Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

I like the look of the 1930s and 40s, as I´d imagine do many people on here. It will probably never come back as a whole, but perhaps we can steer things in the right direction anyway. I was wondering if we could perhaps discover what it was that gave the 30s/40s that great look in clothes, architecture etc. Find out what the essence of the look really was, and try to recreate that going forward. I for one like the colour scheme, the way muted colours seems to have been rather common. Pastel colours was one of the big things that was wrong with the 80s. For the cars, I feel that having a hood that was long and flat, with a large grill in front gives a car a certain dignity. The clothes had a great combination of practicality, while being neither too prudish nor too whorish. However I´m not sure apart from that what it was that made them look as good as they did.

Does anyone have anyone thoughts? Is the first step just to unleash plastic-eating bacteria on the world?

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I think you've made a very interesting and important post, Atterton. I would love to read the thoughts of others as I try to put together mine because I think I'm going to have to chew on this one for a while.

What made the '30s important for me was the idea that humanity needed to rebuild.

A large contingent of the world's population was killed very quickly in the late 1910s thanks to the war and the flu epidemic.  After the war orphans were done partying in the 1920s, they were forced with the cold reality of having to rebuild or die.  

Tradition was dead, but the world did not come to a complete end so they had a chance to use modern technology to build the future that they dreamed of.

Then World War II came along, and those dreams had to put on the shelf.  And that's why we're here today.  To dust off those dreams and bring them into reality.

I don't want to speak for Atterton but I think what he was asking about was trying to capture the essence of the aesthetics of the era, Tome. And in doing so what can we do to try to influence our culture to incorporate that essence and making it live again?
Yep, that´s more what I was going for. The spirit would be a different thing, that would likely be a lot more difficult to engineer too.
So any thoughts on this?

Actually, I've been putting a lot of thought to it because I think it's important the issue you raised. Give me a few days as I'm putting together some ideas.


I'm sorry for not posting this earlier.


Let's start by looking at this analytically by breaking It down. You mentioned several aspects such as "clothing, architecture, etc.." So let's start by compiling a list. I can think of five major categorizes:


Industrial Engineering





Can anyone think of any other categories I've overlooked?


After we decide what categories then we can draw on the studies that already exist of those areas. The works been done for us and all we have to do is bring it together.


Now comes the hard part, which is as you wrote, "steer things in the right direction."


Certainly, this site as well as other Internet sites is one means. Also, living these elements by adopting them in our daily lives makes us a walking advertisement for Dieselpunk. It's not uncommon for people to ask me where I get my hats, for example. I have a man I work with started wearing vests and suits. A woman I work with has started incorporating 20's style hats into her daily wardrobe. Both of them I've talked to about Dieselpunk and expressed interest in joining my North Texas Dieselpunks. These are just a few ideas and we will need to discuss others.


So what do you think so far, Atterton? Thoughts of everyone else?

Perhaps proper understanding of what made the aesthetics that era peculiar and different from our times would require to understand the reasons of its demise.

I'll forego the obvious bad pun involving bathtubs, cheap grain alchohol, and juniper berries and say it's about Elevation, in both the literal and figurative sense.


Always hard to sum up a whole decade in a few words, but I'd start with saying it was one of hope and belief in rising above the limitations of the past and moving ever-forward into a Greater Tomorrow. This had a bright, glorious and optimistic side as envisioned on many a Gernsbeck cover, and a dark side as witnessed by Fascism, eugenics, and other viler aspects of futurist thinking. As Dieselpunks, I feel we need to remember both aspects and temper our desire to recapture that feeling of hope with self-reflection, remembering that even the brightest movement can be led astray.



I think everyone is still missing it. Atterton and I are attempting to find the essence of the aesthetics rather than the sociology of that era. Here's a site that discusses fashion for men in the 1930s:


Ah, but does the sociology not drive the aestetic, sir? The very lines of Art Deco, the minimalist cut of the outfits, are reflections of that sense of elevation and progress and advancement. Every Deco skyscraper with its use of vertical and diagonal lines was to imply upwardness. Men's coats removed the victorian brass buttons and acoutrements, going for a sleeker literally modern look. The almost steamline look of a Fedora replacing the top hat. The simple elegance of women's straight dresses freed of bustles and bows. Why? Because the old, highly gilded and detailed look of the Steam era was just slowing things down, like how the decorative iron flashing and filigree on a victorian steam train added drag. Streamlining was more than just a result of advancement in aerodynamics, but a fundamental change in how humans perceived the flow of life and time. IMO you need to understand that underlying zeitgeist of "forward" if you're going to understand the fashion and aestetic, like how you need a foundation to build a building.

Distil implies isolating and extracting the core compounds away from the "fillers". To me, the core philosophies are the core compounds behind every cut of a suit, facade of a building, or cross-section of a wing.

Certainly, there's a lot truth to what you wrote, Cap'n. Socio-economics has historically played.a big role in the trends of fashion. For example, there's the "hemline theory", which is that the height of a woman's skirt in fashion is an indicator of the state of the economy. In addition, we know that the differences between each of the three decades in the Diesel Era were highly influenced by the events of those times. The prosperity and social liberalism of the 20s influenced fashion differently than the Depression of the 30s, while the austerity due to WWII greatly influenced the styles of the 40s.


But experts who watch the fashion industry are starting to doubt whether the hemline theory and the connection between economics and fashion apply to modern society. According to a recent news article "Do Short Skirts Mean Better Times?":


Even if the hemline theory held true at one point, fashion watchers say it has long gone the way of silk stockings.

That's because these days, there are so many different types of clothing that one particular trend in fashion doesn't necessarily point to a direction for the economy.

The wide availability of different fabrics and inexpensive manufacturing techniques enable designers to offer something to suit the tastes of every shopper. Consumers today have more fashion choices than ever before, and can express their individuality no matter what the fashion magazines are touting.

"In the '60s, everyone wore short hemlines because that's the only thing the manufacturers made — you couldn't go in any other direction," says John Mincarelli, professor of fashion merchandising at New York's FIT. "However, today there are many designers offering a variety of hemlines in the same collection."


Another point. It's clearly possible to identify fashion details that's are reflective of any era apart from the economics that influenced it. We say something "Looks like it's from the 1960s" or "It reminds me of the 1970's." In fact, my wife and I get that all the time when we're out and about. People walk up to us and they tell us how we look like we "walked right out of the 1930s."


There are two goals here for Atterton and I. One is not to identify the causes of what lead to the development of the aesthetics of that era (which would be a legitimate discussion by itself) but to simply identify the components of the aesthetics of that era. We want to be able to say "This fashion component is Diesel Era in appearance" while "That fashion component is NOT Diesel Era in appearance." The second goal follows the first is that once the components are identified, then to explore how we might be able to influence modern society to, within some degree, incorporate those elements into our current fashion sensibilities. If that article is right then the role of economics in fashion was an element of modernity and our new postmodern era opens up new avenues to us that we may be able to exploit.


(An interesting note: I think there's a bit of irony in the article that I referenced. One of the marketers interviewed works for a firm called "Diesel." :) )

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