Goggles are an emblematic symbol of the steampunk world. Not just worn for fashion, but serving a practical purpose as part of a steampunk costume.
This article looks at the various types of steampunk goggles, what they are used for and what type of steampunk character would wear them. We explore the history of steampunk goggles and answer some of the more practical questions about their usage.
What are steampunk goggles?
Steampunk goggles are heavy-duty multipurpose goggles that are a common part of a steampunk costume. They traditionally combine a leather strap and a metallic frame. Often the goggles are heavily customized and fixed to a steampunk hat as a more practical alternative to wearing over the eyes.
Why do steampunks wear goggles?
As steampunk fashion is derived from the Victorian era, the use of Goggles in the 1800s is the reason that steampunks wear goggles. The early days of rail travel (and in the early 1900s automobile travel) created a huge market for goggles dues to people traveling at breakneck speeds without any glass in the windows to protect them.
What are steampunk goggles used for?
Goggles have been in use for over a thousand years. Inuit people wore protective eyewear made of bone, the oldest example was found in 1200 AD.
The goggles used in steampunk draw on the practical uses from the time of the industrial revolution. Let’s explore how the different steampunk characters might use goggles differently:
Aeronauts will be flying at high altitudes and need goggles to protect from both the wind and the rain.
Explorers will require hard-wearing goggles to protect from the cold or a polarised lens to protect from bright light.
Engineers and machinists were a common profession at the time of the industrial revolution and would have used goggles for operating machinery, the equivalent style in modern steampunk is the blowtorch or welding goggles.
Mad scientists would use steampunk goggles to protect their eyes from any chemicals that might bubble over and otherwise reach the eyes and face.
Gunners wielding the classic steampunk blunderbuss will use goggles to protect their eyes from the smoke.
How to wear steampunk goggles?
The most obvious place to wear goggles is of course the eyes but that’s just not practical for modern steampunk. There are plenty of ways to wear steampunk goggles without actually having to place them over your eyes.
Let’s check out three other options:
- Put the goggles over your hat
The classic steampunk top hat has ample space to place a pair of goggles. This leaves space over your eyes for… a second pair of goggles?
- Place the goggles directly on your head
No hat? Well, you can just rest the goggles on your head and still look amazing
- Hang them from your neck
Let the goggles dangle free in casual steampunk style. This looks like the goggles are not just for show, you have just parked the airship and have disembarked to hit the shops
Are all steampunk goggles vintage?
Not all steampunk goggles are vintage, although they are inspired by the vintage fashions of the 1800s. Why not purchase vintage safety glasses, welding goggles, or flying goggles and customize them into a steampunk style?
New steampunk goggles will be ‘retro themed’ but made from modern materials, beware of the materials used in cheaper ‘vintage look’ goggles, elastic may make for a more practical strap but the authentic look required leather!
Can I wear a pilot hat with steampunk goggles?
Aviator hats with goggles have been a pilot’s friend since the wright brothers’ first glider flights in 1900. With the wind and rain beating down on the exposed cockpit the combination is a welcome barrier to the elements! And so the classic leather military-style aviator hat is a perfect pairing with a set of steampunk goggles.
Kaleidoscope steampunk goggles
Kaleidoscope steampunk goggles will spin your world with a real Kaleidoscope effect. Kaleidoscopes create a visual effect that uses mirrors to create incredible patterns of light. These goggles are generally a heavy-duty style and outside of steampunk are common in the rave and festival scene.
Can you get prescription steampunk goggles?
Prescription steampunk goggles can be custom-made by specialist retailers. These are custom-made and expensive but a great solution to allow you to enjoy your steampunk look with corrected vision! If you are on a budget the alternative option is to modify a pair of goggles yourself with the lenses from an old pair of glasses.
Can you fit steampunk goggles over glasses?
Wearing steampunk goggles over the top of glasses will only work if the shape of the glasses suits the shape of the goggles. If there is no natural fit you will not be able to see particularly well, the fit will feel uncomfortable and the frame of the glasses will push against your face.
How to make steampunk goggles
DIY steampunk goggles are our favorite steampunk accessories, here’s how to make them with just 4 simple steps:
- Welding goggles are great ‘base goggles’ as they are the right steampunk look and are easy to customize
- Straps and lenses should be completely removed and the frames of the goggles sprayed with metallic paint
- Assemble the goggles but replace the strap with a leather strap
- Customize the goggles to finish with typical steampunk accessories such as cogs, gears, and wires
The final word on steampunk goggles
Steampunk goggles are the most iconic part of a steampunk costume. Typically hard-wearing with leather straps, they can be worn in many different ways and not just on your face. They look great fixed to a top hat, bowler, or aviator hat, and if you want to take them to the next level go for Kaleidoscope lenses.
There is no one size fits all approach for goggles, the type you need depends on the theme of your character’s costume and the practical way you wish to wear them. Do you plan to keep them on your eyes or wear them over glasses? If so think about the comfort and size of the goggles.
Or do you plan to attach them to a hat or another accessory? If so you can be bolder with the size and weight of the goggles.
No matter how you choose to wear your steampunk goggles make sure you have fun!
John Francis is a lifelong Sci-fi fan who met Matilda at a Steampunk event and was immediately enraptured by the community. John’s favorite Steampunk-inspired game is The Chaos Engine on the Sega Genesis.