Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why SteamPunk?

It is a fair bet that you have at least heard or seen the term SteamPunk recently. It seems everyone is talking about it, but if you've missed it, SteamPunk is just the most recent subculture to stray into the mainstream spotlight. I'm not going to try to explain the genre, that is best left to the countless SteamPunk blogs and other web resources. What I would like to do is try to explain why people go steam.

I am no stranger to subcultures, while I've never gone "all in", I've been part of one or another most of my life. All of them have some key elements in common, sure they all have distinctive fashion and style and many have a music genre to call their own, but where they are exactly the same is that they fill an emotional need and that is what draws in the hardcore members. The easy example to go with here is Goth. Most kids have a certain degree of normal teen angst, going Goth allows them to acknowledge and deal with that angst on the surface. Sure many people just like to wear black and listen to dark music, but the true Goth embraces the emotional support of others just like them. Even as they are rebelling, they are finding a place to belong.

So then to SteamPunk, just like Goth, it fills an emotional need to belong. What is different about SteamPunk is that it acknowledges a sense that we do not belong. The core of SteamPunk is a time that does not really exist, a time that is wrong whose elements do not belong together. That melding of past that never happened and a future not likely to exist has created a place where anyone, no matter how much of a social outcast can co-exist. It is not a depressing place like Goth can be, but rather a place of pure fantasy.

Sure, a lot of people have been adopting the SteamPunk aesthetic lately just because it is stylistically appealing. I know that I love the Victorian fashion and it doesn't hurt that my tatting fits right into that. Some people dig on the gears, leather and futurist tech, but like any trend its mainstream popularity will eventually wane. The lasting result will most likely be that when you see that goggle wearing freak on the street, you will know that she's into SteamPunk. The subculture will likely take its place beside Goth as something everyone knows about with goggles and geared jewelry featured in Hot Topic, but not something the masses will all adopt. This is of course just fine with me.

If you'd like to immerse yourself in some more SteamPunk info check out these links I've gathered.


Good Dirt Jewelry said...

I love what you are able to do with tatting! Beautiful!

Carrie Mae said...

Your shop is gorgeous. Love it!

Kim Caro said...

i too never go into the typical trends such as steam punk. they seem to want to be different and then they no longer are because they gave in to being something like that. now musically... if that is music... same thing. lol i think people should try to do what they love rather than fitting in to any category

Sarah Dungan said...

kim, I think that any subculture starts with people doing what they love and finding each other. I don't think its about wanting to be different, I think its about wanting to be yourself and wanting other people to understand and relate to. I would be playing with gears and dressing up funny if no one had anything to call it, but I sure appreciate the ability to find a bunch of other people to dress up with.
People who try to fit into a category just for the sake of it never really get very far into the culture; they only settle on the fringe and, as Totusmel put it, buy their goggles at Hot Topic.
We used to call Hot Topic Goth-pop by the by ;-)

. c h o k l i t . said...

I'm always an inhabitant of the places where the sub-cultures intersect - a boundary dweller, one might say. I love taking pieces of steampunk, of circus and vaudeville couture, of Burning Man, of tribal cultures, of Gothic Lolita and neo-Victorian style, and mashing them all up into one un-classifiable freaky aesthetic.

Therefore I am not troubled when one subculture suddenly gets over-saturated in the mainstream and everyone starts mourning its passing, because I'm still just doing what I love.