This is a slight revision of a posting I made on the Great Steampunk Debate site
Is there a steampunk lifestyle?
Using the definitions of lifestyle, then on the whole, no, there is no steampunk lifestyle, even thinking of steampunk as a community including the facets of literature, fashions, makers and ideology.
There’s very little in the way of actions, attitudes and opinions that would be unique to the steampunk community, and even as a grouping of behaviors, I don’t think there’s enough there to say “*This* is a steampunk lifestyle and *that* is not”.
By comparison, looking at an individual having a healthy lifestyle, the goal is to do things to be healthy in mind, body and spirit for that one person. Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep. Keep stress down, keep enjoyment up. Laugh a lot. Be happy. All of those contribute to being healthy in one’s life, and as a collection of generalized behaviors, constitute a healthy lifestyle. However, the details of one person’s healthy lifestyle may vary significantly from another person’s. Being vegetarian is one of my choices for a healthy lifestyle, and while my sister-in-law has been and wants again to be a vegetarian, her body needs meat in her diet right now to remain healthy.
Applying that to a steampunk lifestyle, then the goal is to be ‘steampunk’ in mind, body and spirit, to express ‘steampunk-ness’ in our thoughts, actions, and attitudes. What does that actually mean and how would we do this? We can adopt the best of Victorian behaviors and ideals and integrate them as a fundamental part of who we are, such as politeness and courtesy to everyone, developing genuine altruism, education and awareness, sympathy and compassion. We can speak out against social ills and actively work for the benefit of everyone. But is that really ‘steampunk’ or is it just Neo-Victorian, or is it really what everyone should be doing anyway?
Looking at our fashions, the design style itself expresses an interest and attitude that public image is important, or at least that looking good is important to ourselves. There might be a hint of rebellion in choosing to wear unconventional clothing in every day life. But is that ‘steampunk’ or just looking for attention, er, being avant-garde, by dressing out of the norm? Making our own clothes is not unique to steampunk. My mom has made her own unique and stylish clothes since she was a teenager. Using salvaged and upcycled materials is not unique to steampunk. The final image might be in the steampunk aesthetic, but it might just be neo-Victorian.
Making items and artwork in the steampunk style is attractive and enjoyable, but how does it contribute to an actual lifestyle for other people?
So as an individual, then, I may consider myself to live a steampunk lifestyle, or not, and then decide what are the specifics that make my lifestyle qualify as ‘steampunk’.
I am a steampunk, as much as I am a Whovian, a Trekker, and a person with a host of other interests, but I can’t really say I live a lifestyle based on any one of those interests.
I will adopt some but not all of the Victorian ideals, I might make, or more likely have someone else locally make, my steampunk outfits, and I might mod my toys and tools to look steampunk, but those items are not the whole or even majority of my life and interests, and generally are not unique to the steampunk community and culture.