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Steampunk is dead

February 7, 2010

A friend just brought to my attention this recent article in the Evening Standard, all about Steampunk.

It is with grievous dolour that I announce, dearhearts, that Steampunk is officially dead.

When will people realise that being in fashion isn’t cool?

All those posturing Shoreditch kids who even the goths laugh at behind their hands actually haven’t realised that if you wear clothes that ridiculous without having a really quite fundamental core belief in what you’re doing (a belief that extends beyond making a fashion statement, I mean) then what you’ll be left with is literally just a ridiculous outfit, inspired by a terrible film that must have Conan Doyle brass-gyroscoping in his grave.

It’s a lot more than just a vaguely amusing new fashion fad breaking into the mainstream, though. It’s – as it usually is -the appropriation of something that means a lot to a few.

I’ve been a goth for seventeen years: we know we look silly. Steampunk, formerly a tiny subgenre of goth, is one of my interests that I can honestly say I got into on the ground floor. Far from buying tartan at Vivienne Westwood or combing Beyond Retro’s hit-and-miss shelves for an overpriced topper, I can remember the genuine excitement and cameraderie when a few solitary steampunks convened at the Whitby Goth Festival, ate cake, talked about our beloved projects and received slightly funny looks from the other tea shop patrons. Now, the idea has become the institution and the last meet-up saw the second, larger venue too packed to admit all the attendees and us old hands being sneered down by self-assured fashionista newcomers with expensive, specially-purchased costumes that hadn’t seen a touch of customisation. We overheard at one point a gentleman talking to his friend, “well, you need money to start out in Steampunk, for starters you have to fork out for a decent pair of goggles..” It was at that point (the point at which Ebay started declaring anything with cogs glued to it ‘steampunk’) that the death knell began to sound for me, and Hoxditch stylies on penny farthings is pretty much the last nail in the coffin. The sad thing really is that the real ground-level pioneers of the movement in the UK are the ones who will get no credit.

Yes, of course there’s a reason I’m taking it personally. I’ve been working on a genre novel for the past four years, not because it was fashionable or I ever dreamed it was going to be fashionable, but because it was what interests me. Now I run the risk of missing that elusive boat just because a faction became a fad. Unfair, but I suppose that’s life (and that’s certainly writing) and I can’t sit around crying into my Earl Grey over it. Onward with the story (and damn it all, it’s a good story!) although I think for now I’ll be mothballing my button-boots and weskit until the fatuous valves on the razors edge of trendiness quit dressing like me and I’m safe to go back in my wardrobe again without feeling a bit dirty.

Until then, I will be dressing exclusively as a zombie. If that’s the next big thing in Hoxton, you’ll know they’re spying on me.

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