I hung out at one in California to try to figure it out.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. A "renaissance faire", as I'm sure you've seen on the telly, is a thing American people do where they dress up in olden-dayish clothes, talk in funny voices, and then.... Actually, I have no idea what they do next. That's why I went along, to see what's up. I took a camera with me so you can see what I saw.
The first thing that struck me upon arrival was how awkward it was to converse with someone who insists on speaking in that fake-old timey dialect. Are you meant to try to do it back to them? Or do you just continue to speak normally? Each time I had to talk to anyone I just ended up getting really embarrassed and staring at the floor while mumbling.
I did, however, really enjoy watching people's confused faces as they tried to apply the olde-speak to the modern world. Like, "Young sire, can thoust insert thy debit card into yonder card-reading contraption?" or, "You there, boy, stepeth to one side and alloweth security to search thy backpack."
Second thing were the costumes. Which were, generally, quite impressive.
But I'm not entirely sure what people's motivation was for wearing them. From what I could tell, most of them weren't doing it because they were getting paid, and were just visitors that had gotten dressed up for the day. And I can't imagine that sort of clothing is very cheap. Seems an expensive way to go about getting rejected by girls who buy their garms from whatever the American version of Topshop is.
And don't say, "because it's fun". There's no way wearing that much clothing on a sunny day in California can be fun. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and I felt like I was going to Tibetan Monk.
Also, this guy's face is covered; he can't even talk to people. That's no fun.
Like with any kind of costumed event, all the girls present used it as an excuse to wear super-flattering, sexy outfits. Like this chick.
This guy was pretty fucking amazing, though.
I went for a walk around the site. All the coolest kids were there. Furries...
Guys in utilikilts...
People who read The Chap...
And even a steampunk or two!
Activity-wise, there were a few things dotted about. Some kind of horse thing, which I watched for a bit. But I didn't really know what was going on, and horses are really, really boring, so I stopped watching them.
There was a band playing whatever that genre is called that's kinda gypsy-ish and kinda pirate-y and completely, overwhelmingly, breathtakingly lame.
And displays of traditional renaissance stuff. Like the age-old tradition of whatever-the-fuck-is-happening-in-this-photo.
There was a "bawdy comedy" act playing during the afternoon. You had to pass about five signs like this before you got into the stage area. Which seemed promising.
But turned out to be a dozen ladies saying rude words in funny voices. Apparently people in the olden days found it really, really funny that "come" and "seamen" have more than one meaning.
The crowd seemed pretty into it. The people on stage wouldn't even have to make a joke, they could literally just say "vagina" in a Shakespearian voice, and people would fucking lose it. Americans are weird.
There was a big food area, too. I took the opportunity to try some traditional 15th Century food: brightly coloured chemicals that have been moulded into the shape of a potato, cheese and tomato dish.
As I was tucking into my meal, suddenly a parade for "Queen Elizabeth" appeared out of nowhere.
This is Queen Elizabeth. I followed her route for a little bit, and heard FOUR separate people make jokes about how they'd rather she was leading the country than Obama. Americans are weird: pt 2.
Um. I don't think they had these in the olden days, lady. Or maybe it's that they didn't have handbags, and now every woman alive today is hiding their pink, furry sex-cuffs and collection of knives away with their iPhones and makeup?
And finally, there was a market. Where you could pick up some traditional, old-worlde stripper clothes.
Or something for the kids. Does "wench" mean what I think it means? If so, that seems like an odd thing to write on your baby.
And that was pretty much the entire thing, though I still wasn't really sure what the point of it all was. I guess the idea is that you buy a very, very expensive outfit, pay $25 to go to a place that is, essentially, a large market full of clothes you can't wear IRL, and then walk around for the afternoon, trying not to die from exposure?
These guys made me feel kind of homesick, so, still confused, I headed home.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @JLCT
Read about Jamie's other recent adventures in California: