Is Seapunk an internet joke, or more?

What do you get when you mix early ‘00-era Internet iconography with Bart Simpson’s head in an ocean of humping dolphins? Seapunk. S-e-a-p-u-n-k. There’s actually not supposed to be a “t” or an “m” in that word, because steampunk, as you may well know, is a different subculture characterized by steam-machine Victorian romanticism. 

Seapunk, on the other hand, is either an Internet joke which I am not privy to, or an actual-thing-people-are-doing. Apparently it’s of the latter. The New York Times proclaimed seapunk’s validity of subculture status May 2012, stating that “seapunk is a whimsical style that mashes together cartoonish aquatic themes, rave culture and a nostalgia for ’90s Internet imagery.” Seapunk resulted from a Twitter conversation but quickly seeped its way into popular consciousness. Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Azealia Banks have already claimed style stakes in seapunk (mostly by sporting aqua-blue hair).

Pervasive cultural symbols, particularly religious iconography, have been plastered on everything for the past couple of years. It started with crosses: those cheap little plastic rosaries on the turnstiles at thrift shops, Forever 21. Then it got sacrilegious and upside-down crosses popped up everywhere. A grunge-y, f-you aesthetic emerged, screaming to be worn by the disaffected youth. Take Unif for example: a company founded in 2011 that capitalizes on that very mentality. Their line of printed tanks and tees feature controversial quotes (such as “God hates FAQs”) and culture jamming (the “Coors” logo turned into “Boobs”). Similar clothing companies follow the same pattern: Evil Twin, Wildfox Couture, Obesity and Speed are among them.

Last spring, Jeremy Scott debuted his fall/winter 2013 collection. Its aesthetic? 90s punk. Pastel hair, unicorns and the now infamous Bart Simpson sweatshirt knocked-off by every cool shop on the block.

What is it about these media images (logos, characters, symbols) that resonate so heavily in people’s fashion choices lately? I dubbed it a fluke– a fleeting, silly thing. But can seapunk’s “punkness” survive the mainstream and emerge as something more than the next trend?

Steampunk changed “punk.” It made punk democratic, it opened arms to new ways of thinking and fostered less of the pretentious attitude I feel dominated the punk culture of my youth, which seemed to evolve into scenesters and hipsters. But seapunk? Is it just trendy, mainstream lame-ness? Or does its commentary on corporate and internet control shed light on the future of the punk ideology I identify with: DIY, self-sufficiency and values of my own?