Two 20-something guys stand in line at the Duane Reed on 86th Street discussing the merits of a pack of cigarettes. One wears an American flag T-shirt with matching sweat bands. The other is in a light pastel striped tank that screams Miami, circa 1988.
They notice the girls behind them in line – wearing jean shorts, holding mud-caked Hunter boots and Chuck Taylors – and ask the obvious.
“Are you going to the festival?”
It’s not so much of a question as an introduction. The answer is obvious, disclosed immediately by their attire.
Even in New York, a city with few known bounds on the limits of personal style, festival fashion has become so ubiquitous it’s instantly recognizable. Ticketholders to Governors Ball Music Festival were clearly visible throughout the city and not simply for their age or disregard for public intoxication laws. The three-year-old festival, held on Randall’s Island from Friday to Sunday, brought waves of neon hues mixed with bright prints, shredded shorts and ironic tees. The blends, topped with trucker hats, fedoras or loads of bracelets, colored the 4, 5 and 6 trains throughout the weekend.
If there was a noticeable difference from similar festivals in the same circuit it was the need for practicality. There was no lux hippie vibe a la Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Or as much hipster-flare as Austin City Limits affords. The dry, hot physical environment of those shows allows for more expensive variety.
Torrential rains from the remnants of tropical storm Andrea made anything besides poncho-chic a ridiculous choice on Friday. And though the weather improved dramatically for the remainder of the weekend, the damage was done. Vast seas of ankle-to-calf deep mud remained, sucking off flip-flops and slip-on shoes of the unsuspecting attendees who hadn’t chosen sturdier footwear.
Jorts and willies were the unofficial uniform for women for the three days of shows. Was the denim simply a nod to the return of cuts from the ’80s and early ’90s? An homage to Saturday’s headliner, Guns N’ Roses?
Yes and no. Distressed, ripped denim shorts are again a staple for summer closets. And while mud splatter may ruin a designer boho dress, it is character building for a pair of vintage Levi’s.
On the other end of the spectrum were those who took the freedom of lax norms of dress (or undress) quite seriously. Like the unofficial rule of Halloween in the movie “Mean Girls,” music festivals can be interpreted as a safe space to wear as little clothing as possible without judgment.
Bikini tops were out in the heat of the day Sunday accompanied by a resurgence of hot pants that begged the question: Are they shorts made to look like a bathing suit bottom or a bathing suit made to look like shorts?
That’s not to say a few adventurous souls didn’t push the bounds. Knee-high socks gave a touch of Cher Horowitz to ankle booties and even Hunters. A few pairs of black leather shorts made it out after the rain, and matching cropped top and high-wasted skirt sets were made to look easy though most of us trudging through the fields of mud knew otherwise.
As Governors Ball continues to establish itself as a premiere outdoor festival for the New York region, it will be telling to see whether or not the style evolves. Will the unpredictable elements of early June on the east coast dominate the vibe? Or will it take a few years for Governors to settle into its Manhattan roots and break out of predictable festival style?
Here’s hoping for better weather.