Steampunk and the New Victorians

Tintype by David Sokosh
Tintype by David Sokosh

Apparently there’s a fashion, decorating or even cultural movement out there called steam punk, although its existence has up until this point been lost on me. It was explained to me that people into steampunk often dress in old styles and use old objects in new ways. I’m picturing a lamp made from a blender, but that may be way off. Wikipedia has an entry on Steampunk, and apparently it’s been around since the 1980s, in books anyway. Wikipedia says: Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk and shares a similar fanbase and theme of rebellion, but developed as a separate movement (though both have considerable influence on each other). Apart from time period and level of technological development, the main difference between cyberpunk and steampunk is that steampunk settings usually tend to be less obviously dystopian than cyberpunk, or lack dystopian elements entirely.

Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

Popular style movements may be growing out of steampunk. Take the existence of this cedar and brass ipod case as evidence.  Taxidermy also seems to be popular with this crowd. A recent New York Times Article, The New Antiquarians, touched on the subject.

Further evidence it may have gone mainstream is the cover of the New York Times Style Section November 12, This Just in From the 1890s.  Yes, this fashion may be called “retro,” and it doesn’t come across as costumish. The Times says: As with home design, where curio cases, taxidermy and other stylish clutter of the Victorian era have been taken up by young hipsters, many of today’s popular men’s styles have their roots in the late 19th century.

Photographer David Sokosh used a 19th century tintype process to produce the fashion shots for the Times style feature, and they are on display and for sale at MDH Fine Arts at 233 West 19th Street in Manhattan.

2 thoughts on “Steampunk and the New Victorians

  1. Within the younger population there have always been various subcultures who appreciate and embrace references to earlier forms. Perhaps a response to our over-reliance on technology and trend-following? Regardless, this influence is played out in fashion, as demonstrated by the couture of Alexander McQueen for example, as well as in home decor as discussed in The Antiquarian article in the NY Times. There are pockets of younger consumers embracing “antique aesthetics” here and there. Thank goodness for this group – as they may emerge to become the next generation of antique collector. We must learn to court them if the retail trade wishes to remain a viable one.


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