Knowing how to dress like a Steampunk gentleman can typically mean understanding the character you wish to portray. If you are going to a Steampunk convention or party, you should be able to explain your backstory.
A lot of that is done by the clothes you are wearing and the accessories you have decided upon. That could mean becoming an inventor, an air pirate, or simply an engineer.
Perhaps even give your character a name, a place of residence, and a raison d’etre.
Once you have decided on your character and given your Steampunk gentleman enough of a detailed backstory, the costume becomes straightforward.
Try to make the character as expertly defined as possible, so you know exactly what he would be wearing. Having a clear idea of what your Steampunk gentleman stands for goes a long way to appreciating how he dresses.
Steampunk costuming is centered on the Victorian era with a fantasy/science fiction or Industrialist twist. A lot of the fabrics can be easily sought, yet you can always exemplify the look with some carefully considered twists and trinkets.
The odd gadget can cement your gentleman’s backstory without you needing to explain it. Just keep your digital watch and your smartphone well hidden.
With this guide, we will provide an overview of the clothes and accessories you should be considering.
A Vintage Vest/Waistcoat
Think of Victorian England, and you can generally imagine men in three-piece suits. In fact, it was very rare to see a man not wearing a vest out in town. To pull off the look of a Steampunk gentleman, you will need to invest in a vest, unless you already have one.
Thankfully, these still remain in fashion, so they should be easy to find. You should also factor in pockets for all your crazy accessories to fit your character’s backstory. More importantly, you should have a pocket for your monocle, and you could even swap plain buttons for gold or brass for telling detail.
Consider how important your gentleman is in society. If his backstory is that of an aristocrat, then go for more opulent materials such as silk or velvet in your vest.
However, if your gentleman is from a more industrious background, then feel free to reuse a well-worn waistcoat for that authentic look. You should ensure that your waistcoat is made of tweed, canvas, black wool, or leather to make it fit the desired epoch.
A cotton waistcoat would also have been common at the time. While there should be a range of colors to choose from, try to stick to burgundy, ivory, gold, brown, and black.
Vests were so common that you could easily find yourself reusing the same one for different costumes. It may be best simply to go for a more common color for the versatility.
Cotton Work Shirts
And what to have underneath your waistcoat? A cotton work shirt of course! This should be near the top of your list, as you simply cannot be a Steampunk gentleman without a cotton work shirt.
Not only do they typify the workman aspect of the time, but they also carry that vintage Victorian look that you simply cannot do without.
Again, look out for the backstory of your Steampunk gentleman. Is he lower class? In which case, a sturdy, collarless work shirt would work for an inventor or mechanic busy with their tools and pull off that backstory with ease.
You could also opt for a side button shirt for a more authentic look. The higher up the social ladder your character is, the more your shirt needs to reflect their position.
For aeronauts or air pirates, you should be looking at a ruffled shirt. Right at the top of high society are the aristocrats, which would be defined by a wingtip dress or high collar shirt.
However, you may want to opt for a button dress shirt if you are likely to wear a few more layers. Keep the colors simple and stick to brown, white, black, or you can splash out for stripes.
Should you already have the vest and a cotton work shirt you may deem a Victorian overcoat as excessive. However, this could make the difference to prove you truly are a Steampunk gentleman.
That typically means cutaway coats and morning coats that you can usually find in a range of colors. There are also contemporary tuxedo tailcoats for formal aristocrats, and the duster which was a knee-length overcoat found in the Wild West, both come in black.
As with the rest of your outfit, the coat could go a long way to cementing your Steampunk gentleman’s backstory. To evoke Sherlock Holmes, you could opt for his typical Inverness cape or cloak, you could even throw a cane in for extra sophistication. A howie-style lab coat could really set you up as a Victorian inventor or mad scientist.
The pants, or trousers, are an essential item to get right. Just like with the vest, high-waisted pants were a typical look for Victorian gentlemen. They should come up to the bottom of your ribs, which can be uncomfortable at first. Perhaps a set of suspenders could really set off the look and make it easier to wear.
To hit that true Victorian look, you should ensure that no part of your shirt is visible between the pants and vest.
You should also try your utmost to find pants decorated with stripes or plaids. Bold stripes are a good option, but so are the more versatile earth tones of browns and tans.
It may be tedious yet if you wanted a simple look then black or gray would still hit the mark.
Pants were also an indicator of a gentleman’s place in society. A well-to-do aristocrat would be more likely to wear fall-front trousers which are sewn with a flap in, you’ve guessed it, the front. This flap was held by a couple, maybe three, buttons at the top.
If there is an accessory that simply screams Steampunk, then it is a pair of vintage-looking goggles. Whether your gentleman is an insane scientist or an airship pilot, they simply need a pair of huge colored lenses in old-fashioned wireframes to finish off the costume.
It is fair to say that a lot of Steampunk occupations necessitate eye protection, so put down your glasses and don a pair of goggles.
Should your gentleman be a tad more risqué or typically boasts a villainous streak, then you may want to go for a monocle. You may find both goggles and monocles uncomfortable to wear, so feel free to let them hang loose around your neck.
Hats And Headwear
As with most headwear, there are several options to help you achieve that Steampunk gentleman look. Each indicates their place in society, as most fashion was defined by class and occupation.
At the top end of society, there are top hats which were highly commonplace, derby hats, and bowler hats for the aristocracy, which were very common.
You can also add a few gears onto the hat if it adds to your character’s backstory. Perhaps a few leather bands too. You may find it a lot easier to try to rent a hat to save on costs, though it would be advisable not to decorate it.
For specific occupations, you should opt for specific headwear. For instance, a pith helmet is ideal for someone in the military or an adventurer.
To embolden the look of an air pirate or aeronaut, you should opt for a leather aviator helmet. If you are going for the Western Steampunk look, then consider a flat-top Gambler hat.
Even more specific backstories call for increasingly specific headwear, which could mean a Sherlock Deerstalker cap or a vintage Newsboy cap.
Boots And Footwear
If you have a pair of leather boots, you should be able to use these for your Steampunk costume. However, if you did want to include new footwear in your budget for a sizable outlay, you should consider spat tops.
Spats were used to protect shoes and were made of white cloth, or gray, even brown felt material which was buttoned around the ankle.
These are ideal for the Steampunk gentleman but, like a lot of the fashion, they may simply work for your costume and not a lot else.
There are contemporary styles that do match the Victorian style boot, and you can still find spat tops in those colors. Oxford shoes work really well for Steampunk fashion for men.
However, if you already have a pair of lace-up boots, work boots, or even western boots then you can easily use these. Just like hats, you may want to customize your own boots with a few gears, though Steampunk boots usually have leather straps too.
A lot of the accessories that you consider for your Steampunk gentleman will be specific to the time. Neckwear could be a big fashion statement, as it was then, and could be now for you.
Ties have evolved since then and become a lot skinnier, so take your pick from a cravat or a formal Ascot. A cravat was a relatively narrow long tie that was tied over the collar, while the formal Ascot was wider and under the collar.
Depending on your cotton work shirt, you may already know which neckwear to go for.
A few accessories can also improve your enjoyment of the event. A leather purse or satchel bag for your belongings, or a hip flask for a party. Maybe you could find some Steampunk literature to show you really are interested in the subject.
Perhaps a Jules Verne novel for that extra touch that proves you have done your research. A pair of gloves in case you need to protect your hands from the cold, or a mechanical pocket watch if your wristwatch is far too conspicuous. Even a pipe or telescope could set you apart.
If you are struggling with ideas on what accessories to go for, then check out a local thrift shop. These typically have loads of trinkets at a decent price that could make a huge difference.
A thrift shop may be an ideal option for leather goods too.
Steampunk fashion for men should exemplify the Victorian era, then go a bit further. Getting the basics right of a cotton work shirt or the right hat decorated with gears should typify the look.
You should also ensure that you get the fabric right depending on your character. Wool, silk, and velvet were sported by the aristocracy. However, tweed and cotton were highly commonplace.
Try to make good use of items you already have. Perhaps a pair of work boots you can customize or a cravat you can dig out.
Knowing how to dress Steampunk should not necessarily mean going all out to buy new clothes that you are only going to wear sporadically.
For all the effort and expense you put into your costume, a simple pair of goggles or a pocket watch can be the defining factor.
There is some interchangeability between costumes. You could easily find yourself using the same cotton shirt with a different jacket for a whole new look.
Even the same pair of boots can work for a variety of backstories, as could the goggles. Just use your imagination and see how far you can go.
Do make sure you keep any contemporary elements hidden, as these can shatter the illusion of your Steampunk fashion.