Nerfpunk: Costuming with a (Comical) Mission

Everyone has their own flavor of punk. Steampunk. Dieselpunk. Clockpunk. Atompunk. Even bustlepunk.

Now, meet Nerfpunk.

The brainchild of Austin and Megan Maude Sirkin, Nerfpunk is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to reverse the common trend of steampunking Nerf weapons, which Austin calls the unofficial mascot of steampunk. Instead of repainting brightly colored Nerf weapons in blacks, browns and grays, Nerfpunks create their steampunk attire in the bright colors of Nerf weapons.

It’s certainly not meant to be an independent movement, nor has it ever involved more than several dozen people. While steampunk is a complex genre involving costuming, literature, performance and more, Nerfpunk is primarily a costuming variant with a whimsical perspective on steampunk.

In short, it’s a joke, but it’s a joke with a point, says Sirkin:

“As anyone who spends any time in a Steampunk forum on the internet will know, Steampunk often takes itself far, far too seriously. So when we envisioned Nerfpunk and brought it to life, we wanted to hold up a mirror to Steampunk, to show it the brighter side of things, so to speak. To prove 1) that you didn’t need to dress all in black and brown to be Steampunk and 2) that this whole mess is meant to be *fun*. We’re painting Nerf guns, for heaven’s sake.”

The Stigma of Nerf

Steampunks have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Nerf weapons. On one side, lots of people use them, and they’ve been doing it for years. And the results of significantly modding a Nerf weapon can be impressive; some have been so repurposed as to no longer appear as a Nerf weapon, even with the ever-popular Maverick model as its base.

But there’s also a certain stigma attached to modded Nerf weapons. After five years of running a mad science fair at two conventions, which accepts all sorts of non-working props, I’ve seen only a couple submitted Nerf guns. Why aren’t more people proud of their Nerfs?

Some people feel it’s a sort of a cheat, that “real” steampunk guns are assembled from wood and brass. But that marginalizing of Nerf runs counter to many people’s concept of steampunk in general: a culture of making and repurposing that embraces creativity in all of its forms. Time to chill out on Nerf-shaming.

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The Issue of Color

There’s certainly a value in neutral colors: they tend to go with anything, and that’s a logic that certainly rules my wardrobe. But, you have to admit, steampunk events can become a veritable sea of brown, which isn’t Victorian in the slightest.

Now enter the Nerfpunks, with their bright yellow bowties and practically radioactive orange bustles. Lighten up, enjoy what you do and, while you’re at it, consider injecting a little more color into steampunk.

For all the ludicrousness of steampunk, we do get so very serious about it. Nerfpunk is meant to remind people of all the fun and silliness that steampunk can invoke as it gives a proper nod to that unofficial mascot of the movement, the Nerf weapon.

This article was originally published by the The Pandora Society, where I write as Lucretia Strange.

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