The Steampunk Look

The steampunk movement has been bursting from its corseted seams and spilling out over the pop culture scene in a big way over the past few years, expanding to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more. While steampunk has gained recognition through exposure on episodes of the hit television shows “Castle” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” the movement’s biggest influence can be seen in the fashion industry.

It’s clear that steampunk style is rapidly outgrowing its niche status, but the subculture remains misunderstood by many and is considered an oddity or a costume by most. In celebration of All Hallows Eve, here is some enlightenment.

In the Beginning
While steampunk’s roots stretch back to the classic sci-fi tales of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells from the turn of the 19th century, the term “steampunk” wasn’t coined until 1987. Author K.W. Jeter first used it to describe an emerging literary genre (i.e., fantasy tales set in an era where steam power is still widely used -- usually Victorian era in Great Britain). Works of steampunk often feature futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architecture and art. Jeter initially meant it as a riff on the more modern term “cyberpunk.” Regardless, the moniker stuck and has since expanded to include an aesthetic that influences movies, graphic novels, music and more.

How to Wear It
With Halloween ahead, it’s the perfect chance to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and create a unique steampunk guise. And it’s a cool look you can keep on rocking long after everyone else has put away their costumes.

Want to try out this fashion trend in which people reimagine modern capabilities with 19th century machines? Simply follow the advice of the famously flamboyant Victorian Oscar Wilde: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” And while there are no set guidelines for steampunk fashion, your look should synthesize modern styles influenced by the Victorian era.

Steampunk aficionados advise to “start period and then add.” Begin by pulling out that 19th century American garment staple that’s still hanging in almost every closet: a sturdy pair of trousers fashioned by a guy named Levi Strauss. Or don a suit with a vest, a long wool coat and spats. You can also sport military-inspired garments.

Accent your look with a mix of technological and period accessories: timepieces, parasols, goggles and ray guns. Modern accessories, like cell phones and MP3 players, can also be used in steampunk outfits. But to properly juxtapose 21st century technology and 19th century accoutrement, the devices should be modified to look like they were made in the Victorian era. How? Apply a little antiquing paint, available at most craft stores, to give the product that aged looked. Then, place it in a vest pocket as though it were, say, an antique pocket watch.

For Inspiration
If you need some ideas to handcraft your garments and accessories, or want to purchase ready-made faux 19th century designer fashion, check out the websites

Airship Ambassador

Historical Emporium

Eco-conscious Wardrobe Basics

Going green is big business these days. Environmentally conscious consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to what goes in their grocery carts, what’s parked in their driveways, and what product they use on their bodies. But when it comes to the gear that resides in their closets, eco-friendly pickings are slim at best. And most of them are still designed for the Petrulli oil-using, Birkenstock-wearing crowd.

But that’s about to change.

A growing number of fashion-forward companies have begun to explore ethical sourcing: The use of sustainable materials and new technologies is now making eco-fashion more accessible and stylistically appealing to the average guy.

So forget about all the clothes you have or the clothes you want: These are the essential items that every man must own to live a comfortable, well-dressed life -- and all of them are made in a manner that is safe for the environment.

White Dress Shirt
If you only own one shirt, make it crisp and white. A white button-down or spread collar will go with almost anything and can be worn in almost any situation.

When it comes to eco-approved shirts and other apparel, certified organic cotton is the fabric of choice. Non-organically grown cotton is chemically dependent and, thus, harmful to both the immediate environment and the farmers who harvest it. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, and thus doesn’t destroy the land it’s grown on and isn’t harmful to handle.

Boll Organic, started by twin brothers Kent and Kevin Russell after they couldn’t find quality, organic cotton dress-shirts, offers one of the best options for the very reasonable price of $35.

Polo Shirt
Next to jeans, the polo shirt is one of the most popular items in a man’s wardrobe for good reason: It looks great in any casual situation and is easy to care for. Outdoor clothing specialist Patagonia has a long track record for producing earth-friendly fashion, offering up a wide selection of polo shirt styles and colors made from organic cotton, ranging in price from $50 to $70.

Khakis
Like jeans, khakis are a staple of the American wardrobe. Casual, yet dressy, Nau’s People’s Chinos, $135, have a stylish slim fit and are made from 100 percent organically grown cotton.

Jeans
Products can be good for the environment in a number of ways. In the case of Roy Denim, the product is eco-friendly because one guy (that would be Roy) makes each and every pair himself. Roy cuts every pattern, sews every stitch, forms each belt loop and even creates the branded leather tags one letter at a time. No huge factory, no trucks or planes crossing the globe carrying loads of mass-produced denim -- just a man and a bunch of recycled machines. When it comes to a company with a tiny carbon footprint, Roy is hard to beat -- even though his jeans ring in at a hefty $275 a pair.

Blazer or Sport Coat
Versatile and classic, a quality blazer or sport coat can be worn in any situation. You can dress it up with a pair of wool pants and a dress shirt for special occasions, or down with jeans and a T-shirt for a leisurely night on the town.

One of the most sustainable, versatile and eco-friendly materials around, hemp also seems to be the fabric of choice among eco-conscious suit makers. It has long been used for fine clothing (actor Woody Harrelson even had Burberry create a custom hemp tuxedo for the 2010 Academy Awards), it looks like linen and it is incredibly durable. Plus, it’s used to make everything from super-luxe, high-fashion houndstooth sport coats from Brunello Cucinelli, on sale for $1,599.99 on Bluefly.com, to inexpensive blazers (under $160) from Rawganique.

Dress Shoes
Most men don’t give their shoes much thought. Big mistake, boys. Shoes finish the fashion statement. Go for a basic, classically styled model; it’s more versatile (i.e., it can be dressed up or down).

U.K.-based Vegetarian Shoes creates classic styles using a breathable synthetic microfiber material often found in yachting upholstery. Our favorite is the sleek antique brogue style, about $113, which has a modern profile that works equally well with a three-piece suit or a pair of jeans.

Sneakers
Casual footwear doesn’t have to shine like dress shoes, but it should still be neat, clean and presentable. So leave those funky-smelling, ratty-looking running or workout sneakers on the porch when you go out on the town, especially since eco-friendly kicks are one of the easiest green fashion items to find.

One of the coolest pairs is the retro-inspired Tauas, about $151 from Veja. The name comes from the region in Brazil where the organic cotton used to make the shoes is sustainably grown; the shoes also feature a sole made from wild rubber.