Editor’s note: This article was originally published March 7, 2014
Every year in March, Austin says "Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of music fans trying to get into as many shows as they possibly can and stay alive." South By Southwest Music runs March 11-16, and it’s going to be a jungle out there. Free shows? Secret shows? Giant Doritos vending machines? Who can keep track? Leading up to and during the music festival, we’ll be offering a series of tips to staying ahead of the pack in our SXSW Survival Guide.
Tip No. 1: Don we now our fest apparel.
Why yes, of course you should wear those 6-inch wedge heels to the Diarrhea Planet show. That is a rational adult decision. Your commitment to wearing that bespoke tweed suit while stumbling through puddles of stink water on Dirty Sixth will definitely pay off. That is a very practical outfit for your current activity.
Come on, South By. Get it together.
Remember the true spirit of the phrase "dress for the occasion." This ain’t opera night at The Met. SXSW is a sprawling gauntlet of club-hopping, pedicab-mounting, taco-scarfing madness. Sure, look smokin’. But if you can’t do parkour in it, it’s not the right outfit.
Every article of clothing from head to toe could be on point, and if you were wearing the wrong shoes, if would all be for naught. This isn’t some kind of Carrie Bradshaw screed. You will become the human avatar of misery if your feet are not happy walking around SXSW.
If you plan on covering any kind of ground during the fest, a comfortable close-toed show with good arch support is the way to go. Hot, cold, wet, dry: Your feet will be covered. You can still style based on what shows you’re catching: colorful kicks to see Chance the Rapper, trusty black-and-white Reeboks for Foster the People, Sperrys for Keith Urban. (Stay away from Chuck Taylors if you plan on walking great distances. But if you have to wear them to Eagulls, maybe bring some pedicab cash, too.)
Sandals and flip-flops? Only for non-moshing environments, and only if you know the weather is staying warm. (Ed. note: That is impossible to know.) Boots? If you don’t think you’ll get tired of them, fine. But I’m not paying for your medicated bunion pads.
If you take one thing away from this guide, let it be this: To wear high heels to SXSW is to strap a bundle of dynamite to the bottom of your legs, Wile E. Coyote-style.
When in Rome
Once upon a time, your vacationing dad wore Hawaiian shirts and Panama hats on trips, dangling a clunky camera around his neck. The SXSW version of the tourist stereotype is some combination of a Lana Del Rey-esque flower crown, a macramé poncho and Uggs. Don’t be that person. Check out online editor Courtney Sebesta’s 2012 rundown of how to dress like a local at the fest.
People-watch till your eyes fall out
The best part of all this? No one will follow any of these tips. SXSW is like Fashion Week, and you’re Anna Wintour in the front row. Make sure to snap pics of the best (and best-in-the-worst-way) outfits at the fest, and make sure to tag them #360festies on Twitter and Instagram. We’ll collect the best finds in a photo gallery.
Whatever the weather
Here in Austin, meterologists are just performance artists very committed to a sick joke. In the past three months, we’ve had weeks that started with chipping ice off our windshields and ended in playing sand volleyball in our swimsuits. This has happened more than once. (It’s like we offended some vengeful spirit.)
So any travel advice you normally follow about preparing for any type of weather? Follow it doubly so. Throw a cardigan in your backpack, and keep the jorts and the Carhartt in the same suitcase.
NEXT TIME: Gear up.