On steampunk stereotypes based on fashion choices.

Steampunk?  Let’s be clear for a moment.  I am not talking about a sub genre of science fiction stories here.  My experiences and perceptions are based upon steampunk as a subculture and community. Principally here in the UK but also in parts of Canada and in the US and from my interactions both face to face and online with people from further afield.  These comments therefore relate to the steampunk sub culture and how it is perceived by people who are not active members of it.

Outsiders often look at steampunk fashions and can make assumptions:

They see pith helmets and scarlet coats and automatically assume we are all neo colonialists trying to resurrect the glories of Empire.   They miss out several key aspects: First and foremost; it looks bloody good.  One reason these uniforms were adopted was because they looked so good.  Secondly the imagery and characters of the fiction, films and artwork of the genre and sub culture suggest these styles.  It is possible to adopt a fashion without adopting political views too just the same way as it is possible to wear training shoes (sneakers) because you like them rather than because you intend to run 10 miles.

(Edit – as pointed out to me by a steampunk friend.  One could hardly accuse The Beatles of being conservative colonialists just because of their fashion choices when they made Sgt Pepper’s…)

They see top hats and frock coats and assume we are all ultra conservative and monarchists.  Let’s look at the inspirational material again.  Do a websearch for Victorian man and you will see formal dress on a plethora of images.  Formality was the order of the day.  All classes wore hats and dressed as well as they could on holydays and holidays.   Once again this is also part of the visual literacy of the genre and subculture. To assume political views based upon garments is stereotyping and bigotry and nothing less.

Mind you they also see lots of corsetry etc. Do they make the assumption that every steampunk wearing a corset is a harlot or of easy virtue?  No, of course not. Things have moved on haven’t they?  People can wear “underwear as outerwear” as a fashion statement and not because they are advertising for kerb crawling customers. Heck you even see men wearing corsets.  Well if this is the case then why MUST military inspired outfits or formal dress mean we are all Imperialistic Monarchists who want to turn back the clock to times of oppression and repression? (Don’t worry it’s a rhetorical question.)

Steampunks are modern people with modern views and outlooks.  They are a very mixed group (this is because they are a very welcoming and inclusive group)  so inevitably you will find people with all types of political views.  It is not possible to generalise and stereotype them by their politics however just based on their fashion choices.  The people who do so are usually those with their own agenda that they wish to promote and use assumption to the verge of bigotry.

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