Neo-Victorian Goes Mainstream

According to Dr. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert at IBM, steampunk is about to go mainstream. In an article about sentiment analysis and trend tracking, he writes:

“For steampunk, the next two years will witness the shift from low production, high cost “craft” manufacturing to mass production. Mainstream fashion labels, accessories and jewelry will all begin adopting a steampunk aesthetic. For retailers, this is the moment to start laying the groundwork to capitalize on this emerging trend.”

Sentiment Analysis is the application of analytics and natural language processing technologies to gain a better understanding of consumer preferences, market trends and brand awareness. It’s the science of us, and how we consume. It’s what our social media patterns mean. He cites a number of indicators predicting that steampunk aesthetic is moving into the mainstream:

  • From 2009 to 2012 the social media chatter about steampunk rose 1100%
  • Popular artists and musicians have started to adopt neo-victorian themes in their work and appearances.
  • Prada’s Fall/Winter collection featured steampunk fashion modeled by famous actors

The Shape of Our Neo-Victorian Future

Steampunk has been rising in the cultural consciousness with a slow boil for over a decade now, but as Dr. Davis predicts, it’s set to move from craft to mass produced consumer goods. What does this mean? More widely available but cheaper products. The shoe-horning in of steampunk by product designers wherever they think they can capitalize on the trend. Goods that are more decorative than utilitarian.

It’s a double edged sword, to be true, as if retailers are too eager to exploit the public’s interest we can easily see over-saturation. I anticipate negative reactions from a significant portion of the present and past steampunk community, who may feel disenfranchised by what was once “theirs” going mainstream, being sanitized and smoothed out for mass consumption. Get over it, get over yourselves. If we can avoid the traps of hipsterdom, those of us who produce quality steampunk work — art, fashion, fiction — will be posed to offer superior product to a public suddenly hungry for what we’ve been dealing with all these years.

So be cool, steampunkers. Be patient.

Source: IBM

Michael Coorlim

Michael Coorlim is a teller of strange stories for stranger people. He collects them, the oddballs. The mystics and fire-spinners, the sages and tricksters. He curates their tales, combines their elements and lets them rattle around inside his rock-tumbler skull until they gleam, then spills them loose onto the page for like-minded readers to enjoy.

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7 thoughts on “Neo-Victorian Goes Mainstream

  1. Jess Grønnebech

    Does that number include the growth of social media? Social media have grown with a similar amount in the same period of time so if it is correct then for each post about steampunk in 2009 we got 100 today.

    That’s certainly not my experience. I do feel steampunk have grown although but more at the cost of e.g. regular victorian inspiration.

    1. mcoorlim Post author

      From what I’ve seen, social media’s growth between 2009 and 2012 was around a 50% increase across the board, well below the 11-12x increase seen in traffic about steampunk, though Facebook skews those results. Even twitter’s 100% increase is less than a tenth of the proportionate increase in steampunk discussion.

      Regarding your other comment, I don’t think that steampunk and period victorian fashion cannibalize one another to any great degree. I think, instead, that they’ll feed each other, and that fans of steampunk will research historical victorian options, and that fans of historical victoriana will find that the neo-victorian fashions that steampunk inspires will help them quite a bit.

      I’m personally hoping for some non-european period fashion.

  2. Jess Grønnebech

    I may be off but this atleast seems to confirm my experience although slightly less we are talking ~200+% and for e.g. twitter we talking 1000+% in general and that’s without including activity which surely have risen as well:

    These were the on the first page of a google search, I simply picked the ones where I could find relevant data.…2735.8542.0.8812.…1c.1.kH7ABuhOTSU&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.41248874,d.Yms&fp=ad58aa7848033ec4&biw=1680&bih=937

    1. mcoorlim Post author

      Yes, but twitter’s growth is only a small portion of “social media’s” growth. The Steampunk traffic includes Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other sites as well. Facebook still represents more social media traffic than the rest combined.


      Social Media, as a whole, saw a 305% increase. Steampunk related traffic rose 1100-1200% percent. It’s growing 4x as fast as social media in general.

  3. Jess Grønnebech

    Yes ~305% growth for social media _users_, the activity level per individual user have surged as well, now multiply those percentages and then compare it to the increase to steampunk, that will show you a good estimate on the “real” growth.

    1. mcoorlim Post author

      You don’t need math. The statistics for traffic are out there, too. According to IBM, the growth in steampunk related traffic is greater than the growth in traffic overall.


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