By now, I suspect most of you have heard of Steampunk, the latest fringe element fashion movement. It's sort of like adding a nineteenth century affectation to everything, but still being into computers and stuff. Go ask a 22 year old, they'll explain it to you better than I can.
British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his boys defining the Steampunk aesthetic.
First, it was the computer keyboards that are made of old typewriter bits, then it was the iPod dock that plays through a Victrola style horn speaker, then it was a full fledged topic on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook. Fringe as it may be, there's got to be something to it.
Why would I bring this all up, anyway?
Over the weekend, I saw a young Steampunk couple walking the street outside of my job. I looked through the window and couldn't help but stare, because the guy was wearing a top hat. Not a silly new one, an antique shiny silk top hat, 1920s or 30s from the looks of it. In my thrift shopping travels, I come across these occasionally, always wrecked nearly beyond recognition. Bu this one was near mint. As I considered this archaic piece of head gear, they disappeared into the coffee house across the street.
Later, they entered my shop. Upon entering the store, the young gent removed his hat, collapsed it, and tucked it under his arm. Yikes! A collapsible silk top hat. When he came to pay, I asked him "that hat of yours, it's a real antique, isn't it?" He replied "It belonged to my great grandfather." A family heirloom no less. He wore a self tied bow tie, worn loose, and French cuffs. His lady friend looked sharp, despite her silly pseudo-Victorian goggles perched atop her head, in a well tailored brocade coat in burgundy velvet. A bit silly, perhaps, but much more lady like than the pyjamas/Uggs/sweatshirt trifecta seen too often on young ladies these days. They seemed like nice kids.
Those of us who like to dress in a classic way tend to get judgemental. We like to lament the loss of decorum and complain about the savage state of peoples manners, and on, and on. Yet we revel in gossip and criticism. We can get equally judgemental of kids like this for dressing "silly". I'm as much to blame as anyone in this regard. But really, these kids live to dress, clearly, and they probably always will. They pay close attention to detail, making sure every little thing is just right. They enjoy history, and have some kind of appreciation for bygone deportment. Once they outgrow being kids, they're more likely to wind up well dressed than many people. Oddly enough, this applies to a fair amount of punk rock kids and tack sharp hip hop fans, too.
Let's not forget, though we'd like to believe that a well appointed gent is at home anywhere, in any situation, most people think a guy in a blazer and tie that he isn't required to wear is (more than) a little strange.