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11 Offensive Festival Looks You Should Avoid This Summer

Culture isn't a costume, even if you identify as a steampunk.
July 22, 2016, 9:05pm

This article was originally published on THUMP Germany. Summer is here, which means it's time to grab your squad and head over to your nearest music festival. Aside from figuring out who you want to see and loading up on sunscreen and snacks, one important question remains: what will you wear?

Festival fashion has become something of a controversial topic these days, so much so that entire events have had to ban certain accessories that have been (rightfully) deemed as culturally insensitive. For starters, when thinking about how you're going to deck yourself out before hitting a weekender, you'd be wise to avoid items that are disrespectful of other cultures, religions, or marginalized groups—or that originated within a culture or community that isn't your own. Below we have 11 festival fashion looks you should definitely avoid this summer. While wearing these items may feel like a creative departure from everyday life, they can also piss a ton of people off.


1. Bindis

Photo: Brandy Lee (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bindis have become a favorite of everyone from Goa trance-loving hippies to city-dwelling ladies with septum piercings. If you didn't know, they're actually a religious emblem that's worn by women in India. Sure, they can add some flair to your attempt at a "spiritual" vibe, but so can face paint and sparkles (another sus choice to be honest). Stick with the latter just to be safe.

2. Headdresses

Photo: Brian Tomlinson (CC BY 2.0)

The wearing of headdresses has been one of the more controversial facets of this conversation, and has extended far beyond music events into the realm of sports and other areas of popular culture. There really is no reason to wear a sacred piece of Native American culture on your head, unless, in fact, you are Native American. It's cultural appropriation at it's very core and honestly just makes you look dumb.

3. Day of the Dead make up

Photo: Larry Lamsa (CC BY 2.0)

This makeup pertains to a Mexican holiday intended for honoring the dead. If it isn't Halloween then you best move on to the next aisle of CVS.

4. Sexist T-shirts

This guy wins the award for worst fashion/lifestyle choices at — Jemayel Khawaja (@JemayelK)April 12, 2015

Read this.

5. Sari

Dating back centuries before music festivals even existed, the sari has been used for religious purposes to keep women's bodies covered in public. If you aren't wearing these for religious purposes, then it can be a bit of a smack in the face towards people who do. Culture isn't a costume, even if you identify as a steampunk.

6. Henna tattoos

Photo: Bhakti Henna(CC BY 2.0)

You probably know it as henna, but in actuality Mehndi (it's real name) originated in places like Northern India, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa, as a form of sacred ornamentation used in weddings and other festive events. Thus, it's not meant to cover you hands while you crush wine in a can dancing to big-room house.


7. Burzum Shirts

Photo: dz roman (CC BY 2.0)

Regardless of what you think about his music, why don't you just wear shirts from the other 2,345 bands in you iTunes that aren't murdering racists?

8. Holi paint

Photo: Steven Gerner (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The (original) Holi Festival is a Hindu spring festival and one of the oldest in all of India. The colorful paint used is first consecrated on an alter and later bestowed with blessings. India's longtime caste system of social stratification is ignored during the festival so that people from all classes can celebrate good over evil. Unless you're at an official offshoot of the event, don't jock the good vibes of this party for your own personal gain.

9. Aztec patterns

Photo: [Wicker Paradise](Wicker Paradise) (CC BY 2.0)

This webshop blurb says it all: "The colorful clothing item and accessory of old Indian culture will awaken your vacation happiness." Don't even get us started bro.

10. Kaffiyeh

Photo: mightymightymatze (CC BY-NC 2.0)

It may just look like a nice scarf to you, but the wearing of a kaffiyeh has religious and political connotations to many, especially as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Music festivals aren't really places where we need to include these themes.

11. Penis costume

Photo: Pikawil (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Just say no.

Update [Tuesday July 4, 2017]: This post included a mistranslation of the original German article that occasioned a factual error about the history of the sari, suggesting that the garment was of Muslim origin. It has since been updated.