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Anti-Festival Style At Riot Fest
We're sick of floral crowns and cutesy cutoffs, so we captured the city's most die-hard trend shunners


We’ve all seen, and no doubt grown increasingly tired of, the “festival style” stories that have been done to death at every fashion publication and style blog known to man. We’ve been bombarded with so many images of floral crowns and fringed crop tops this summer that if we never see one again it will be too soon, and I for one would like to put an end to the monotony. Thus spawned my desire to put my iPhone to good use this past weekend when Riot Fest Toronto took over the historic Fort York’s Garrison Common and brought together the city’s most die-hard trend shunners–the ones who truly care more about the music than the opportunities to get “street styled,” and who would without a doubt choose circle pits over those circular sunglasses that totally channel John Lennon slash the Olsen twins.

So, in between sets, I annoyed unsuspecting victims with my lousy 8MP iSight camera for the sole purpose of bringing you a refreshing look at the punk rockers who truly exemplify effortless cool–like, exiting the mosh pit while wiping your dirt-coated teeth with your even filthier shirt-type cool; getting escorted to the first-aid tent with a bloody eye and then proceeding to rock out under your silver thermal blanket-type cool; spilling your $9 Pabst Blue Ribbon all over the ground because you’re so into the music that you can’t stop dancing-type cool; or listening to the bands from outside the gates because you’re too cheap to pay the $20 reduced rate to get in-type cool.

This Riot Fest volunteer knows what’s up.

As for what brought me to Riot Fest in the first place, I’ve been a self-confessed punk-rock superfan since I happened upon “Dammit” from Blink-182’s Dude Ranch on late-night television the summer before the eighth grade. You know, back when they still played music videos on TV. My older brother always insisted that this was just a rebellious teen phase that I would soon outgrow and look back on with embarrassment, but boy was he wrong. Now, more than 15 years later (*shudder*), while it may be increasingly difficult to find people to attend shows with me, it’s no less of a thrill when my favourite bands come to town. Nevertheless, I wasn’t sure what to expect style-wise for this two-day festival of various rock varieties and age groups, ranging from the pop-punk Mayday Parade and indie rockers Best Coast to Winnipeg’s own The Weakerthans and the hardcore offerings of A Day to Remember and Every Time I Die. The biggest festival draw by far, though, was old-school rockers Iggy & the Stooges and The Replacements, who treated Toronto to their first show in 22 years on Sunday.

This girl’s bright orange hair is so Paramore’s Hayley Williams and I am not mad about it. Juxtaposing heart-shaped sunglasses with knee-high combat boots and plaid is so anti-trend it hurts.

Despite the crowd’s overall disinterest in adhering to festival style guidelines as dictated by Nylon Magazine and the like, there were definitely some unspoken themes among the attendees:

The skeleton tank top: I guess I missed the memo on this one, because probably 60 per cent of the females were donning some sort of skeleton-printed attire.

The snapback hat: This was a favourite of both guys and gals at the show, either worn backwards or forwards with the brim flipped up to expose a word of one’s choosing.

The extra-large arm hole: Why have a regular-sized arm hole when you can have an arm hole that exposes the entire side of your body? Even the wee-est lad I snapped all weekend was sporting this look, with the sleeves (and then some) cut off his Pierce the Veil shirt so from the side it resembled one of those pinnies we used to wear for flag football.

My heart melted for these punks-in-training who looked completely in their element.

Black: It’s not just PR pros who swear by head-to-toe black. Garrison Common was swathed in it.

The curly moustache: Only suckers wait till Movember to bust out their best stache. Granted, I only spotted two of the curly variety, but they were awesome enough to warrant a mention.

Quirky slogan shirts: These were everywhere. Some of the weekend’s most notable include: “F*ck hipsters,” “Head bang every day,” “Quit work play music,” “Plane state of mind” and Skate4Cancer’s cutest one-liners to date, “Keep your head up high, beautiful” and “Don’t grow up, it’s a trap.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d really like to know where he acquired that purple velour cap.

Ripped tights: Girly dresses were easily roughed up with distressed black tights and unlaced combat boots.

Converse: No surprise, this classic punk-rock staple was the footwear of choice for the majority of attendees.

Tattoos: Duh. The most prevalent accessory by far, with an honourable mention going out to the leg tattoo, which seems to have taken over where the full sleeve left off.

Can’t go wrong with pink gingham and tattoos. Not pictured: this girl’s kickass friend who toughed it out on crutches but sadly didn’t want to be photographed for fear of mean commenters (don’t be mean, you guys). The new high-school uniform: Band tank, no pants(?), Converse, arm party, dinosaur backpack, deep side part. ‘Nuff said.

Needless to say, I felt more than a little prissy by comparison in my drop-waist tie-dye mini-dress, braided sandals and cross-body box bag.

Besides those obvious trends, or should I say anti-trends, the impression I got from the crowd, with the exception of a select few, was that no one put too much thought into their outfits. They were comfortable, casual and, by the end of the day, perfectly content being covered in dirt. They retreated from the stage between sets looking not happy exactly, but perhaps more victorious, like they’d just put in a hard day’s work. It’s serious business, that rock ‘n’ roll.


Lindsay MacAdam is a Toronto-based writer with what some might call questionable musical taste. She has written about fashion and beauty for xoJane, Yahoo! Canada, Flare, Best Health, and Beauty High. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayMacAdam

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