What is Cyberpunk Fashion?
A lot of things are clear in Cyberpunk: what started the genre, what the classic cyberpunk movies and books are, what makes a movie, tv show, or book more or less cyberpunk than something else. But what about Cyberpunk Fashion? As a major part of the Cyberpunk aesthetic, this is a lot harder to pinpoint. So we here at Cyberpunk Matrix humbly present to you a breakdown of classic Cyberpunk Fashion.
Cyberpunk Fashion 101:
First off, there’s no one definition to Cyberpunk Fashion. So it’s best to start off by reviewing what cyberpunk is, and how that definition will impact the subsequent fashion inspired by the genre. Cyberpunk is high tech, low life, and its characters are punks trying to survive on the streets in a high-tech dystopian future. That future looks like skyscrapers, ubiquitous advertisements displayed via holograms, projections, or screens. It’s often dark or raining, and the reflections of the neon lights can often be seen on the rainwater accumulating on the streets or off the plastic, reflective surfaces throughout the mega-city.
So a Cyberpunk living in this kind of dystopian future would want their clothes to be functional, above all. It’ll tend to be black, so a cyberpunk can stick to the shadows or possibly represent the dark future they live in, or if it does have colors they’ll tend to be dark colors like browns, oranges, yellows, or scuffed dark grey or white. These colors may have highlights of neon colors or neon lights, such as bright blue, pink, yellow, or purple. There are several different subcategories of fashion styles that can fit in the Cyberpunk fashion umbrella.
Blade Runner 2049 is a great example of Cyberpunk clothing done right. Officer K’s trademark trenchcoat, very similar and inspired by Deckard’s trenchcoat from the original blade runner, is the perfect stylish Cyberpunk clothing choice.
But what are all the different Cyberpunk styles? Let’s break them down into categories.
Cyberpunk Style Categories
- Military / tactical
- Goth Ninja
- Cybergoth/Raver/Club wear
Techwear is probably the biggest, most relevant fashion style that Cyberpunk often falls into. According to techwear-x.com,
Techwear is a kind of Clothing with both Functionality and Technological Aesthetics, which is born in line with the development of the cyberpunk network. The perfect combination of futurism and high-tech fabrics.
This is what it sounds like, the future will require tactical enforcers so military apparel with vests and pouches is a no-brainer. Colors for these should probably be dark and muted, without much cameo color.
A variation of techwear, with big hoods and masks
This will be more for the punk types, think console cowboy or punk hackers. It’ll often have a witty reference to hacking or some other cyberpunk-related skill or theme.
This style definitely received a bump after the Matrix trilogy, think any club wear at the Merovingian’s, or simply Trinity’s black latex body suit. Skirts or leggings, even fishnet stockings, neon colors, braids, goggles, and high-platform boots.
3 Generations of Cyberpunk Fashion: A Natural Evolution
Neon Dystopia’s founder, Veritas, noticed a natural evolution of Cyberpunk fashion across three generations.
The first generation featured more punk and rivethead fashions, think the terminator. It was rougher, harder, and more retro.
The second generation was led by the Matrix trilogy, with trench coats, latex, and fetishwear with a subvariant using tea-shades and fractals called cyberdelic and focus on computers and altered states (think Snowcrash).
The third, and current generation, is techwear (with techninja as a subvariant). The look is more sleek and urban, with functionality and technical fabrics. They tend to be with big cuts of fabric, whether somewhat baggy pants with cargo pockets and straps, or box cut or open jackets, also often with pockets or straps, with the entirety of it being comfortable, breathable, and waterproof. Tech-ninja will also often have hoods and masks.
History of Cyberpunk Fashion
After the novels Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Neuromancer began the genre, we didn’t truly get a glimpse of what Cyberpunk fashion would look like until Blade Runner came out in 1982. The costume designer Michael Kaplan described his inspiration, explaining:
“After reading the script, we definitely felt that Blade Runner was of that film noir genre, and we looked back to the films of the 1940s for inspiration. Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character) was as much a Gumshoe as Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). For Rachel’s character, our chief inspirations were the tailored suits that Adrian designed in the late 1930s and early 40s.”–Michael Kaplan
So Cyberpunk fashion has always respected the cyclical trends of fashion, as some fashion pieces go out of style only to become vintage or retro and come into style three cycles later. There were little changes, like Deckard’s distinct coat collar, or Zhora’s transparent rain coat. Following up on this inspiration, the Ghost in the Shell anime would further influence the Cyberpunk fashion style by bringing more tactical and military influences.
Field or bomber jackets appeared with high collars, striking colors, or a multitude of pockets to embellish the style. Kurt Swanson, the costume designer for the 2017 live-action film, had this to say:
The original informed a generation of designers. We are living in a world that reflects some of that vision of the future from 20 some years ago and the next generation of designers will continue to influence cinema and be influenced by it.
The next major fashion influence in the cyberpunk fashion style would be 1999’s The Matrix. Trench coats became trendy again, along with sunglasses and goth black. And just as fashion is cyclical, it suddenly became en vogue in 2018, with celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Lupita Nyong’o, and Lady Gaga have been seen wearing clothing that seem to have taken direct inspiration from the Matrix trilogy.
Where does Cyberpunk go from here? It’s anyone’s guess. Some might argue the future is in Techwear, whereas others might just take inspiration from films like Blade Runner and other sci-fi films.
There are also some key accessories that are required to complete any proper Cyberpunk style. The first one being mirrorshades, or sunglasses of some kind (a classic cyberpunk anthology being called mirrorshades itself). Teashade sunglasses are another option, they were sunglasses with perfectly round lenses, much like the ones John Lennon wore, made famous in the 1960s and connected to psychedelic art. They were sometimes worn for aesthetic reasons, and other times to hide bloodshot eyes from recreational drug use.
A more recent accessory which hasn’t been quite picked up as much yet, as it’s mostly still in the athletic fitness style, is the smartwatch. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on smartwatches as they develop in capabilities and funtionality.
Further more organic Cyberpunk styles include short hair, with practical side buzz cuts for both guys and girls, and alternatively mohawks, dreadhawks, and synthdreads.
Probably the most Cyberpunk, but currently not very mainstream and even a little dangerous accessory, is one that you implant underneath the skin. That’s right, I’m talking about biohacking–it used to be neodymium implants (small, strong magnets) that allows users to “feel” magnetic fields. But now the fad seems to favor RFID chips that can do anything from unlocking your Tesla car, your front door, or even quickly loading your home page on a smartphone.
Biohacking / Body Augmentations
To go even further, there are bionic augmentations that are making progress, but those are pretty much exclusively for those who lost limbs due to genetic defects or accidents. Tilly Lockey, for instance, is a 13 year old amputee who became an ambassador for open bionics and also received a new pair of bionic arms from director James Cameron at the premiere of Alita: Battle Angel. She’s also a great example of a true cyberpunk.
So there you have it! Now you know how to be a true cyberpunk, or at least how to dress like one. If you think I’ve left something out, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
The Cyberpunk Fashion Aesthetic: Shellzine.net. https://shellzine.net/cyberpunk-fashion/
Top 14 Best Cyberpunk Clothing Brands and Online Stores (thevou.com): https://thevou.com/fashion/cyberpunk-clothing/
Cyberpunk 2020 Subcultures: Fashion (cyberpunk.fandom.com): https://cyberpunk.fandom.com/wiki/Fashion
Cyberpunk fashion history, modern Sci-Fi outfits, futuristic style clothing: cyberpunkclothing.net
Cyberpunk Fashion Guide in 2022 (New): techwear-x.com. https://techwear-x.com/blogs/talk-about-techwear/cyberpunk-fashion-guide-in-2022
The Evolution of Cyberpunk Fashion: shiftlondon.org. https://www.shiftlondon.org/fashion/the-evolution-of-cyberpunk-fashion/
Cyberpunk clothing might be the future of fashion: medium.com. https://medium.com/predict/cyberpunk-clothing-might-be-the-future-of-fashion-afe768167925
Cyberpunk Fashion Guide (Sub), Neon Dystopia. https://www.neondystopia.com/cyberpunk-fashion-lifestyle/cyberpunk-fashion-guide-sub/ and https://www.neondystopia.com/cyberpunk-fashion-lifestyle/get-cyberpunk-clothing/
Cyberpunk Wiki Clothing: Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/Cyberpunk/wiki/clothing/