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17 November, 2010

Rose-tinted marketing

Visiting Birmingham yesterday, we noticed a shop window displaying 'steampunk' clothing.  Without wishing to be snobby, it wasn't great: a vague amalgam of generic 'gothy' and steampunk references, as interpreted by a high-street chainstore for mass-production.  I didn't need to explain to K why it was just wrong – even someone with negligible experience of 'the culture' (okay, we went to the Vampire Ball in Whitby this year, but that's it) could instantly see it was a half-hearted attempt to cash-in.

And, having since looked at the chain's website, they certainly do cash-in.

They sell goggles, an item so stereotypical that I abandoned making a pair soon after I began.
[And for some people (not me) making things oneself rather than merely purchasing finished items is a key tenet of steampunk 'culture': the very concept is that the goggles-wearer is some sort of artisan or inventer who lovingly crafts technology by hand. And steam. Plenty of steam.]

Anyway; the commercial version is:

sleek and stylish, packed with dystopian design features [er, "packed" with "minimalistic vintage detailing", that is], created through the influence of science fiction and cyberpunk, bursting with pseudo-Victorian and dystopian rebellion.
These goggles are unique and 100% authentic, a cutting edge fantasy accessory to complete that distinctive, individual look.
Yours for a mere £42.50. Bargain!

Hang on: "100% authentic"?
Well, yes. Authentic gas welding goggles, to precisely the same design as those sold for £7.60 by Amazon, or less at eBay – my aborted project is based on a pair currently available for £4.99. And I do mean precisely: seemingly from exactly the same moulds, presumably from the same factory.
The only difference is that the 'steampunk' version has been part-painted and has had a pair of filigree decorations glued on; I was going to add similar details to mine (though rather more of them, better integrated into a properly-considered design), for which I paid less than a pound. The outer lenses are transparent magenta, too, and presumably cheaper than the BS EN 175-compliant protective lenses of the real thing.

Rip-off? Not if one considers the convenience of saving hours of conversion work, but certainly a matter of caveat emptor, hardly in the steampunk spirit and – sorry if it sounds precious – somewhat distasteful.

And, incidentally, gas welding goggles definitely aren't "sleek" – apart from the stereotype factor, one of the reasons I abandoned my own version was that the goggles looked disproportionately huge hooked over a top hat.

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