The other weekend, a friend asked me what I was wearing to Jazz Fest.
“Does it really matter?” I asked.
It’s true: The Jazz Fest dress-code is near nonexistent; black matter at best. If you’ve covered up enough to avoid incarceration for indecent exposure (and narrowly, at that), essentially all ensembles are not only socially acceptable, but, in fact, vanish into an indistinguishable hodgepodge of fashion violations, in any other context. Phish fans and the tea-time-ready, former frat bros and sugar-crazed tykes — their apparel, or rather, they, all blend and somehow seem to make sense in inharmonious juxtaposition with one another.
Maybe it’s the broad spectrum of characters the festival beckons; maybe it’s New Orleans’ general sense of laissez-faire that drifts in from the Mississippi and wafts through the city, but in any case, dissimilar to many other music festivals past and present — Woodstock, Coachella, Ultra, so on and so forth — there isn’t a central aesthetic or stylistic thread that weaves together the otherwise out-of-place festival fashions at Jazz Fest. And I suppose that’s what makes the festival so very New Orleanian.
The stylistic composition at Jazz Fest is so arbitrary and wonderfully random, I’d argue that, in fact, without the recognizable backdrop of the Fairgrounds, Fest-goers’ ensembles would rarely give any indication of their relative context.
Which leaves us wondering: Are there any common social threads that influence Jazz Festers’ styles?:
The people who have separation anxiety:
“Everyone mark an x on your maps — we are here. If you find yourself separated from the amoeba, pull your emergency cord and a red S.O.S. flag will shoot up from your backpack so we can find you.”
T-shirt text: “What happens at Jazz Fest stays at Jazz Fest.”
Subtext: We have doubts about our buddy system.
“If I cut vents in the sleeves of my shirt and we maintain a five-foot distance from each another at all times no one will ever know the coordination was intentional.”
The people who are worried they’ll end up in the lost and found:
“If found: Please return me to anywhere in Chicago.”
But not everyone can hold it together enough to A) narrow down “home” to a city, B) keep track of the shirt that indicates said city C) keep track of a shirt.
“If found: Returning me anywhere within California limits is good enough.”
The people who are confused about where the fest is actually located:
Nope, Jazz Fest is not, in fact, inside your Grandmother’s rural Arkansas farm… in 1992.
Or in Baltimore.
And, no, those Indians won’t be at this festival.
The Pinterest fans:
Pinterest search: “Flowers, Superglue, 1983”
Pinterest search: “Davy Crocket meets The Birds”
Pinterest search: “Leftover doilies”
The people who were coerced in to wearing their outfits:
“I knew Mommy and Daddy lied to me when they said these J Crew shorts didn’t make me look like I had kankles.”
“You promised this would be just like all of the other Christina concerts.”
“And who do you think is going to end up carrying [read: wearing] that hat?” he asked his girlfriend.
Chelsea Lee is associate editor at NolaVie. Email comments to her at email@example.com.