Steampunk: Victorian Flair Meets Retro-Tech

Image: Sunglass Museum, Jules Sunglass

Although steampunk is known for being flamboyant and over-the-top (corsets as outerwear, anyone?), when it comes to sunglasses, you don’t have to be a card-carrying member of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman to pull off some of the more subdued styles.

Steampunk has come a long way from its underground beginnings. Although the origins of the fashion data back to the times of writers such as Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, the term itself was only coined in 1979, when Kevin Jeter used it to describe his seminal novel Morlock Night. Since then, it’s become popular enough to spawn offshoots, including dieselpunk and cyberpunk.

Today, steampunk is practically mainstream, with TV shows like Castle and America’s Next Top Model embracing the movement’s aesthetics — and with good reason. The soft elegance of the Victorian era juxtaposed with retro-futuristic stylings makes for an edgy yet romantic flair.

While hardcore steampunk might not be a wardrobe choice you see on the street everyday, there are elements that have become more commonplace — and eyewear is one of them. Of course, most people aren’t quite up for the theatrical look of one of steampunk’s most recognizable accessories: metal goggles. The pair worn by Johnny Depp in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow might not be practical for daily wear, but toned-down version still sport some edge without being too outrageous.

Some of the more popular styles of steampunk glasses are Lennon-spec style, with circular lenses that often come with side shields, or metallic frames similar those worn by both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in the Sherlock Holmes movies. Even adding a simple lens color can steampunk-ify an otherwise basic set of shades.

Still need some steamy style inspiration? Check out these films that sport some serious steampunk flash:

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Sean Connery heads up a cast of retro-futuristic crime-fighting fashionistas at the turn of the century.

The Wild Wild West (1999). While the plot was a dud, Will Smith’s duds were anything but.

The City of Lost Children (1995). The visually stunning French flick bursts with retro-futurism and sumptuous costumes.