Since when were music festivals al fresco fashion shows? – The Guardian

I’ve been seeing a lot in magazines of late about “festival fashion”. But what exactly is “festival fashion”?

Understandably confused readers, Everywhere

In an ideal world, by which I mean my world, festival fashion consists of a plastic rubbish bag fashioned into a poncho; wellies covered in E coli; absolutely no clothes because you lost your tent on the Friday night and your clothes shortly after that; and maybe a hat that you found in a skip by the toilets. This, clearly, is how a festival attendee knows they have had a good weekend, and I live in constant hope that when I see the words “Festival fashion special!” on the front of a weekly glossy magazine it will include photos of men who look like Iggy Pop with a hangover wearing parkas splattered with fecal matter and dragging a wet dog round on a string.

But of course, such hopes are dashed time and time again, because what festival fashion actually means is endless boring photos of people such as Kate Bosworth and Poppy Delevingne, who, as far as I can tell, are famous purely for being photographed at music festivals, looking improbably glamorous. We can talk until the cows come home about how Kate Moss and her Hunter wellingtons and Sienna Miller and her boho leather belts are to blame for this, but increasingly my finger is pointed more towards the rise and rise of Coachella in the US, AKA the whitest event in American history this side of the 1960s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a music festival in California, where the weather is always good and the celebrities are in close proximity, has proved itself especially conducive to furthering the myth that music festivals are not about music, mayhem or mischief-making, but white girls looking as sexy as possible with pointless hair accessories.

Unsurprisingly, this idea that music festivals are actually al fresco fashion shows has risen up alongside the – for want of a better term – middle-classification of music festivals. Seriously, have you seen some of the nonsense that happens at them these days? Friends have told me about one particular music festival where you have to make reservations – reservations! – ahead of time in order to eat food cooked by Michelin-starred chefs in a field. Honestly, can you even imagine? This is at a MUSIC FESTIVAL, an event where I personally think a young person is winning if they remember to bring underwear, never mind pre-booked dinner reservations.

I’m a pretty high-maintenance kinda lady. I like my creature comforts as much as the next spoilt fashion columnist. But this is also why I love music festivals, because they allow even the most obnoxious of us to offer it all up to the weather gods, get disgusting and lose that self-consciousness that plagues us the rest of the time. Look, I don’t want to sound like Ol’ Granny Time here, rocking on my porch and telling sepia-tinted tales about that year at Glastonbury when Travis headlined and how, oh truly, those were the days. But one of my favourite photos does, indeed, come from that seminal year and it features myself, several friends and more strangers all sitting in a field at 6am. I appear to be wearing – and I’m looking at the photo as I write this – wellies printed with stars, corduroy trousers at least two sizes too big, a sweatshirt with a map of Asia on the front (because sure, why not, maybe useful?) and a man’s ski jacket. And I was not 12, not 16, but 23 at the time and already working in the fashion department of this paper. That’s right, readers, you were taking style guidance from a woman who wore wellies with stars on them. No, you cannot now have a refund.

The point is, I looked like a complete weirdo but I also had a great time, and I firmly believe those two things are connected. No one has fun when they are fussing over how they look, or if they’re too scared of getting messy to relax. I love fashion and I love festivals but I do not understand people who go to festivals with specific looks planned. Do these people have fun? Because they don’t look like they’re having fun. They look like they’re thinking about how to look as hot as possible on Instagram, and that, to me, is completely anathema to the festival experience. I never understood Kate Moss and Alexa Chung’s predilection for denim hotpants at Glastonbury – seriously, do they not feel the cold? Or the mud? Never mind the various Pucci outfits worn by the aforementioned Poppy Delevingne.

Like I said, the music festival is where you should leave your self-consciousness behind along with your personal hygiene, and you can’t do that if you’re fretting about whether your Native American headdress works with your Isabel Marant boho top. I just worry, Poppy Delevingne, that you’re missing out on the sweet, sweet pleasures of trying to find your tent at 7am while wearing star-studded wellies. Then there’s that sense of delicious pride when you arrive back in your hometown and everyone looks at you like you’re insane because you’re dressed like a basket case and you know that the worse you look, the bigger your triumph in surviving the weekend. So you walk home from the station, in your sweatshirt printed with a map of Asia, head held high, until you get home, collapse on your sofa and vow never to underestimate indoor plumbing again. Simple pleasures, Poppy Delevingne. And you’re missing out on the lot of them.

Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask. hadley@theguardian.com.


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