After back-to-back years attending Coachella, it was plain for me to see that festival fashion was at a premium in the California desert every April. But where can a style-savvy festival fan go to get their fix the rest of the year? Here's a hint: book a flight to Austin and be prepared to get on stage.
Rest assured, I'm here to give you a preview of what festivals to check out in 2012:
March: South by Southwest - 25 years down and SXSW keeps getting bigger and better, with a new style component (wink, wink) that has a little something to do with it. Don't be mistaken, though, fashion has been a SXSW mainstay since Austin's own Stevie Ray Vaughn wore his hi-roller hat and continues to this day with the likes of Julian Casablancas of The Strokes belting out lyrics while wearing the kind of black leather jacket that rock stars seem to be born in. Whether you're a budding blogger or fashion photographer, SXSW is a content creator's dream because of the 200,000-plus people walking the streets in their crowd-favorite garbs; just make sure to pack a comfortable pair of sneakers.
April - Coachella, duh.
May - New Orleans is legendary for its culture from the Cajun food and Creole speak to the brass bands and Mardi Gras. But if you're more blues fan than Bourbon drinker, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage fest may be the place for you to bring out your live music Sunday best. A combination of this colorful culture and humid weather lends style here to lightweight fabrics and a myriad of hues, meaning you won't have to wait for Jimmy Buffett's performance to feel like you're on a Caribbean island.
June - Speaking of color, you can be sure to see a sea of red in Madrid if you check out the 2012 installment of Rock in Rio. With no Glastonbury Festival in the UK this coming year (you can thank the London Olympics), Rock in Rio may end up being the most coveted festival ticket in Europe next summer. Elton John, Rihanna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and Shakira gave this event a distinctively popular sound in 2011, and 2012 is certain to take it up yet another notch. Popular artists lend themselves to popular styles so stock up at your nearby Zara and look the part of a live music loving Spaniard.
July - July is a good time to take a break...relax. And if you need some assistance to do so, plenty of Pitchfork (Chicago) or Rothbury (Michigan) attendees are sure to offer it. Dancing to G. Love & Special Sauce or Cut Copy requires a certain amount of liberal-ness to maximize the moment to let loose, which means different things to different music fans. To me, it means wearing some comfortable shorts, a graphic tee by Das Monk and letting my bare feet feel the barren ground.
August - Lollapalooza isn't the most fashionable festival...something about Midwestern values that doesn't always get the forward part of fashion (us Texans can relate). But with Chicago as the backdrop there's plenty of shopping to do to stand out. Allsaints and Topshop have opened up shops down Michigan Avenue and boutiques like Sir & Madame and St. Alfred's complete your look with some local flair...something Chicagoan Kanye West has mastered over the years.
September - Electronic music is all the rave these days, literally, and it's plain to see why: everyone loves to dance, jump around and party. After all, most of us have the rest of the year to a) sit in class and listen attentively or b) sit behind a desk and work tirelessly. If we really do live in The Matrix, Electric Zoo is that crazy party in Zion that the hedonists attended just before the machines came to destroy everything. Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5 and Diplo -- one of the most stylish DJs in the world -- will make sure we go out in style if destruction is upon us.
October - ACL - The festival that stays in the black financially, stays light and colorful stylishly. With Austin temperatures going north of 100 degrees, it's pretty easy to justify a tank top, headband and sandals as the go-to look, but what you'll also find is plenty of Cowboy hats (to keep the sun away), long skirts (rather than bringing a blanket) and naturally tanned skin (thanks to the Texas summer). Fashion at Austin City Limits Festival is not at a premium, but the range of style is certainly at a maximum.
November - Sticking to Austin, the music festival capital of the U.S., makes even more sense now that Fun, Fun, Fun Fest has joined the ranks of SXSW and ACL Fest as yet another reason to trek down to the Lone Star State for great live music, good eats and a gander at festival style. This weekend featured multi-talented, emerging acts like Childish Gambino/Donald Glover and legendary acts like metal giants Slayer and Public Enemy, the hip-hop group stylistically-linked to Flavor Flav's clock-wearing antics and military uniforms. Like ACL, diversity is the name of the game here, but the metal music stage earmarked for acts like The Damned and Black Lips ensures a bit more doom than daze at this fall festival. Dress accordingly.