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SXSW Survival Guide: Don we now our fest apparel

Eric Webb
What to wear to SXSW? Stay practical. Follow our tips.

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." South By Southwest runs March 9-18, and it's going to be a jungle out there. Free shows? Secret shows? Stunts like giant Doritos vending machines (R.I.P.)? 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. 2: Don we now our fest apparel.

Why yes, of course you should wear those 6-inch wedge heels to the punk 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.

Where’s the party at? Check out our database of all the best unofficial parties at SXSW

Hoofin' it

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 for a rap turn-up, trusty black-and-white Reeboks for an indie rock mosh pit, etc. (Stay away from Chuck Taylors if you plan on walking great distances. But if you have to wear them to a show for cred, 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. 

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 #austin360festies on Twitter and Instagram. You might even make it into our Festies photo gallery.

Whatever the weather

Here in Austin, meterologists are just performance artists very committed to a sick joke. In the past, 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.

More from our SXSW Survival Guide: