There exists a world of gears and whimsy, hidden just beneath the surface of our own world. Decked in Victorian garb with alternate-future sci-fi accessories, groups of people congregate in themed bars and parties, brought together by their love of a nascent aesthetic — steampunk. But for the diehards, this is no mere aesthetic, it is a lifestyle.
Steampunk finds its basis in retro-futurism. Retro-futurism is, simply put, the world of the future viewed through the lens of someone living in the past. In the case of steampunk, this usually means the 19th century. Think Victorian era science fiction and you’re not far off. The past is full of inaccurate predictions about future technology, and this is the main facet of retro-futurism in the context of a steampunk aesthetic.
The other major component of the steampunk style is anachronism. Simply put, this is when a person or thing appears in a time period in which they or it does not belong, such as a denizen of the 19th century brandishing a raygun.
The groundwork of steampunk was laid back in the 19th century in the literature of Jules Verne, HG Wells, and Mary Shelley. These are some of the earliest science fiction writers, and their work opened the world’s imagination to the endless possibilities of future technologies. Somehow, along the way, these foundations gave rise to bars full of people dressed in 19th century regalia adorned with sci-fi gadgetry. We’re talking rooms full of people I wish I went to high school with so it wasn’t always my ass the jocks decided to kick.
But how did steampunk turn into such a subculture? The answer lies in the transformative ability of steampunk fashion. By donning steampunk garb, those so inclined can leave their real lives behind and become someone else. Obviously, in some individuals, these lines of self-identity can blur. I firmly understand the desire to pretend to be something you’re not — it’s a big part of the reason I currently work in tattoo journalism.
Steampunk has influenced a wide range of art, be it visual art, creative costuming, or DIY crafting. It also shows up in tattoos. Say what you may about the aesthetics of steampunk, but a well-executed steampunk tattoo can be straight up beautiful. Here are some shining examples of what can be done with the style.
There you have it, the anachronistic, retro-futurist beauty of steampunk in tattoo form. We hope maybe these pictures inspire you to throw on a
petticoat or a top hat and monocle and head down to your local steampunk bar to share some mead with other like-minded individuals. Or feel free to take the other route, and laugh at people enjoying things you just don’t understand.