Archives

ten best! Things you need to wear at a festival

by Brian Clarey

Tourist garb

I used to know this guy named Alex McMurray who played in one of my favorite bands ever, Royal Fingerbowl, a staple at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. McMurray was well known in the city, and often friends, acquaintances and fans monopolized his afternoons at the Fairground, preventing him from seeing music. His solution, he told me, was to hide in plain sight by dressing as a typical tourist: Bermuda shorts, preferably in a bold plaid; knee-high socks with sandals; a loud Hawaiian shirt; and a wide-brimmed Panama hat. The garish look acted as a sort of camouflage, allowing McMurray to move freely about the festival grounds among the hooples.

Safari look

Maybe you’ve seen this guy: tromping about the festival grounds like he’s hiking the Appalachian trail. He’s got the floppy hat and sensible sunglasses. Cargo pants with energy bars, sunscreen and a bottle opener stuffed in the pockets. A canteen of some sort, possibly filled with brown liquor but more likely water or some weird kind of tea. He’s got binoculars, a compass and a backpack for holding his festival souvenirs, spray bottle, raincoat and all-purpose tarp. He’s got a lawn chair strapped to his back and a small shovel in case he needs to dig a latrine. Inside his fanny pack: energy bars and a tent that sleeps two.

The country boy

Shortly after moving to North Carolina, I went to a bluegrass festival somewhere out there in the wide, open spaces of the heartlands. The music was fine, but among the crowd I saw this one dude I will never forget. He was wearing filthy work boots, a pair of overalls… and I believe that was about it, save for the bandana hanging out of his pocket, the beards on his chin and the accessory of a beer can in his hand. He was also drunk as a lord and having a better time than anyone else there.

Festival T-shirt

It’s perfectly okay to wear a commemorative festival T-shirt to a festival, but there are a few loose rules. You should not wear the current festival T-shirt at that year’s fest — that’s for squids. It is okay to wear shirts from previous festivals, the older the better. A festival shirt from 1993 lets everyone know that you’ve been coming to this thing way longer than them, when it was more of an underground thing and much more cool than it is now. Even better: T-shirts from similar festivals around the world. Europeans blues festivals, in particular, have a certain cachet.

Band T-shirt

It is acceptable practice to wear to a festival T-shirts of bands playing at the festival. Again, the older the better. But you can wear pretty much any band T- shirt to a festival, as long as the band is appropriate to the festival at hand. You don’t wear a Britney Spears T-shirt to a bluegrass festival, for example. However, Jordan Green and I have decided you can wear a Sex Pistols T-shirt just about anywhere.

Hippie sundress

The loose, breezy sundress or printed skirt was created for dancing in the sunshine, and the ladies who wear these things know that they beat the heat and protect from the sun. I haven’t seen a guy in a long, flowing skirt in quite a while, but then I haven’t been to a Grateful Dead show in a long time.

jackets with trousers and even — gasp! — high heels at outdoor festivals before, usually sported by newbies who didn’t understand what they were in for. The look is acceptable, I believe, only if the people rocking it have been out all night.

The Daisy Duke

Ladies, do us all a favor: If you have any exhibitionist tendencies at all, wear cutoff shorts and a bikini top to every festival you go to this summer. You’ll remind all the old guys moping around that they are still alive. And you’ll make it harder for the younger guys to pay attention to the music.

The pro

When I go to an outdoor music festival, I like to wear sandals because sometimes I’ll slip them off — but I put a lot of sunscreen on the tops of my feet. I like cargo shorts because I can cram all kinds of crap into the pockets: schedules, cigarettes, small purchases, money and such. A loose linen shirt provides relief from the heat, and I need to wear a hat because the bald parts of my head get sunburned pretty easily. Also, I can’t enjoy myself if I don’t have a decent pair of sunglasses.

All black

There is a certain stripe of entrenched hipster who will yield neither to the heat of the sun nor the constricting nature of tight pants. He will wear all black — with long pants, boots and maybe even a leather jacket — to the festival, if he deems it cool enough to attend or if his hippie parents dragged him there.

Evening wear

It happens: Sometimes people find themselves out on the fairgrounds in completely inappropriate attire. I’ve seen cocktail dresses, made-up faces, suit jackets with trousers and even — gasp! — high heels atoutdoor festivals before, usually sported by newbieswho didn’t understand what they were in for. Thelook is acceptable, I believe, only if the peoplerocking it have been out all night.

The Daisy Duke

Ladies, do us all a favor: If you have anyexhibitionist tendencies at all, wear cutoff shortsand a bikini top to every festival you go to thissummer. You’ll remind all the old guys mopingaround that they are still alive. Andyou’ll make it harder for theyounger guys to pay attentionto the music.

The pro

When I go to an outdoormusic festival, I like to wearsandals because sometimesI’ll slip them off — but I put a lotof sunscreen on the tops of my feet. Ilike cargo shorts because I can cram allkinds of crap into the pockets: schedules,cigarettes, small purchases, money andsuch. A loose linen shirt provides relieffrom the heat, and I need to wear a hatbecause the bald parts of my head getsunburned pretty easily. Also, I can’tenjoy myself if I don’t have a decent pairof sunglasses.

Share: