We recently covered women’s Steampunk costumes essentials, now for men’s! I think men can have a harder time getting a Steampunk costume together since it’s heavily influenced by Victorian clothing and those clothes just are not made today. On the other hand, there is plenty you can do to “cheat” the Victorian Steampunk look. My husband’s first Steampunk outfit was an Indiana Jones themed Steampunk outfit, followed by a Wild West theme, and then Moulin Rouge. They are all based on late Victorian clothing styles, so the clothes are all interchangeable yet unique every time. That’s what we love about Steampunk costuming!
Here is what we frequently use to make Men’s Steampunk costumes:
Victorian Steampunk Hat
Starting at the top every man needs a good hat. Top hats are by far the most common men’s Steampunk hat style. You could wear a plain black tall top hat and look great, however most men usually add leather bands, gears, goggles, and crazy “steam” contraptions. The hats can get complicated, but don’t worry about it too much for your first few events. I usually just keep it simple by adding a leather, brass or gold hat band. Another style of hat to consider is the Bowler or Derby hat (think Charlie Chaplin). For a more Western Steampunk, look try a flat top Gambler hat. A vintage Newsboy cap or Sherlock Deerstalker cap would also be unique. All of these are great hats for any Steampunk costume.
Steampunk Victorian Shirt
Next you will need a shirt. Since there are several layers worn over the shirt, a basic black, brown, white or striped button down dress shirt is all you need. For a bit more Victorian style, you can buy a ready made Victorian men’s shirt. The brand Rangewear by Scully makes a great selection of western style Victorian men’s shirts. For a more formal Victorian gentleman, look for a Wingtip collar bib front or plain front Tuxedo shirt. Some Tuxedo shirts have small pleats down the front. While not authentic to the era, you will have so much other stuff on over the shirt that you won’t see the pleats. Another tip is to dye your white shirt another color. A simple home dye is to use a box of black tea bags, hot water and soak the white shirt for a day. Next soak it in vinegar and water to set the dye. The tea will change it to a dusty brown. Use RIT fabric dye to achieve a richer brown, grey or black shirt.
Victorian gentlemen always had appropriate neckwear worn with their suits. The traditional tie as we know it today wasn’t invented yet. Instead, men wore either formal Ascots, a wide tie tied under the collar, or a cravat, a narrow long tie tied over the collar. Adding one of these will really make you stand out as a Victorian gentleman. A bow tie or neck scarf are some other options for neckties. Neckwear is also a great way to add a pop of color to your costume.
A Steampunk Vest
Wearing a vest over your shirt is almost a requirement for Men’s Steampunk costumes. A vest can make your costume look instantly vintage Victorian. Any style of vest can work for your look. The more “Steampunk” vests are made of brown or black wool, tweed, canvas, leather, or a brocade. Brocade vests often have a stripe or paisley pattern in a ton of different color combinations. Popular colors as black, gold, burgundy red, and ivory. You can wear almost any color vest to add a splash of color to an otherwise all brown or black outfit. One way to add more Steam elements to a plain vest is to change out plain buttons for brass or gold buttons, paint them, or cover them in gear bits.
The primary difference between men’s pants today and Victorian pants is the height. Men’s Victorian pants came up to the bottom of the ribs. Finding tall pants today is tough. Most modern pants are low rise. Look for “classic” fit pants and buy up one size, hold them up with suspenders, and you probably will get the right height on them. Traditional Victorian menswear never showed any shirt between pants and vest, however I see many Steampunk costumes ignore that rule, especially with a more rustic Wild West style. The choice is yours. Common pant colors are black, grey striped and various shades of brown. Gothic or punk style jeans with laces, buckles or leather straps also make great Steampunk style pants. Hot Topic is a great place to find these types of pants.
You must wear boots or shoes with spats. I hardly see anything else being worn. Victorian boots came in slim fitting lace up or button up styles. Stacy Adams’ ‘Madison’ boot is the best Victorian style boot in black, brown or black and white spat top. Any lace up boot, even combat boots, western boots or men’s work boots can be worn too. Many ready made Steampunk boots often have leather straps, buckles and gears on them. Feel free to get your DIY on and punk up any pair of boots your already own.
Shoe Spats (Boot Covers)
Spats are button up coverings worn over boots and shoes. They protected men’s footwear from the dirt and grime of dirty Victorian streets. Traditionally they came in grey, black, or brown with contrasting buttons. Formal, indoor occasions used white with black or white mother of pearl buttons. Today’s Steampunker often wears tall spats in lieu of boots. Replacing plain buttons with brass buttons or gears is a common way to dress up cheap costume spats.
While not necessary, adding a Victorian style overcoat to your costume makes you look like a serious Steampunk fanatic. Victorian style coats for gentlemen were morning coats or cutaway coats that are similar to modern tuxedo tailcoats but came in other colors besides black. Wild West style coats are the duster, a knee length overcoat, usually black. Other styles are the frock coat, a half coat, and sack suit coat (the start of the modern suit jacket). Outside of the Victorian aesthetic, many Steampunkers are turning to the modern trend of Military inspired jackets because they come with multiple buckles and straps that give them a Steampunk vibe. Military jackets are often short but can blend with a punk or goth aesthetic and create longer versions as well.
What Steampunk costume would be complete without an iconic pair of Steampunk googles. There are hundreds of DIY tutorials online of how to make a pair of Steampunk goggles. You can either do a google search for “Steampunk Giggles” or Pinterest search for tutorials. Personally, I haven’t made my own pair yet, but I have purchased a cheap set of costume goggles that I get a lot of compliments on.
If you choose to go without goggles, I recommend adding some other accessories that will make you look more Steampunk than Victorian. How about a cane with a brass ornament on top? Or an exposed gears pocket watch? Cufflinks, rings, and lapel pins also make interesting men’s Steampunk jewelry. A leather satchel or belt with holster is a great accessory and useful for caring your Steampunk gun. My favorite Steampunk gun is a plastic costume gun inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean. There are more then a few DIY gun tutorials online too. Otherwise, Etsy is a great source for finding handmade Steampunk accessories that are one of a kind. If you are on a budget, a trip to your local thrift store can find all sorts of objects made of leather or brass. I found an old leather camera case (pictured left) that was worn as an accessory as well as brass hub caps that I strapped onto boots. Both looked awesome!
That wraps up the men’s Steampunk costume pieces we frequently use. Do you have anything to add? Steampunk costume trends are always changing. Be creative and enjoy this fun hobby!
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.