Thursday, August 27, 2009

Steampunk, Part 1

The astute reader may have noticed that I am slightly anachronistic in my tendencies. And by slightly, I mean very. One does not read Sherlock Holmes mysteries, shave with steel double-edge razors, and sneeze into handkerchiefs if they are not trying to achieve something.

The sad fact is, I am an avowed Steampunk, and there is no curing me. Because it has been asked of me, and because I can, this post is devoted to the subject – and more specifically why it's so fuckin' awesome, and how you can try it out yourself.

I've already mentioned in a previous post what Steampunk is. Succinctly, it is a sensibility, fashion trend, art form, and sub culture that attempts to emulate and celebrate the Victorian era, while allowing for a great deal of science fiction and fantasy to permeate. That was wordy. It's really a bunch of hot people dressing anachronistically, building fun and fascinating machinery and weaponry, writing great stories and essays, and enjoying tea and crumpets all the while. I'm still not doing well at explaining this, so there will be links to follow.

The movement is meant to be fun – we don't actually think it's 1889, although that would be neato. Most steampunks dress rather normally on a day-to-day basis. But many things carry over from the past that apply well to us on a daily basis. The best, and my favorite aspect of Steampunk, is the green aspect. This may shock you, but people did not always throw pounds and pounds of crapola into the dumpster on a weekly basis. And when people threw stuff away into their middens, other (less fortunate) people came by and picked through it. In short, there was a lot less waste. Mothers did not throw away clothes – they cut them up for new items, or handed them down to siblings or cousins. There were no paper tissues, as we know, just those fabulous hankies – there was very little paper anything, as a matter of fact. Newspapers were reused in the outhouse or spanking new water closet. Both sides of foolscap were used. Et cetera.

I'm not suggesting we wipe our asses with the Times. Papercuts. It's the idea of less waste that is appealing, not the manner is which is was achieved. Some of these methods were not even a choice – no one was thinking of global warming when riding their horse or bicycle somewhere. But the benefit to us today makes using a bike more appealing. The waste-nothing ideology is at the heart of Steampunk. Because our trade is in the old, we jump headlong into flea markets, resale shops, and that box in the basement to find goodies that can have new life. Victorian and Edwardian-style clothes can be bought ready-made – for a price. And we do buy many pieces already made. But there is a high respect for those of use who can cut up dad's shirt and make something new, or who can weld old pipe fittings together for something amazing. We're not exactly saving the world, but we damn well are trying to do something.

I can't ignore the nostalgic aspect either. It's nice to think of a time when men and women were more polite, social mores prevented a gentlemen from commenting on a lady's hooters at the gas station (er, horse post?), and people took the time to write thoughtful letters in flowing script rather than texting “where ru bitch?” Admittedly, there was a great deal of shitola going on in that time as well - class unrest, poverty, disease, racism, wars. We have the benefit of eschewing the bad and fitting the good to modern sensibilities. We can all dress up pretty and have tea and no one will care if you are black or white or how expensive you hat was or what you do for a living. That's sort of badass.

This leads me to my final point on the matter, which is the creation of community. The community is not overlarge, and the gatherings that occur are often smallish. People get to know one another. The creative of us start making clothing and jewelry and awesome weapons out of just a cap gun and some crap from the attic. We buy from one-(wo)man shops and websites and all of a sudden we are supporting friends and American-made products and services. That's right, bitches – we are buying American (or British, or whatever your locale is) and getting fine, hand-made products. You cannot beat that. People on forums and communities gladly offer patterns, advice, and information to those who ask. We are fortunate that we haven't yet devolved into a clique-y, bitchy group that shoots every noob down. Our general motto is to let y'all keep on doing what you do and make your vision of what Steampunk is be what it is.

This soap box pitch has turned out longer than I originally anticipated, and so I hesitate to scare you away with another thousand words. I think I will leave off my second part for next week, that part being about what we wear and do – and instead leave you with the promised informational links, some good resources, and a few links to some you-know-you-want-'em accessories. Cool?

Thought so.

For Your Information
Wikipedia, because it may be wiki, but the info is far better than my definition.
Aether Emporium

Steampunk Fashion on Livejounal wherein you can get a shitload of info and good times.
And on Facebook
Steampunk Cafe
Steampunk Debate

And Some Pretties to Look At
I'm trying to whet your appetite here.

Ladies Hats and Mens Hats
Pocket Watches
Walking Sticks, Umbrellas, and Parasols

(Links were chosen based on what I've explored, price, and relativity to the post. There is WAY more on each item available. Maybe if you have a site/store, you'd like to comment?)

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