, and steel. However, some fantastic creations use other materials, such as stained glass. 

The art is often sculpture or jewelry, many of which are functional, including imaginative clocks or light fixtures.

Key elements are recycled metal, such as reusing clockwork pieces to create a rabbit pendant or using old train parts to construct a giant Cthulhu.  

Steampunk art is visual, such as drawings, paintings, or digitally created images. However, the muted, sepia, antique quality almost always accompanies the artwork, even if it is made using modern, computerized equipment. 

Some artists have a knack for using old, antique objects to create modern, functional devices. A popular example is taking typewriter pieces, such as the keys, to construct a working computer keyboard. 

Industrial Steampunk Interior Design

Steam punk styled dark-interior with red velvet armchairs and a sofa with pillows

Industrial steampunk interior design has a harder, more urban edge than other steampunk interpretations. It is notable for its exposed bricks and pipes, and the furnishings scream durable and sturdy rather than soft and delicate. 

However, that does not mean the industrial look is the more “working class Victorian” choice. It may ooze wealth but have the ambiance of being inside a luxury shipowner with a passion for ocean exploration. 

Industrial steampunk interior design is also fond of the same elements found in any steampunk decor:

  1. Antique-looking maps and globes
  2. Lamps
  3. Gadgets
  4. Trunks
  5. Leather
  6. Velvet
  7. Sepia prints
  8. Repurposed functional items (old pipes repurposed into a coat rack)
  9. Incandescent light bulbs

Industrial steampunk athetotic often contrasts masculine elements with feminine touches, such as rough woods and tarnished metal contrasted with delicate lace. 

The color schemes in rooms are similar to the fashion:

  1. Black
  2. Burnt Orange
  3. Bronze
  4. Browns
  5. Copper
  6. Creams
  7. Reds

There is a muted, sepia quality to colors used in decor to provide that bygone-era ambiance. Even wood favors the rich, aged darker tones rather than the modern, crisp pines. 

What Does Steampunk Fashion Look Like?

Girl in a stylized steampunk costume posing on a dark background

Steampunk fashion plays a key role in steampunk culture. It comprises of contrasting elegance of vintage Victorian with the industrial. The sophistication of the former is given a hard, practical edge that can weather grime, dust, and grease. 

The fashion speaks of people who enjoy tea parties and social graces while still wanting to be elbow deep in inventing new devices and gadgets and setting off on adventures. There may also be elements of fantasy and whimsy wrapped up in steampunk fashion, such as wings, but these typically have a faux-mechanical functional explanation. 

But what sets off the steampunk design aesthetic is the accessories, from goggles to gears; these touches celebrate the hands-on technology that defines the genre. 

Steampunk Clothing

Steampunk clothing often involves sharply contrasting fabrics. For example, a soft, flowy, cream Victorian blouse might be corseted in black leather with rugged metal buckles but topped with a velvet jacket. Lace and silk stockings might feed into leather boots with metal buckles and a mechanical-looking heel.  

A suit and top hat might be contrasted with aviation goggles and a metal, mechanically enhanced sleeve. A brocade waistcoat-wearing gentleman will still have heavy, leather boots with brass straps that go up the shin.  

Steampunk Costumes

Steampunk customs depend on the story they’re depicting. So, for example, a woman might have a burlesque meets apocalypse look, sexy but perfectly capable of blowing a head off. 

Another popular take is the lady, with flowing skirts and form-fitting, sophisticated jackets. However, her shoes and accessories will show a daring touch, and she is ready to fly the zeppelin herself after taking afternoon tea. 

Similarly, with men, there is a vintage-biker look that carries over to airships, with suits made of leather and ether canisters hanging from their belts to power their guns. Another popular costume is the gentlemen inventor or explorer, who wears rich fabrics and pears them with watches and wearable technological enhancements. 

Steampunk Accessories

steampunk accrssories showing a hat goggles and gloves-1

Steampunk outfits and accessories are the crucial elements that differentiate the genre from vintage or neo-Victorian. After all, a pocket watch is a typical Victorian element, but a steampunk pocket watch might have exposed cogs and have a second, mysterious function than simply keeping time. 

Steampunk Hats

The tophat is the most common steampunk hat. However, there are also bowlers, derby, gamblers, Western Cowboy, navy captains, aviator, conductor caps, and newsboy caps.  

The crucial element with these hats is that they are adorned with mechanical touches, such as gears or goggles. 

Steampunk Goggles

Steampunk goggles can be as basic as vintage aviators or be fancy and futuristic brass contraptions that supposedly give the wearer telescopic or microscopic vision when required. However, many steampunk goggles are inspired by cinder goggles. These were popular with railway workers and passengers in railcars that were not fitted with glass and, sometimes, even a roof. 

Steampunk Glasses

Steampunk glasses are typically small, round, and wire-framed. However, some have side protection or so many embellishments that they begin looking like goggles. 

Steampunk Jackets

Steampunk jackets are tailored in fitted cuts of the Victorian era. Some are made of more luxurious fabrics; others are of leather. 

Men’s Jackets

Men’s steampunk jackets reflected a man as a gentleman or his occupation, such as military captain or aviation. However, they might have built-in mechanical embellishments or modifications, such as mechanical weaponry. 

Women’s Jackets

Women’s jackets are fitted, often setting off a tiny waist and a full bust. Like men’s, they may be made of delicate fabrics or leather. 

Steampunk Footwear

Steampunk footwear has a lot in common with DocMartins and biker footwear: leather, buckles, straps, and eye hooks. 

Men’s Boots

Men’s steampunk boots are made for stomping. These industrial-grade toes and soled shoes will extend at least as high as a good hiking boot and may even reach the knee. They are full of sturdy buckles and straps and may have cogs and gears fitted here and there. 

Women’s Boots

Women’s steampunk boots often have a pointed heel rather than the flatter block found in men’s. In addition, women’s steampunk boots are shapely to show off the ankles and calves. They thus will have a sexy edge despite their practical durability. 

Shoes

Steampunk shoes are less popular than boots but will still be leather and healed. However, they have a daintier feel and a less chunky toe, sometimes even pointed. 

Steampunk style

Portrait of steampunk man with various mechanical devices on vintage steampunk background

Steampunk styles use lots of contrast: history with futurism, leather with lace, velvet and metal, and industrial with luxury. 

The base of steampunk is vintage-Victorian that has mechanical touches. It is all about sexy elegance with a fearless spirit that can hold up to the grime. 

But the accessories divide steampunk from pure vintage: cogs, gears, goggles, and modified pocket watches.

Steampunk enthusiasts

Lucca Comics free cosplay event around city steam punk couple

There is something strangely intriguing about steampunk enthusiasts. Their passion for everything – from steampunk movies, games, and literature to fashion and culture – is inspiring and infectious. For many steampunk fans, their love of the steampunk genre is more than just a fad; it’s a way of life.

And while some people may view steampunk as simply an aesthetic style, it is much more than this for enthusiasts. It’s a passion, a hobby, and a community that provides a sense of belonging. Steampunk enthusiasts are a unique group of people with a lot to offer.

Round Up

Steampunk is gaining popularity daily, and it’s easy to see why. The unique aesthetic and the fascinating culture that has sprung up around it are enough to draw in any curious onlooker. But what is steampunk?

At its core, steampunk is a genre of fiction that combines futuristic technology with a Victorian aesthetic. Moreover, the steampunk fiction subculture and its submerged aesthetic have taken on a life of their own. As a result, people worldwide are embracing the steampunk lifestyle.

Whether you’re interested in fashion, music, or steampunk games or want to learn more about this unique community, there’s something for everyone in the world of steampunk. Have you explored the steampunk universe yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

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