We love subcultures, and different genres of punk are a hotbed for creativity, expression and weirdness. Steampunk and cyberpunk might not have much to do with punk as a political movement, but they’re close to each other and complement wonderfully. Having said that, there are some significant differences between their origins, styles and ideas. Here, we’re going to break down what makes both of them great, and what makes them different.
What is Steampunk?
Firstly, let’s look at steampunk. Steampunk is art, fashion, film and literature (see my top 10 steampunk novels) that combines both Victorian and industrialist ideas from the past with post-apocalyptic thoughts from the 20th century. Instead of the future being some kind of hyper-tech world run by Apple, steampunks imagine a future with the kind of planes designed by the Wright brothers and filled with clockwork, monocles and corsets.
The fashion is often heavily influenced by the Victorian and industrialist elements: steampunk goggles and top hats are a must, but they often have winks to the modern day in the length of skirts for women, or the occasional sneaky zip. Steampunk is a contradiction: if, in the past, society had crumbled, what would the future look like? Would our modern day be filled with people wearing robotic, clockwork arms? Possibly. This is where the imagination behind steampunk really comes in.
What is Cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk is still preoccupied with the apocalypse, but it’s much more techno and colourful. Society may have fallen, but we’ve all still got acid and bright pink hair dye. Cyberpunk is also closely linked with raves and rave culture, and especially the attire that’s worn there. The influences aren’t as old as steampunk, and you’re far more likely to come across pacman, Robocop or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
There’s also the sci-fi overlap to consider: if you consider people are living in the future, with technology that we can literally only dream of, then are you thinking of a cyberpunk or Dr Who? We don’t see these as contradictory- in fact, we think it’s great that cyberpunk can inform science fiction and vice versa.
Steampunk vs Cyberpunk — Is there an Overlap?
There’s definitely some overlap between steampunk and cyberpunk: most people moving within the culture would have a pretty good idea of how a corset works, and they’d probably own more goggles than they’d care to admit. Instead of pitting these against each other, see them as a great collaboration, full of interesting ideas about society, destruction and art.
Steampunk vs Cyberpunk — Which one is for you?
If you’re interested in one, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the other. If you’re interested in cosplaying as a character from either and you’re having trouble deciding, why not try looking to literature or films for inspiration? They’re full of interesting, complex characters that you could make outfits for.
If you’re trying to work out which might suit you better, consider how comfortable you feel in bright colours. If that appeals to you, try cyberpunk. If it doesn’t, go for steampunk. But really, in a community that’s as enthusiastic and welcoming as both steampunk and cyberpunk are, it doesn’t matter. If the bright colours wash you out, don’t worry! There are some things associated with both movements but ultimately there are no hard rules, so do what you like and have a good time.
If you’re interested in going to different steampunk events, check out the steampunk festivals in Whitby and Lincoln. The Whitby Steampunk Weekend takes place at the pavilion. It’s on twice a year (pandemic permitting) and is free to enter with lots of interesting events and stalls to titillate any steampunk fan.
There’s also the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln, which is the largest and longest running steampunk festival in the world. They work to combine steampunk art, culture, literature, fashion and comedy and people love it. You’ll meet amazing people at both of these, and maybe you’ll even be inspired to host some of your own steampunk parties and gatherings.
Cyberpunk doesn’t have the same gatherings as steampunk, although there are often club nights that are cyberpunk themed. There’s also lots of space for cyberpunks at music festivals, raves and other gatherings, when they’re safe again.
However, for many people the hub of cyberpunk is Cyberdog in Camden. For those who haven’t been, it’s a shop in Camden, London, that has everything a cyberpunk could ever want- from a robot guarding the door, non-stop techno music complete with dancers, every shade of neon clothing and an extremely NSFW back room, this well worth a visit and a lot of fun.
The surrounding market is a great place for all things cyberpunk and steampunk, and there’s watchmakers, people who work with leather and corset makers all around. Camden Market is always a lot of fun and it’s wonderfully inclusive and there are often lots of people dressed up around there- it’s brilliant for expression, creativity and freedom.
We love Steampunk and Cyberpunk!
We love cyberpunk and steampunk. The opportunity for people to come together and have a good time, or work hard on looks, literature or decoration is an amazing thing. There’s an enthusiasm and zest that sometimes gets lost in everyday life, so taking the time to do something special feels amazing. That’s why we always take the opportunity to find out more for ways to encourage the steampunk and cyberpunk communities and support their expressions. Ultimately, we think that both cultures should work together and support each other, and have an amazing time!