CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ahhhh ... the music festival season is upon us. For those of you who participate in that great rite of summer, this is the time of year that makes live music lovers as giddy as a kid at Christmas.
Admittedly, many think the idea of porta-potties, hours in the hot sun and throngs of sweaty people is one of Dante's circles of hell. However, I cling to the belief that, if I am a really good person my whole life and I get to go to heaven, there will be a music festival every weekend and I will have VIP camping -- and my own shaded viewing area.
Contrary to what many think, music festivals are not just dens of sweaty patchouli-doused hippies. As noted in a recent Elle magazine article by Joe Zee, they have become style events forecasting fashion trends or, as he calls it, "free-range style incubators."
Some of the most iconic images associated with festival fashion emanate from paparazzi-style photos of Hollywood starlets and fashion models out and among the regular festivalgoers. One of my favorite images is of glamazon supermodel Kate Moss at the 2005 Glastonbury Music Festival in Scotland, traipsing across a muddy lawn in black Wellingtons, short shorts and a fitted black vest.
Another is of Victoria's Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio at the Coachella festival in a big floppy 1970s-style hat, big Jackie O glasses, white fringed tunic and roper-style cowboy boots. In sum, festival fashion has gone mainstream and, given its phoenixlike reinvention of itself every year, it looks like it is here to stay.
My first exposure to festival fashion was at the 2006 Coachella Music Festival, held outside Palm Springs, Calif., at a polo field in the hot, hot desert. While the countless indie and dance music acts were the initial draw for me, I quickly realized that there was something afoot in terms of a very definite fashion style and one that wasn't yet splattered over every fashion magazine.
However, almost as soon as day one of the three-day festival was over, pictures of the most fashionable attendees and eye-catching outfits were plastered on the web and fashion bloggers were atwitter. Even the venerable Los Angeles Times routinely devotes style coverage of this annual Mecca-like festival. It was almost as if Coachella were a slumbering fashion god awakening to proclaim the hot new trends to come.
This then became the cherry on my heavenly slice of cake.
So, what is this festival fashion? At the risk of completely dating myself, I can only describe it as "a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll," plus a healthy dose of Woodstock. There is one universal look at every festival: boots with shorts and dresses.
The boot style is tweaked depending on the festival you attend and on which coast. For instance, at Coachella, you tend to see more leather moccasins and cowboy boots. At festivals in the Eastern U.S., such as Bonnaroo and the Forecastle Festival, where the climate is unpredictable and commonly involves rain, Wellingtons (rain boots) are the favorite of fashion-forward hipsters.