It is a literary genre in its own right developed in novels. From the adventures of Captain Nemo or Sherlock Holmes, to the league of extraordinary gentlemen or From Hell in comics. The common point is the science fiction in Victorian times where the steam engines (steam) and the industrial retro futuristic style merge into an inimitable aesthetic. The steampunk novels are populated with infernal machines, inventors and eccentric engineers.
In a way, steampunk has been around since the 19th century. The Victorian period had its own science fiction, embodied by the work of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, and throughout the 20th century. There were science fiction stories later in the Victorian period. However, the term "steampunk" was not coined until the late 1980s. When author K. W. Jeter used it with humor to describe a set of stories set in the Victorian era, when cyberpunk was the dominant form of science fiction. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling followed suit, and eventually a plethora of authors followed, even French authors such as Mathieu Gaborit. Soon it was realized that the genre had existed for a long time without a name...
Where does steam come into play
Steam punk, no, in Steampunk it refers to much more than technology itself, although steam engines are a vital aspect of life in a steampunk universe. More generally, steam means a world in which steam technology is both dominant and prolific. During the Victorian era, steam revolutionized almost every aspect of life. It made mass industrialization possible, produced mechanical energy more efficiently. And of course to greater degrees than human and animal labor alone could generate. Mechanization in the factory as well as in the fields has brought about an upheaval in working life. It has also greatly increased the productivity of society and freed an entire section of the population from an inhuman burden. The changes in society brought about by industrialization allowed for the unprecedented developments in science, society and goods that were associated with the Victorian era. Steampunk takes these changes and applies them to the culture it influences.
What does this Punk have to do with it?
Ironically, it doesn't. As we said before, the term "steampunk" is a reference to the cyberpunk genre rather than a reference to the punk subculture. Moreover, "punk" in the context of punk rock was the product of very special circumstances after World War II, which fundamentally distinguishes it from the Victorian aesthetic that inspired steampunk. However, those interested in exploring a steampunk equivalent to 20th century punk can find a wealth of material in 19th century counterculture bands ranging from Luddites to utopians to hooligans. Add a hint of Victorian street culture and a hint of ragtime, and steampunk "punk" comes into its own.
And the gears?
The gear is an easily recognizable symbol of steampunk, but it's not unique to the genre. It was invented long before the 19th century and is still in use today. The steampunk gear joins related devices such as flywheels and pistons as the "power lines" of the steam age. Steam power is mechanical power and its transmission requires a network of moving parts in the same way that the transmission of electrical power requires wires. The material itself is not particularly "steampunk", but when used in 19th century machines, it becomes a key icon of the genre.
What about protective eyewear
Goggles are often found in steampunk clothing and images, which can create the misleading impression that they are somehow fundamental to the "steampunk look". Certainly, eyewear is associated with both science and mechanized travel, both of which are common themes in steampunk. However, this does not mean that everyone in a steampunk environment wears goggles. In fact, only people who have a reason to wear them do so, and only when it's useful. Just like scarves, coats, aprons and coveralls. Protective eyewear can help bring a steampunk world to life when used correctly and in moderation. Be careful not to come close to ridicule when making them an end rather than a means.
The basic rule for steampunk is "Start, wells added". One of the great advantages of steampunk is that the period that inspired it, the Victorian era, saw the invention of photography and cinema. This made it possible to obtain a visual record of people of all classes, cultures and origins, providing an unprecedented amount of reference material. People looking for fashion ideas, inspiration for characters or scenes to describe can find a wealth of inspiration in the countless photographs and film reels of the 19th century. All that remains is to add or modify to one's taste to change Victorian vintage into retro-futurism. One must keep in mind that many aspects of a steampunk world and its inhabitants will probably remain indistinguishable from the era that inspires them.