As Steampunk grows it is obvious that it is as diverse as our nation. There are unique perspectives from all over…Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern, West Coast, Midwest, etc. We all have our favorites depending on the area in which we reside. Mine, of course, is Southern Steampunk.
One of the challenges of Steampunk as a whole is to strip away the negative parts of Victoriana and enhance the positive ideals of the era. Another challenge is to not rely too heavily upon modern ideas within Steampunk. We all can pretty much agree that modern is boring…this is part of why we are drawn to Steampunk. What I wouldn’t give to see Apple Computers actually make a cool looking iPhone rather than the modern glass and metal bricks they continue to produce. The aesthetic of retro-futurism takes us back to a time when quality mattered. Things were built to last, to be passed down to our children and our children’s children. We have come to live in a disposable society. If it breaks, throw it away (or recycle it) and get a new one! It’ll be better, shinier, and faster! Cheap plastics and mass production have contributed to this, but we as Steampunks reject this. We have an ideal, we have a vision. We demand quality, we demand beauty, we demand civility.
Fashions of the age also show that the designers care. Clothing should accent who we are as an individual and allow us to make a statement about who we are. Taking this into consideration, we can see how Moderns choose to show themselves to the world. The general public has devolved to the wearing of T-shirts, women’s thongs being displayed and sagging jeans with boxer shorts showing. To me this shows a lack of caring and a certain level of laziness. Is this how they really want to be perceived by the rest of the world? If it is…more power to them, but it is not for me. I’m not saying that one should never wear a t-shirt and shorts mind you, but there is a time and place for everything. Unfortunately many times the choices made by certain individuals are not appropriate for the activity they are choosing to engage in. Even modern dress fashions, particularly for men, are incredibly boring. Fortunately women have a lot more choice, but men…we are stuck with the monochromatic suit, no vest and if we’re lucky, a festive tie unless you’re at the office. Then the tie had better be one color and have no patterns or panache to it. What is wrong with wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch? What is wrong with wearing a bowler or top hat? What is wrong with men having color, style and texture in their clothing? More times than not when wearing my Steampunk clothing I’ve been complimented by the Moderns. Others don’t quite know how to handle it, though. I remember being laughed at by a man out in public. I was wearing a frock coat, tie, waistcoat, top hat and saddle shoes; he was wearing sweat pants, a baggy t-shirt with a Budweiser print on the front and Nike sneakers. Who, I ask you, was worthy of being laughed at for their wardrobe choice? Let us not even get into the lax office dress standards that have come along in the past 20 years. Flip flops, shorts, blue jeans…all are allowed in some corporate environments. I’m not sure which is worse…boring men’s fashion or beachwear in corporate America.
The South has a rich heritage that is heavily based in the aristocracy of gentlemen farmers, cavaliers, chivalry and creativity both in art and music. We still have remnants of our grand and wonderful architecture that have been preserved. Buildings of business and glorious Painted Ladies still survive by the grace of the efforts of those outside the Steampunk community who wish to preserve the history and elegance of these structures. Ivanhoe once was a huge influence in Southern culture and it still has some influence today. Even the manners of modern Southerners hearken back to the days of a more civilized world. It is these influences that I try to integrate into Southern Steampunk. Elegance, creativity, grace, chivalry, mannerisms, style and a dash of romantic flair…this is the essence of Southern Steampunk. This is the personification of Southern Steampunk that I and others display to the world.