From Anno Hideaki to Dior Haute Couture, what does their favorite “steampunk” look like?

… although it may be a clumsy clockwork toy in the eyes of electronic technology, in the parallel alternate universe, it is an organic combination of machinery and magic.

June 14th is International Steampunk Day!

As a subculture, steampunk has a large audience in the ACG and film and television novel circles. So through this festival, the animation academic party is here to complement our steampunk science with a graphic feast.

The last article published some time ago: ” From Hayao Miyazaki to “Love Dead”, what is the “steampunk” they all love? “, the author introduces the origin of steampunk and its derivation in different cultural contexts, and cites the three definitions of Professor Perxuan to theoretically expound the characteristics of steampunk, namely technological fantasy, retro-futurism, super Vintage style. As Perxuan said, steampunk is not a pure sci-fi sub-genre. As an aesthetic, it is “applied in various aspects such as decoration, fashion, music, and lifestyle”.

There is a widely circulated joke that says: “Steampunk is a brown Goth.” Similar to Gothic, the emergence of steampunk is influenced by multi-dimensional cultural factors such as history, economy, politics, and science. Fans who are uneasy about steam technology and nostalgic for the glorious Victorian period look back at history together, and superimpose their own fantasies on each other’s fictional worldviews to create a common steampunk aesthetic.

Immediately following the previous part , we will enumerate these common aesthetic expressions in detail from the aspects of architectural landscape, transportation, machinery, clothing and lifestyle.

01. Architectural landscape

In the previous article we mentioned,

Victorian period

Is the main source of inspiration for steampunk. In Europe, which was in its heyday at the time, science and technology were developing at an unprecedented pace, industrialization was progressing at a high speed, and every few years was a major change: in 1851, the first session

Universal Exposition

(Universal Exhibition)

Held at the Crystal Palace in London; railways were laid on a large scale; in 1863, the London Underground opened; in 1882, electric street lights were put into use… When people intoxicated belief in the infinite power of rational thinking, the age of steampunk began – or, rather, ” It started, but it never started.”

*Perchian believes that one of the characteristics of steampunk is “retro-futurism”, that is, “how we think the past will see the future”. Opening the records of the 19th century, Steamers can see multiple layers of steampunk “history” on the timeline of these major inventions, but in fact, they are just the divergence of writers based on grass snake gray lines and anecdotes imagine. Steampunk never happened, as the Steampunk Manifesto says, “colonize the past so we can dream of the future”.

In the most powerful British Empire at the time, the two largest cities of London and Glasgow gathered the world’s best scientists and energy scientists. We can see the shadow of British style architecture in many works.



“Howl’s Moving Castle”


Game “The Order: 1886”

and other European-style buildings:



“Howl’s Moving Castle”


Game “Bioshock: Infinite”

Before the massive development of the electronics industry, heavy industries such as metallurgy, machinery, and energy have always been the pillar industries of large cities. With steam and soot billowing, rumbling boilers and conveyor belts sing nineteenth-century production chants. People worship these huge mythical beasts made of heavy metals, projecting themselves to worship the mighty power of man.


“Steam Boy”


“Howl’s Moving Castle”



1836, Joseph Paxton

(Joseph Paxton)

Designed what is considered to be the earliest steampunk landscape and the largest glass structure at the time – “

The Great Stove

(Conservatory at Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire, England)

. Underground trains deliver the coal to the estate, and the boiler heating system controls the temperature to maintain the plants in the greenhouse.



Chatsworth: the Conservatory dated 1843,William Callow

Chatsworth: the Conservatory dated 1843, William Callow

On this basis, Paxton designed the Hyde Park in London in 1851.

Crystal Palace

(The Crystal Palace):



In this spectacular glass-and-steel structure, steam-powered machines, tropical plants, and industrial machinery from the first World’s Fair are harmoniously arranged to “

Mechanical Garden

(Hortus in Machina)






“Howl’s Moving Castle”


Avril and the Fictional World


Illustration by concept artist Vonsoir Schipton

In 1869, the world’s largest steam well in Brooklyn, USA

Hope Park

(Prospect Park)

built. Visitors can watch the whole process of boiler and pump operation above, and appreciate the aesthetics of this “bare” mechanical operation.




Underground Steam World Concept Map


“The Night of the Lost Soul of a Child’s Dream”

In 1879, the steampunk landscape officially appeared in literature for the first time. Stall Novels

“Frank Reed Jr. and His Steam Surprise”

(Frank Reade Jr & His Steamwonder)

The fictional story of retired explorer and inventor Frank Reed creates a steam garden and farm where his steam robots and robotic horses live with him.



Game “Mechanical City”

In the nineteenth century, it was once called the “Temple of Invention and the School of Imagination”.

Paris Craft Museum

(Musee des Arts et Metiers)

be remodeled. Tracks have been installed inside the museum to allow the machines to move on the ground for educational displays.



Underground Steam World Concept Map

In 1900, the Universal Exposition in Paris

(Exposition Universelle)

A mechanical gallery centered on steam technology was built opposite the Eiffel Tower

(Galleries des Machines)




Paris Universal Exposition on a postcard


The Paris World Exposition in the original painting of the steampunk game

02. Transportation

In the fantasy world of steampunk, sometimes overhead technology takes on a visually grotesque character, such as the space sailing ship in “Silver Island” or the flying island in “City in the Sky” – these imaginative vehicles are actually prototypes can be found in real life.


The history can be said to be the earliest. In 1707, as a French physicist

Dennis Papin

(Denis Papin)

After designing the first boat with a steam engine, ferrymen on the river quickly sensed the threat of competition and destroyed it.


Destroying Denis Papin’s steamship, 1707


The steamship Clermont, built in 1807 by inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton, is considered the world’s first steamship for commercial water transportation.

1800, Robert Fulton

(Robert Fulton)

Made the world’s first full-fledged human-powered submarine for Napoleon——


. The Nautilus was powered by a steam propulsion engine, with two-bladed propellers in the stern and removable sails above the ship.



Nautilus-type human-powered submarine

Seventy years later, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Verne created a fictional submarine, the Nautilus, named after Fulton’s real work.


But Verne’s “Nautilus” was actually inspired by the French submarine he saw at the 1867 Universal Exposition.


The real steamship also visually influenced the design of many fantasy works, such as the space sailing ship in “Silver Island”.


“Frank Reed Jr. and His Steam Surprise”

Compared with the sea, the land is of course a more important territory for steam vehicles.

French Army Technician Nicolas Joseph Coguenot in 1769

(Nicolas Joseph Cugno)

With the funding of the military, through 6 years of research and manufacturing the world’s first fully self-powered vehicle

steam car



1771 年,库格诺的“蒸汽车”意外撞到了墙上。这是世界上第一起涉及“汽车”的道路交通事故

In 1771, Cougenot’s “steam car” accidentally hit a wall. This is the world’s first road accident involving a ‘car’

British inventor Richard Trevithick

(Richard Trevithick)

Based on Cougenot’s research, the “Blowing Devil” was presented to the public in 1801

(Puffing Devil)

– The first compact steam car for carrying people, and two years later the more successful “London Steam Car”.







This type of transportation has also appeared in works such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Happy Hunting, and Avril and the Fictional World. Sometimes it is combined with a bicycle to become a human-steam hybrid vehicle.





The Sapphire Mystery

In 1804, Trevithick built the world’s first steam locomotive. In the century that followed, this type of transportation dominated land transportation. Correspondingly, in steampunk works, many scenes take place on steam railway locomotives.


“Frank Reed Jr. and His Steam Surprise”


From this point of view, “Thomas the Little Train” can also be regarded as a kind of steampunk




“Steam Boy”


“Kabanelli of the Iron Fortress”

The invention of the steam locomotive and steamship was a giant leap in the history of technology. Many people who traveled on horseback when they were young and never thought of going abroad can now repeat Magellan’s journey in a few months; the distance between continents and cities has also been shortened – human beings no longer seem to have traffic barriers.

The steam engine reigned only in reality for over 150 years – when World War II ended, it irrevocably lost its edge to diesel and internal combustion engines.

As mentioned above, steampunk did not happen

——Because of limitations such as thermal energy loss and its own weight, the steam engine device cannot provide enough energy, and the new energy that comes one after another does not allow it to breathe, so it has never developed enough to promote steampunk.

As a result, those ancient steam technology that came to an abrupt end became a legendary existence and attracted the attention of later generations of steampunk enthusiasts.

* Another feature of steampunk defined by Perxuan is “technological fantasy”, which is based on real principles to make false and inspired fantasy of technology.

Ryan Atendido 的插画,描绘了生活在十九世纪的人们眼中的“未来主义”火车的模样

Illustration by Ryan Atendido of what a ‘futuristic’ train would look like to people living in the nineteenth century

Another common type of vehicle that permeates steampunk design is airships and flying machines. As we mentioned in the last article, he assisted Babbage in writing the code for the difference engine.

Ida Lovelace

, who studied the structure of bird wings and set out to design steam aircraft in her teenage years. At the time, Victorian studies of Darwin’s theory of evolution provided references for inventions that spanned species, so some of the steampunkers’ flying machines had bird-wing-like features.


Illustration by concept artist Vonsoir Schipton


airplane wings imitating wings


steam plane


“Steam Boy”

In 1882, Mochaysky of Russia built a steam plane with flat wings. From 1886 to 1890, Adair of France successively built steam planes. In 1893, British Maxim also built a large steam plane. In 1896, Langley in the United States built a model of a steam plane.

Although it was the Wright brothers who were last recognized as the inventors of the modern airplane, who used primitive fuel-injected engines, the steam airplanes that preceded them undoubtedly provided retro-futurists with many alternative histories to inspire.



Avril and the Fictional World

《伊卡罗斯之炮OL》(Guns of Icarus online),一款飞艇射击游戏

Guns of Icarus online, an airship shooter


The Art and Design of the Leviathan Trilogy The Aviation Manual


“Final Exile”


“Howl’s Moving Castle”


Bioshock: Infinite


Airship in “City in the Sky”

In a steampunk world, these flying machines can even be an entire giant machine landscape, such as the castle in Howl’s Moving Castle and Laputa in Castle in the Sky.


“Castle in the Sky”


The concept of Laputa comes from the flying island in Jonathan Swift’s “Grillo’s Travels”

Some other steampunk vehicles:





“The Fallen Soldiers”

03. Gears, Rivets and Brass

Following the Victorian style of complicated patterns, nested gear structure, rough rivet stitching, parts decorated with levers, pulleys, springs, cylinders… Standing on the border of retro and modern, magic and science, in the eyes of mortals Strange mashups are the basics of one piece in the steampunk world.


The steam ball design draft in “Steamboy”


The brain in a vat in “Night of a Child’s Dream Lost Soul”


Steampunk EEG of “Night of a Child’s Lost Soul”



Game Dishonored 2

A steampunk design isn’t complete if it doesn’t feature at least one gear. As mentioned in the previous article, the steampunk genre starts with “The Difference Engine”, imagining the history rewritten by Babbage’s mechanical computer. As such, many steampunk aesthetics naturally reference the workings of the Difference Engine, with gears as the most visible visual element.


Prototype of Babbage Difference Engine



“Empire of Corpses”

Gears are the heart of mechanical timepieces, so steampunk favors watches of all shapes and sizes. With gleaming metal and exposed mechanics, the timepiece is the perfect vehicle to truly showcase what steampunk is all about. Figuratively speaking, the clock is also a reminder that steampunk happened within the time frame of independent alternative history.





“Time machine”


A pocket watch was a symbol of the Victorian bourgeoisie, usually made of brass or precious metal, inlaid with precious stones or engraved with ornate patterns

As the most common materials of the period, copper, steel, brass, dark wood and leather were heavily used in steampunk designs. Among them, the combination of “brass + leather” has become the most distinctive feature of steampunk, and golden and brown have also become the main colors of this aesthetic, which are the visual symbols of machinery and retro.



Game “Mechanical City”

In addition, black, gray, tan, smoky green, etc. are also common colors. They look like rusted metal, frayed trunks, dusty shoe uppers under the feet of orphans in Dickens novels, smog over the city of London.


“Street of Cannons”

Along with metals such as copper and steel, there are also the most primitive and reliable mechanical fasteners – rivets. Before welding and bolts were widely used, this safety lock, which solved the load-bearing of the Eiffel Tower, was the technology that ruled the entire industrial revolution.



The armored fleet in Howl’s Moving Castle

In addition to welding planes, cannons, and ships, in the alternate history of steampunk, rivets also assemble intelligent robots.


Diving Armor of 1878


“Castle in the Sky”




In 1893, an American professor named Archibald Campion invented a mechanical robot called “Boilerplate”. Born to fight, he performed many complex operations and even showed signs of intelligence. Unfortunately, Boilerplate
Disappeared on the battlefields of World War I in 1918, and its creator later died in obscurity…

The above is a fictional story, an art project created by American writer Paul Guinan in 2000 by spending a lot of time editing photos. Boilerplate’s “deeds” have aroused the curiosity of many people, and it appears in derivative novels and comics, which can be regarded as an alternative steampunk.



04. Clothing and Lifestyle

The textual description of the classical sci-fi atmosphere in steampunk works arouses the imagination of readers. So the Victorian retro-futuristic visual style has become popular among niche groups such as clothing DIYers and coser.

The e-commerce platform once called “grandmother’s underground collection room” by the New York Times


A staple of vintage and artisan designs, its rise has propelled the development of steampunk apparel – enthusiasts have enthusiastically added brass-trimmed vintage mechanisms to Victorian clothing such as hats, corsets, skirts, lace and leather goods , which integrates gothic, punk, industrial styles, and even cultures from all over the world, gradually forming a unique steampunk costume aesthetics.

This is also the third characteristic of steampunk proposed by Perxuan, “super vintage style”.




The typical character of steampunk can be described as a foreigner from the Victorian era, or more precisely, an old person living in a contemporary perspective.


“Victor Frankenstein”

In addition to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dickens’ Oliver Twist, steampunk character archetypes include: mad scientists like Mary Shelley and Verne’s Victor Frankenstein, Robill the Conqueror ; genius criminal lunatics like Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy “Professor Moriarty” and Jack the Ripper; Pioneer travelers like Captain Mo… These vivid images are also referenced by many steampunk works, and their characters and destiny are also reflected in their clothing and even their lifestyles.


“Kaijie Steam Detective Group”


Coal black, soot dark suits, hats, vests, or some clothing that represents the professional identity of the nineteenth century often appear in related works. Men wore clothes with rough metal studs and high-heeled boots with oversized buckles, while women wore garters, corsets and ruffled skirts.


“Sherlock Holmes”



“Princess Agent”

The waistband, which originated in ancient Europe, has been improved by enthusiasts, and has added the functions of carrying small props and dispersing gravity. It has become a design similar to the belts and straps in workers’ clothing in industrial culture, with the “liberation of women”. advanced meaning.


“Van Helsing”

In the smog of London, people wore filtering masks to prevent inhalation of smog and chemical fumes – which also became an element of the steampunk aesthetic. Fans even draw inspiration from the plague doctors during the Black Death in the Middle Ages, and put the beak mask into the work as a symbol, echoing the magic and mysticism of technology.


Dishonored 2


Steampunk firearms and weapons also combine the beauty of retro and mechanical. The materials are mostly wood and brass. The design incorporates the engraving of patterns and emblems, and uses the splicing of parts and the exposure of complex structures. Highlight the ingredients of its technology.


“Van Helsing”



“Kabanelli of the Iron Fortress”


The Order: 1886

Because of the appearance of airships and aircraft, flight suits and goggles have naturally become common steampunk costumes.


“Final Exile – Silver Wing Farm”


“Steam Boy”

From urban landscapes, vehicles to personal accessories, large and small machines in the steampunk world are running non-stop, so a large number of mechanical repairers have emerged as the times require. In order to work efficiently, they choose more leather clothing; in order to improve their eyesight, protect glasses, and adapt to different types of work, complex goggles that can be far-sighted and microscopic have also become their signature outfits.


“Sleeping Valley”



Avril and the Fictional World

Continuing this guideline, steampunk jewelry and accessories also look like mechanical precision instruments added to the jewelry.



The steampunk subculture aesthetic has also become a source of inspiration for many high-end fashions:




Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, John Galliano

Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, John Galliano

Jean-Paul Gaultier复古眼镜

Jean-Paul Gaultier Vintage Glasses

In the field of vintage home furnishing, steampunk has gradually become a unique style.



The aesthetic elements mentioned above are almost all textual and visual. There’s no such thing as “steampunk” in the genre of music, but a mix of black cabre

(dark cabaret)

Music from genres such as , art rock, industrial, and undertide is considered aurally steampunk because it is reminiscent of the late nineteenth century.





All new things are reincarnations of forgotten old things. So, it may sound very incongruous, but in the fantasy of steam technology and the fetish of vintage, retro and future elegantly merged, and steampunk was born – or should be said, reborn. Although it may be a clumsy clockwork toy in the eyes of electronic technology, in the parallel alternate universe, it is an organic combination of machinery and magic.

So, what can Steamers do to celebrate International Steampunk Day on June 14?

Here are ten tips on how to celebrate Steampunk Day from fantasy writer Theresa Meyers in 2011

(Appropriate adjustments have been made here to match the Chinese context)


10. Wear safety goggles to work.

9. Try wearing a corset: it’s on the outside, thanks.

8. Wear a hat: top hat, aviator hat, newsboy hat, it counts!

7. Unplug and read a steampunk book by the light of an oil lamp or candle.

6. Speak with a British accent throughout the day.

5. Use steampunk idioms, such as “How wonderful!” when expressing exclamation, “Where did I park my aviation machine?” when looking for a car, and ” Forgive me, I have to wind up my gears.”

4. Have a cup of tea: Optionally serve with muffins, clotted cream, jam and small sandwiches.

3. Learn to dance the waltz: Why do you have to walk when you can dance the waltz all the way?


Watch the steampunk comic “Girl Genius”:

It’s still updating


1. Try playing the steampunk drinking game: Pick a steampunk movie or book, drink the amount when you encounter (all of the above) steampunk elements, and see who can last to the end.

Long live steampunk!

Literature references

[1] “Talking about Steampunk Seriously: Why We’re So Awe-inspired by Mechanical Beauty,” Giovanni, Machine Core Network, October 2017.

[2] “More Than Steam: An Introduction to the Steampunk Visual System”, JustCz, Machine Core Network, January 2021.

[3] “Up posture! What the hell is “steampunk”? “, the disgusted Tang Tang life, Zhihu, January 2019.

[3] The Steampunk Landscape, Chip Sullivan, Ladscape Architecture Magazine,
May 2010.

[3] Ten Ways to Celebrate National Steampunk Day!, Theresa Meyers, Steamed!,
June 2011.

[4] Defining Steampunk as an Aesthetic, Mike Perschon, Steampunk Scholar,
May 2010.

[5] Steampunk Manifesto, prof_calamity, LiveJournal, November 2004.



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