Everyone knows that all you really need to fit in at a music festival is a pair of shorts and a band t-shirt, but for the majority of fans—even in style-savvy Japan—the ones who want to stand out have to put in a little effort. At last weekend’s Summer Sonic festival just outside Tokyo, the most common trend among the ladies (and let’s face it, the ladies usually put in 80 times more effort than the gents) was flower headbands, or “chaco-riisu” as they are called in Japan. (Which we all know is the festival trend that refuses to die. Whisper it: Lana.)
“We made these flower headbands ourselves, although all the shops are selling them at the moment,” said Kumi, 22, hanging with her girlfriends Kie (21) and Remi (22). “We personalized our t-shirts, too.”
Actually, an even more common trend was the concept of “osoroi,” or matching outfits. Everywhere you looked, groups of friends had coordinated their style for a day of watching bands.
Some bands had merchandise that aided this togetherness. Kotaro (22), Artemis (23) and Yamada (22) wore the full wardrobe of their favorite pop-punk band Totalfat: star-printed tops, wristbands, sunglasses and even fanny packs—all in bold Yankee colors. “We dressed the same by coincidence; it’s a miracle,” lied Artemis.
“We had no particular image in mind—we just wanted to stand out,” explained Rika, 24. With their “BITCH” sunglasses, crop tops and (yes) flower hairbands, she and her pal Natsuki, also 24, sure did.
A more traditional favorite among festivalgoers in Japan is the gig towel. Most bands sell towels at their merch booths, which fans drape around their necks to mop up sweat from dancing HARD. At a festival you can gauge the relative popularity of the bands by whose towel is most prevalent. This year’s Summer Sonic lineup included big names and cult heroes—from Avril Lavigne to Pixies and Cibo Matto—but Babymetal totally won the war of the towels. Everyone was wearing their black offering, which even included a hood to keep the sun off.
Although rising indie band Kana Boon’s summery watermelon towels were arguably cuter.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was also performing, but her mega-fan Pikarin Pamyu Pamyu basically trounced his idol’s effort with a homemade costume complete with flashing LEDs and light stubble.
A lot of people brandished the names of their favorite band in fluorescent body paint, which was daubed free of charge at a stall inside the festival venue. Haruna and Harumi, both 25, were there for Queen, who were headlining the festival with (eugh) Adam Lambert on vocals.
“We've come in our Freddie Mercury T-shirts, which we personalized ourselves,” said Haruna. Both women had “Queen + Adam” painted on their arms, as well as their own names written in little hearts on their faces—handy if they passed out mid-concert and needed to be quickly identified.
Freddie Mercury may not have been at the festival to see his bandmates perform, on account of being dead, but I’m pretty sure these official Queen boxer shorts emblazoned with this image are just what he’d have wanted.
For the bold and beautiful, a posse of rock hairdressers were on hand to give free haircuts on a small stage sponsored by purveyor of cancer: Marlborough.
“I had to be brave, but it was a fun to get my hair cut at a festival,” said Satoshi, 30, his head freshly shorn. He’d looked worried while the work was in progress, but said he was pretty happy with the spikey, bleachy result.
Miki and Aya, both 23, were only at Summer Sonic for geographical reasons. “We call this our ‘We wish we were at Coachella’ look,” giggled Miki. With influence from the current “neo-gal” trend of mixing 1990s “gal” or “gyaru” fashion with elements of Americana, led by model Alisa Ueno, they wore tasseled tops and colorful accessories.
Also rocking an American style were ballers Atsumi, Yukina and Jessica, all 22. They each got their NBA tops, sweatbands, and shades online for a couple hundred dollars, while the bandanas were a nod to their home prefecture, Ibaraki, which is renowned for its biker gangs. “We’re childhood friends,” said Jessica, “so it’s fun to all dress the same.”
Yamada, 30, had come in what he called his “Picasso look,” with a painterly outfit from Dog in Harajuku plus a bleach-blonde rattail and fetching top hat. “I didn’t come to see any bands,” he said. “I just came to wander around.”
The bartenders and stallholders seemed in the mood to dress up too. OK, not really, they probably had no choice.
At least the outfits were subtle. Uh.
The final style statement of the festival came courtesy of German groovebox Kraftwerk, who played a late-ish set backed by a 3D screen, with complimentary 3D glasses. Standing in the dark, all facing the stage with our matching white spex, we were the very picture of osoroi: all the same and all thrilled to be so.
Daniel is an English chap living in Japan. It is unclear what he was wearing at Summer Sonic this year but feel free to ask him - @ItCameFromJapan
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