Will Steampunk Really Be the Next Big Fashion Trend?

Grab your top hats: the cultural subgenre of steampunk is poised to take over the retail industry in the next two years, says IBM

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No offense to IBM, but a tech company — even one so highly regarded — wouldn’t be the first place we’d turn for fashion forecasting. Yet on Monday, the company released the findings of a “social sentiment index” that predicted that steampunk would be the next big trend to take hold of the retail industry.

What is steampunk exactly? According to Forbes, it’s a “science fiction/fantasy sub-genre that’s a style mash-up of 19th century industrialized looks and Victorian flourishes.” Sounds fancy. We’re more apt to explain it in reference to pop culture: it’s Sherlock Holmes meets Wild Wild West, with a dash of Inspector Gadget. Get the picture?

Before we all not-so-quietly snicker about the improbability of this prediction, it’s important to note that IBM does have science behind its claim — or at least online metrics. The company analyzed more than a half-million posts from news sources and on message boards, blogs and social-media sites, and found that steampunk has quite a following. According to its study, the amount of online discussion about steampunk increased 11 times from 2009 to 2012. It also notes that, since 2010, more than two dozen U.S. department stores and retailers have become “steampunk savvy.” Whatever that means.

(MORE: Steampunk: Reclaiming Tech for the Masses)

Furthermore, IBM predicts that during the next two years, “steampunk will shift from low-production, high-cost ‘craft’ manufacturing to mass production,” meaning you’ll be able to pick up your go-go-gadget spectacles in department stores and not just local thrift shops.

But just because something has gained traction online, does that mean a trend is on the horizon? Traditionally, new fashion styles tend to trickle down, from the couture shows in Paris and Milan to the ready-to-wear shows at New York Fashion Week to high-end retailers and then — finally — to the watered-down versions that arrive for us commoners in the mainstream.

For steampunk, the high-end influence is already out there. For his spring 2010 couture show, John Galliano designed a parade of looks for Christian Dior with nods to early 20th century influences — including corsets, top hats, flowing fabrics, layers of lace and Frankenstein-esque hair and makeup — that are often referenced by steampunk fashionistas.

More recently, Sarah Burton incorporated an updated version of classical Victorian looks into Alexander McQueen’s spring-summer 2013 runway show at Paris Fashion Week in October, with voluminous, Scarlett O’Hara–inspired gowns and sexy, see-through corsets, accompanied by some fascinating headwear.

(PHOTOS: Retrospective: John Galliano’s Most Memorable Dior Designs)

Even guys are getting into the action. Prada’s fall-winter 2012 men’s campaign featured several leading men — Gary Oldman, Garrett Hedlund, Jamie Bell and Willem Dafoe — dressed to kill in heavily tailored steampunk-style suits (railroad stripes included).

So perhaps IBM’s seemingly out-there prediction isn’t so wild after all. In fact, the steampunk style might already be leaking into the mainstream, at least according to Pinterest. A quick search on the social site uncovered many boards dedicated to this cultural subgenre (see here and here for some great ones). While the look still seems to be more costume-focused than something for everyday wear, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some aspects of steampunk gain traction in the coming years.

The moral of the story is, if you ever wanted to embrace your inner Helena Bonham Carter (and don’t we all?), there’s no better time than the present to bring back the past.

PHOTOS: 2013 Golden Globes Fashion: The Bold, the Beautiful and the Boring

90 comments
chochotefc
chochotefc

Original steampunk victorian style is gone, apparently is due to the fact that most people don't even know what is steampunk. They do like steampunk looking stuff. But looking at the current trends with the new movies and fashion.. definitely steampunk is really going to be a home run for fashion designers but most people will not really know what it is all about "the history is washed out".. for instance look at Daniel Pouxl work -->  http://danielproulx.blogspot.com/ -- is this not trendy fashion styles?

Look at http://www.rebelsmarket.com/styles/steampunk-44http://io9.com/5974340/rococopunk-is-not-only-sillier-than-steampunk-its-also-more-punk

The list goes on

JimOsment
JimOsment

The thing is as soon as you can get "your go-go-gadget spectacles in department stores " that will kill it stone dead for most people. Most of the people who like it, do so because it isn't mainstream and because no two goggles (or whatever) are the same and there are no big "brand names". Also many of the people who love it do so because of the inventiveness and the handmade/custom made-ness  and even a recycling/ upcycling ethic. I think it is about as mainstream as it's ever going to get, hopefully.

MelissaHolt
MelissaHolt

Read about 20 comments here, and I'm not going to bother reading anymore of you arguing over what Steampunk is, or whether or not it's a current fashion trend or not. All I know is as a designer, I get quite a few requests for Steampunk clothing and I'm loving it. I'm almost ready to move on to something new, but if there is a demand for it, I'll make it!

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

Well, I think I can come up with the single-most thumbs-up post here:

Steampunk beats the HELL out of the "Saggy pants" crap we've been putting up with for a decade or more.

Like the saggy pants fashion, there's more to Steampunk than the "look", and you can bet it is a hell of a lot more socially acceptable than the "prison fashion" mentality behind letting your rear end hang out.  But even without that, I'd rather look at someone wearing a sci-fi/Victorian fashion than walking around like a mutant, badly dressed penguin.

So pardon me if I root for Steampunk over saggy pants.  Society will be better off with the former and without the latter.

MellyWestgate
MellyWestgate

God, I hope not. As someone who enjoys this subculture I really hope that it never becomes a part of mainstream culture. The entire subculture is about creating things on your own. All it needs is a bunch of mass produced, low quality mimics. Part of the beauty of steampunk is that it's unique. Another big part of steampunk is the social awkwardness that goes along with it. If you can't count on a steampunk person to be socially awkward how are we all going to know who we can instantly click with? ( I am only mostly kidding about that last part.)

jason.schrock
jason.schrock

"Will Steampunk Really Be the Next Big Fashion Trend?"


answer: no.

RScandle
RScandle

Although check out Professor Elemental,and his "Fighting Trousers"...!

RScandle
RScandle

Well I live in Bristol,UK,should be Steampunk Central,but,isn't..Quite like some of the stuff tho,especially the engines..

SonjaFaithLund
SonjaFaithLund

I know some steampunks were upset when the fashion had its moment a few years ago, and they'd be upset again if it became mass-produced again, but it's not because it's some hipster "don't want to become mainstream thing" (well, not for most of us).  A huge part of the subculture is each person engaging their creativity and creating clothes/decorations/gadgets with their own two hands. Going out to Macy's and buying a whole steampunk outfit isn't in the spirit of it at all.

Skeptacular
Skeptacular

There are books out on 'steam punk' that presume to be high minded about it, its 'goals' and its artistic seriousness. Most will reach back a little too far and a little too far afield when considering the wellsprings from which it came. 

Fact is, it didn't exist until the release of the 1954 film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - and then it was a simple case of resurrecting long-past stabs at future speculation, in this case using the futurism of its author, Jules Verne. The ornament, the manner in which things would have had to have worked to have been actualized in Verne's lifetime, and the materials from which they would have to be produced were supposed based on that time. The film was a fabulous success and the art direction, simply superb. The character it sought, it attained handily. Moreover, every kid from then to the germination of "steam punk" (an awful and awfully counter-descriptive name) saw it. 

Almost every (usually male) kid at one time or another, since the development of the transistor and the integrated circuit, reveled in the strange, other-time-and-place exotic anachronism of past, abandoned technology - from vacuum tubes to Bakelite knobs to knife switches. This led to some interesting sculptures and baubles...ray guns and robots re-imagined, but mainly it planted a whimsical percolation of these inventive premises. Even so, in terms of its 'seriousness' it shares a crowded stage with so many other whimsies that over time were over thought and over-rationalized as 'movements'. Comic books as serious art and cultural phenomena....science fiction (err...speculative fiction) as a valid face of futurism are two that leap to mind. What happened? They no longer hold the sway they once did. More movies containing them to be sure, but movies based on pop culture trends are almost always the trailing end of the comet's trajectory. 

Why? Because what begins among some really creative souls and true believers becomes persuasive enough to catch the attention of the mainstream. At that point the long cheapening slide begins, and it does so riding the speedy horse of capitalism! When the objects begin to be mass produced to sell, when real arcana no longer attaches, when their are no real vacuum tubes anymore....just resin and plastic, the whole trend becomes cheapened and without any real creative fuel left. When these ideas were sculpted anew, they were something to behold indeed. Once profit enters the picture, it's too late to stop the degradation. 

The fashion aspect? That's PART of the degradation. Real top down creativity leads to real fashion trends. Purposing a profitable subculture as apparel adornment leads to fads.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

In addition to treating its remaining American IBM employees like crap, IBM further tarnishes its image by making crack addict-quality fashion predictions.

Glad to see the company reaping the fruits of its 33 cent/hr., India-produced labor...

WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

I'm sure that these kids are really well intentioned, etc. but hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhaha! And no, it won't become a trend. Maybe at worst a fast fad among crazies, until something worse comes along to help these poor useless suckers waste their time (and money).

AnthonyClark
AnthonyClark

If it's a fashion trend, it's not punk.

It's not any kind of punk.

Misterbear
Misterbear

Ugh!  Oh you trendy subculture clones, didn't you even read the article before prying open your brass plated pieholes for comment?  As with lots of fashion that goes high end mainstream before trickling down to the lowly masses, many fashion trends start with subcultures and their recreated, re-imagined, retro, and neo knock-offs.  Then suddenly it's "discovered" by fashion houses with less imagination, but a willingness to endlessly modify an idea to make the big bucks.  Be proud that you uniquely adopted an original fashion look created 100 years before your birth along with everyone else who did the same thing before it made it's appearance at Macy's and Target.  Cyberpunk anyone?

Rothko
Rothko

Time magazine reporting on fashion trends from 6 years ago as if it was new. 

Someone please put this company out of its misery.

sam49art
sam49art

It was a fashion trend, three years ago!  It's been 'in' and now is 'out'. A little slow to pick up on the trend.

johnqueuepubliq
johnqueuepubliq

steampunk is just another example of the stupidity of the public

kdub
kdub

um, are you new here? this stuff has been around for quit a while and will probably be out of fashion within our sub-culture here soon...."not-so-quietly snicker about the improbability of this prediction" ..... ahhh - the ignorance of main stream media

liggy
liggy

Erin, you're behind the trends, because Steampunk has been around in the subset culture of fantasy-RP (that's slang for Role-Playing) for the last 15+years as a serious genre. I'm not an enthusiast of the look, personally, but I've seen enough shoes and coats in trendy shops and big-named retail department stores to know there are at least some fashion designers who recognize that their customer base wants the trend. Look at these Dolce Vita at Target (http://www.collegefashion.net/fashion-news/first-look-at-dolce-vita-for-target/), these boots at Macy's (http://wanelo.com/p/2600177/white-mountain-shoes-flyman-booties-boots-shoes-macy-s), and these Joie OTK's at Neiman Marcus (http://www.examiner.com/article/shoe-of-the-week-joie-otk-leather-boot). All are Steampunk styled. And let's not forget all the linen flair shirts, riding pants, cravats, and trench coats that hit the racks in droves this past fall. You're behind the times, Erin. Time to stop being so sarcastic and snotty about fashion from the run-ways, and take a good look around at what mainstream folks are REALLY buying and wearing.

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

You guys are a little slow aren't you. All of us kids have been there already. These old people are a little slow on the trends.

Celtaur
Celtaur

Oh and guess what Lady Gaga will do... try to pretend she came up with the whole idea and capitalize on it like she does everything else that is trendy and popular at the time and exploit it to the point that it just get totally overdone and ruins it. It won't be the first time she reduces an idea in her own image.

HelenTateKemp
HelenTateKemp

Been there, done that.  Where have you been?

ToddCrawford
ToddCrawford

fashion topics like this don't have much relevance because  very few people will dress up, nor have the money to dress up.  in Brazil, there's at least one annual celebration that causes people to dress up.  In the United States, Halloween, weddings, and funerals barely provide impetus for people to spend money and dress up.  Generation Y barely dresses up for anything; just fashion a new avatar or character for online play.

LiiPii
LiiPii

Unless this article took years to write, the writer is clueless. People stopped doing Steampunk at least a year ago. 

DanielASniadoski
DanielASniadoski

Wow. This is about 6 years late.

Steampunk = Cholera chic, or when Goths discover the color brown.

PaulKeller
PaulKeller

The problem with niche fashion trends is that only REALLY hot chicks can pull it off.

gary
gary

How exquisite . When will Sean,Brad ,Charlie and all the others start showing off the new look ? Oh my,i am all a quiver.

Zelda62
Zelda62

Steampunks are the eurotrash of nerd-dom.   

ladyblahblah
ladyblahblah

I thought Steampunk was already done — for two or three years now.

MarcPhila
MarcPhila

I love the term "steam punk".  It truly captures that imagery of that world. 

jlowens
jlowens

@JimOsment hope so, great post.. i love it because its not mainstream and was disapointed to hit on this sight an see that its may be goin to be gracing the cat walks :-( nothing wrong with fashion designers comin up with new ideas im all for it, crack on but just leave alone things that have already been done and are perfectly fine how they are..they gota mess round an spoil things for people who want to be individuals,people who buy main stream fashion is because they like main stream fashion, they get told what to wear so they wear it.. people who like alternative fashion like to be different, lifes boring when everyones the same..stop nickng our ideas man it sucks

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

Fullmetal alchemist and other types of steampunk anime or the steampunk sci-fi genre in general really started the whole trend. People in Comic-con has cosplayed as the steampunk version of classic sci-fi stuff such as star wars or made a steampunk portal gun. It has been going on since at least before 2003. so

liggy
liggy

@Celtaur Someone has issues with Lady Gaga, clearly. This isn't the forum to air them in, however. 

liggy
liggy

@ToddCrawford I'm increasingly finding by attending conventions like Comic-Con that you're incorrect as to just how much people will spend to cos-play. It's a scandalous amount in many cases. Check out pics of those cons to see what I mean.

liggy
liggy

@AlexanderLee Sorry, but Steampunk really finds its beginnings in the works of Jules Verne (1860's), H.G. Wells (1890's), and Edgar Rice Burroughs (1910's). Since that time, the genre has appeared in a plethora of scifi novels and short stories. The cult following of Steampunk really took off, however, as a result of movies being released in the genre (as early as the 1950's, but increasingly popular by the end of the 1990's). Well-established fandoms in scifi (Star Trek, Dr. Who, etc.), on television often featured episodes containing Steampunk clothing or styles. A slew of table-top role-playing games came out in the later 1980's-early 1990's, highlighting Steampunk styles or complete campaigns. Video games began showboating the style in the late 90's-early 2000's, and were made even more relevant with the idea of interchangeable outfits in games like "World of Warcraft" and "Everquest". Anime role-players jumped into the mix with the likes of "Metropolis," "Nausicaa," "Sakura Wars," and "Steam Boy" - to be followed much later by others (Full Metal Alchemist is one of the most recent ones, and one of the last in line to be given any kind of coveted kingship on setting this trend, I'm sorry to inform you). 

FrankRivera
FrankRivera

@AlexanderLee Nah. Where you been, Alexander? Steampunk has been around since the late 80s. Star wars doesn't make it. War of the Worlds and the original Time Machine are hallmarks of the movement. You want a really good Steampunk anthem? Listen to The One-Eyed Maiden from the Mechanical Serpant CD by The Synthetic Dream Foundation. Read J.D. Faulkson. Like him and Steampunk on Facebook to get to the root. I've been there a long time. I'm 64 years old. You young kids are just catchinmg up.

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

@liggy@AlexanderLeeBY THE WAY I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN IT BECAME A FASHION TREND. LOOK AT THE ARTICLE. IT BEGAN AS A FASHION TREND WHEN FANS STARTED COSPLAYING.

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

@liggy @AlexanderLee before you star saying other people are wrong, maybe you should try to understand what they really mean and what they are actually talking about. trends die when they are no longer followed. It began again in 2003 after it has died out the first time. Once people start really following it does it become a trend. Comeback when you learn some English. Look up what trend means

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

look above at the article. fashion trend. What have I been referring to? the article. When did people start dressing up as steampunk in recent times? at around 2003 when all of the recent anime and sci-fi started making stuff with a Steampunk setting. Where do people in America Cosplay a lot? Comic-con.

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

BY THE WAY I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN IT BECAME A FASHION TREND. LOOK AT THE ARTICLE. IT BEGAN AS A FASHION TREND WHEN FANS STARTED COSPLAYING.

AlexanderLee
AlexanderLee

@FrankRivera@AlexanderLee I am talking about fans in modern times bringing it back. Steampunk died out after the mid 1980s when it originally got popular after it originally began in the 1950s after the authors invented it based on the 1800s and Victorian era. To be more accurate, The more recent popularization began at around 2003 and picked up more followers at around 2007 ( year determined by the  numbers of people searching it on Google a lot).

 Maybe you have been out of the loop but I am talking about more recent fan contributions like

 http://www.coolgizmotoys.com/images/2011/10/steampunk-r2d2-1.jpg 

http://www.themarysue.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/SteampunkPortalGun-580x460.jpg

Looking at search engine stats, my estimates were right. Maybe you are a little behind. The trend dies after people no longer follow it. and is reborn when it starts up again. Maybe you need an English lesson on the definition on what 'trend' means.

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