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.