Womanity - Maia Dunphy on the fashion of festivals
Festival season used to mean tent hunting - now it's all about Hunter wellies
Who remembers when the only festival in Ireland (that wasn't the RTE proms) was Feile? I may be showing my age, but the last thing anyone considered before embarking on the Trip to Tipp was what to wear. You borrowed a tent (which inevitably hadn't been opened since the previous year and stank like nothing that could be described in words), packed a rain mac, two dozen bags of Tayto, a sliced pan and as many cans as you could carry. It was a matter of survival, not style. Nothing was ever properly thought through and at least one person you knew would develop modern day trench foot from wearing nothing but Quinnsworth bags on their feet for 72 hours.
Teens who had forgotten to pack a tin opener would sit, close to tears and starvation, cracking cans of beans against rocks, and if you squinted, they would look just like chimps in a documentary. Baby wipes hadn't been invented, and unless your Dad was a farmer, you didn't own a pair of wellies. At some point it would seem like a good idea to swap the tent for a two-litre bottle of cider and having unwittingly combined the booze and bus money, you would have to hitchhike home, followed by dissolving in a bath for a full day, dreaming about how close you'd been standing to yer man from the Saw Doctors.
Those halcyon days when turning a t-shirt inside out qualified as a change of clothes are no more. 'Festival' today means 'fashion' as much as it does music. From early May, high street shops have entire sections devoted to festival-style as if it was a sartorial season all of its own. And once you are aware of this, you will recognise these tribes before you can say 'glamping'.
The Hunters: As much a part of any festival as the music itself. Pioneered by Sienna Miller and Kate Moss (recently bequeathed to Cara, Suki et al), the word refers, of course, to the wellies rather than anything predatory. The uniform is simple: shorts (the tinier the better) or a bottom-skimming sun dress, topped with a trilby or cowboy hat, make-up and jewellery careful applied to look minimal, and of course the obligatory, ubiquitous €120 rubber boots. Don't be fooled; enormous effort goes into looking this effortless.
Formerlies: Not a week goes by without a new – usually derogatory – term for a group of women cropping up. On the back of MILFs and cougars, we now have formerlies. That is "formerly hot", referring to those who used to turn heads, but now just want to turn back time. They can be seen hanging out with their model daughters at festivals and from the back, you'd have trouble telling them apart. They tend to be in better shape than the festival-goers half their age, and this is their only socially acceptable chance to prove they can still get away with a playsuit. They'll be the ones clutching a bottle of SPF 50 and only losing their poise during Leonard Cohen.
The Old Ravers: You have to smile. There's always an ageing raver to be found at a festival who still thinks it's 1990. Proper old school, by the end of day two, they will be gurning miserably in a corner as no one was able to sneak any more pills past security. They miss the days when everyone was like them, and don't understand why anyone would want to buy raw food or get married in an inflatable church. The mandatory "naked man running around at festival" video on YouTube is (nine times out of ten) an old raver. Bless. See also: Old Punks.
The Trendy Parents: Trying to prove that they can still do everything they used to, but with baby in tow, you'll mainly spot them at the more sophisticated festivals like Electric Picnic. They usually start off well; baby in uber-trendy, organic cotton sling, and a Cath Kidson chill-bag of food straight from Avoca. But don't let them make you feel inferior because they can apparently run a home from a teepee when you sold your socks for a sandwich. You'll usually see the veneer fade by day two, when someone nicks their last loaf of gluten-free bread, little Tate has the squits, and an old punk burnt a hole in the eco-shower bag with a joint.
Of course, there are still those who stand out and dare to be different; by not even realising that festival tribes exist in the first place, and simply wearing clothes that are comfy, waterproof and don't require complete removal to go for a wee. I salute them. You haven't known true suffering until you've tried to keep a jumpsuit dry in a portaloo.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent