Steampunk, what is it? Definition, origin and illustration

Steampunk, what is it? Definition, origin and illustration

In a broad sense, steampunk could be described as a cultural movement . It combines 19th century aesthetics and technology with futuristic elements . It is sometimes referred to as science fiction of the past or as retrofuture .

His literary and audiovisual works display very specific stylistic codes, mixing gears, cogs and other mechanical elements with raw materials such as copper, steel and leather.

All technological developments are carried out on the basis of steam energy, giving a singular character to these creations.

The editorial staff of wishes to share with you all its knowledge related to Steampunk, an intriguing, alternative fantasy universe with a real identity.

What is Steampunk, what is its literal definition and what is its exact origin? We will also see how this Uchronic genre is expressed, sometimes apocalyptic in certain aspects.

Make yourself comfortable and equip yourself with your dear vaporist mask... The steam that emerges from this 100% Steam 💨Punk article may be heavy 🧐


Although steampunk 's fundamental inspirations can be traced back to 19th century Victorian writers , the founders of science fiction like H. G. Wells ( The Time Machine ) and Jules Vernes ( Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ) notably, it was during the last decade, in the 80s more precisely, that steampunk developed its own punk culture . 

Originally, it is a literary genre , clearly fantastic . 

The term steampunk was coined and popularized by KW Jeter and his cronies James Blaylock and Tim Powers in 1987 to differentiate their works from other science fiction writers and as a parodic reference to the already existing  Cyberpunk .

This movement pays homage to the industrial era.

Historically, the 19th century saw the development of industrialization thanks in particular to urbanization, technological advances and telecommunications. The steampunk movement , taking this structure as a starting point, imagines an even more futuristic 19th century. 

This gives rise to inventions of Victorian inspiration such as steam planes or mechanical computers for example. 


Author: Lincoln Renall

In France, several authors took up the genre at the end of the 1990s.

Finally, steampunk gradually extended to all the arts: illustration , photography, fashion , music, creation of objects, etc.

Which leads us to wonder how Steampunk art developed  and above all:


A sub-genre of punk culture, Steampunk appeared in the field of literature during the 1980s. The  term steampunk is composed of the word  "steam" which literally means steam and the word " punk " which  refers to to  cyberpunk , a literary genre of science fiction. Steampunk is sometimes translated as steam future or more literally as steam punk .

This alternative style is composed of elements inspired by 19th century steam engines and  the aesthetic codes characteristic of the Victorian era. Steam, which is the basis of the energy of the Industrial Revolution, is the main element characterizing  steampunk 

The steampunk universe adopts a crazy retro style that mixes modern technology with steam as a source of energy.


Author: Thomas Chamberlain

The atmosphere of steampunk is inspired by the decors of the Victorian era , the Industrial Revolution, extraordinary journeys and futuristic discoveries such as steam airships , Captain Nemo's Nautilus or even the time machine or the rise from Frankenstein. 

Among the other key elements of the steampunk universe , we also find mad scientists , inventions of all kinds, surreal tools, wacky inventors , outdated technology, vintage clocks , gears , bronze , copper , steel or leather , etc.

Steampunk Sherlock Holmes

Also, the steampunk universe often incorporates myths from the Victorian era , such as Sherlock Holmes , Dracula, Jack the Ripper or Dorian Gray.

Steampunk stories are usually set in London or Paris.

Aesthetically, remember that three periods influence the steampunk genre :

  • The Industrial Revolution in England, from 1760
  • The American Civil War, 1861-1865
  • The Belle Époque in France from 1871 to 1914

But what about the inspiration and influence of steampunk culture in fashion ?


Inspired by the Victorian era , steampunk clothing mixes gothic , burlesque , but also retrofuturistic styles .

Steampunk Style

Followers of this steampunk style , often called "steamers", are generally very creative people with a great imagination. They are eccentric, cosplayers with a drive to stand out and know how to combine Victorian era fashion with steam engine inspired elements to create a unique and quirky style.

Their outfits  usually consist of a top hat, a pair of round sunglasses, a long-sleeved strapless dress, a skirt or pants and brass pendant-type jewelry. , pocket watch, earrings, rings.... 

The steampunk style of clothing for women

To create a steampunk look for women , all you need is a Victorian-era dress , a vintage corset , and knowing how to choose the right shoes . This is what makes the basis of this style of dress . 

Corsets are a must and are available in different styles, colors and materials ( lace , leather, silk , etc.). 

Leather boots , heeled ankle boots or lace-up thigh high boots are the boots to adopt. Also, steampunk shoes usually have metal ornaments. 

The most used colors in a female steampunk wardrobe are dark and warm colors such as brown , red , black , etc. 

Finally, to complete the look , it is possible to add a jacket or a coat . The choice generally depends on the tastes of each woman and the character who inspires her (pirate, aristocrat, explorer, adventurer, scientist...).


The steampunk style of clothing for men

First of all, it is important to remember here again what makes the basis of the steampunk style for men  : a Victorian era outfit with a futuristic touch .

The typical look for men  consists of a classic suit with a vest or shirt with suspenders , a blouson jacket and a long coat . The choice of fabric is important and must adapt to this era. For example, cotton, tweed or velvet are options to consider in order to create an elegant suit with a traditional appearance. 

Added to this are the leather shoes and boots that must fit the chosen character.

Man or woman , we must not forget that steampunk clothing must entertain the person who wears it, and at the same time, seduce the viewer. It is by adding the right accessories that you can succeed and perfect your steamer look .


The essential accessories in a Steampunk wardrobe

Steampunk fashion is inspired by literature and film characters . In order to create a steampunk look , you have to know how to associate the right accessories with your dress or costume . This is what helps to reflect a futuristic retro style. 

The most basic accessories are hats and fingerless gloves ( leather or lace ). 

However, remember that the steampunk style goes beyond what is common and allows eccentricities, such as integrating materials specific to steam engines or making a steampunk tattoo based on gears. 

Among the most famous accessories are clocks , pocket watches , vintage aviator glasses , etc. 

It is even possible to add mechanical or futuristic elements such as machines or a robot arm, to remain faithful to this alternate history.


Steampunk objects and decoration

Just like fashion accessories , steampunk decorative objects  are distinguished by their originality and their retro futuristic appearance. Like for example our Cryptex USB key in Steampunk style :

It is once again a question of adopting a Victorian decoration with industrial accessories . Old rustic wooden furniture or leather furniture provide a steampunk atmosphere at home . Old metal clocks , terrestrial globes, elements reminiscent of machines, are also an integral part of this style. 

In addition, you can make your own decorative objects inspired by everything that this era has left us.

It's clear now that steampunk is a way of life. So let's discover the steampunk community .


The steampunk community and steampunk as a way of life

Steampunk is a cultural movement based on creativity and imagination. 

It has its own followers all over the world who share the same values, the same philosophy and above all their love for what is vintage , unusual and futuristic. In other words, the steampunk community likes to combine the past with the future in a creative way and with complete freedom. The goal is to be able to take what is good in both worlds and bring it into the present.

The steampunk community is autonomous, creative and prefers making, DIY and reusing. In a consumer society, it must be said that we need such values ​​in order to create a balance.

Many cinematic works have made Steampunk popular . We think especially of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or the Wild Wild West. These films are not completely faithful to the codes of Steampunk, but they nevertheless have the merit of revealing the atmosphere of this emblematic universe.

Some vaporists even dare to get married in Steampunk , enough to keep a memorable memory of this unique day!

In another genre, Steampunk manga and anime are also particularly inspiring works to feel the futuristic retro atmosphere.

This article is coming to an end, you know everything about Steampunk 🧐 Do not hesitate to browse our online store to discover all our clothes and accessories, created especially for real steamers. Goodbye.