The cyberpunk genre is complex. Since it's arrival on the scene in the early 1980's it has come to cover more and more cultural ground; from fashion to philosophy, from computer-science to architecture. Of all the genres of speculative fiction to crop-up in the past half-century, cyberpunk has, at least in my mind, proven to be the truest, and that is as exciting as it is terrifying.
Cyberpunk, as it stood over thirty years ago, in the context of William Gibson's seminal Neuromancer series, or Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash, can best be defined as "High-Tech, Low-Life." Lawrence Pearson, the editor of Nova Express, illuminates the concept a bit more fully by describing the genre's classic characters as
"marginalized alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous data-sphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body."
Since the golden age of the genre, we've seen the essence of cyberpunk be spread and subsequently diluted across the globe. What it lost in terms of punchy 1980s flare it has gained in ubiquity. Cyberpunk is no longer a timely speculative critique of where globalization might be taking us, it's background noise, it's a soundtrack. It has grown so pervasive as to be almost impossible to parse; the house painter taking a teetering selfie atop his thirty foot ladder, the art student embroidering emoji's onto a pair of cotton panties, the young man that's opted to live in a solar-powered van on the streets of Manhattan rather than pay rent.
None of these people are living particularly dystopic lives, which is not to say that they do not exist (tell that to a Ghanaian kid who earns a dollar a day melting down digital garbage for coltan, or to the Foxconn employee who spends all day every day polishing Guerrilla-glass for digital tablets she'll never be able to afford) but the fact that it has transcended the low-classes for which it was reserved in fiction just speaks to how normalized it has become.
Of all the genres and fields cyberpunk has wormed itself into fashion is often the most telling.
There is a multitude Nylon MA-1bomber jacket replicas, in all of their many colors and patches they are a classic cyberpunk garment. When we imagine Johnny Mnemonic from Burning Chrome, YT from Snowcrash, or Cayce Pollard from Pattern Recognition we imagine them bundled in nylon and vinyl walking down the rain slick streets of Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Manhattan. The influence of military aesthetic and functionality on high and low fashion since the second world war says a lot about how we view the place of America and the first world in general. Thinking of modern culture as fundamentally militaristic and culturally / technologically colonial is fundamental to cyberpunk.
In cyberpunk literature as in reality, it is the military that has given us the technology that elevates our lives; creating global communities and collaboratories. The military of the first world is also the enforcer of the status quo, it is the tear gas grenade in the crowd, the jack boot on the throat. The appropriation of a military aesthetic and functionality is both a smart-ass remark and an act of rebellion. The power of the clothing of the Sturmabteilung or Blackwater is two fold; first, it makes them look menacing, second, the clothing itself enhances their ability to strike and be struck. By wearing the clothing of our oppressors we can co-opt an aspect of what gives them the power to oppress.
With the arrival on the scene of exceptional garment makers like Acronym, Buzz Rickson, and Maharishi, the field is beginning to shift. Acronym specifically is famous for their obsessively engineered and utilitarian garments, which at this point, are orders of magnitude more sophisticated in both aesthetics and functionality. With the election of Donald Trump, and the rabid increase of populist right-wing movements across the globe, we need to do more than co-opt military surplus clothing and technology.