Photo courtesy of Bon Iver
Ok, ok, secretly, I’ve been dying to do a folky fashion story, and what better time than in preparation to hit up the festivals? It all started because of Timber and Steel’s own Evan Hughes who is rarely seen at any folk influenced festival or gig without a vest on. Wandering the roads of Woodford last year, I noticed some particular elements that identified musically like minded people. So let’s go top to toe on how to look your folky best during the festival season.
I’ve spent the last few days looking at photos of some of our favorite Timber and Steel artists to really pin down the look, and to be honest, most of it is about choosing a base and accessorising. Obviously there is always going to be an element of your own tastes and flair or style that will determine your overall look, but here’s a few simpler pieces you can pull together possibly from your Christmas haul and Boxing Day sales if you want to get in the folky spirit of it.
For they guys, the base is easy, jeans and a t-shirt are staples with the shirt usually being plain, though wearing your favorite band shirt will always be acceptable. For the ladies, unsurprisingly the base has followed the recent retro/ vintage fashion trend and more often than not either a floating vintage style dress or a modern floral dress inspired by the retro look. Whack a pair of opaque stockings on underneath and you’re set. That or a high waisted skirts or shorts with a plain top would provide a perfectly suitable base too.
Then it’s time to accessorise. Let’s start at the top.
Hats are great, they protect you from the sun and the rain, keep your head warm at night and can cap off your look, excuse the pun. Broad brim hats are an easy choice for guys or girls, just take a look at Matt Corby and Florence Welsch of Florence and the Machine or even Jack Thompson in his Akubra for inspiration.
For guys, there’s a broad range of hat style to try until you find the one that suits you, Panama, Trilby and Fedora styles mainly differ in the brim size and shape. The ever popular Flat Cap has a cousin, the Ascot Cap of a very similar style, but rounder and more stiff. Or in a similar but roomier style, there’s always your classic variations of the Gatsby/ newsboy/ train driver cap which work for both guys and girls.
For the girls, while you could pick any of the styles I’ve noted for guys, the more vintage looks are far more fun. For a very feminine look, try a cloche like Lisa Mitchell, a 50s style do-rag like Lanie Lane, or just a simple headband as Julia Stone often wears.
If guys are after a very vintage addition, there’s always bowler and top hats, but it takes a bit of confidence and dedication to carry it off well. A bit zany, but a great look if you own it. And if you are going to own it, you can even go the whole hog with a three piece suit, but that’s not really convenient for Australian summers nor festivals.
Working down for top to toe, the next item is mainly for the guys. If you’re going for an old style, the a bow tie is a fantastic edition, especially if you can tie a real one yourself rather than the clip on ones. Though I have it on good authority, they’re not terribly comfortable to start with. Not really practical for camping and festivals, it’s a good one to wear out for a night on the town, or as a feature of your look, much like CW Stoneking’s red and white check bow tie on his signature white ensemble.
If ties are not your style, then your options include the quintessential vest, in almost any material, but I know Evan Hughes likes his leather and suede options. Vest have been turning up across genres for years and are a feature for musos and punters both young and old.
If a vest is too warm or not quite your thing, try out the old school suspenders as Johnny Wishbone, lead singer of The Snowdroppers, is frequently seen wearing. Our modern ladies of folk have a true eye for style throwing cardigans and sweaters in to the mix, or using leather belts to create a classic cinched or high waist look.
While vintage is a strong theme, the folk style transcends conventional fashion rules, and borrows often from cousins in country genre. Take a leaf out of Henry Wagons’ book and style up every day with country flair. If you think I’m cheating by using alt-country as a folk example, instead take a good look at Boy & Bear who have had multiple members sport checkered shirts, plus a few other folkies teaming a checked shirt with a vest or other accessory. And it’s not just for guys, take a look at how Lisa Mitchell and Jen Cloher carry off bold checks for a country, folky feel.
So, once you’ve got your base, found the accessories that work for you, all that’s left is to throw on some sunnies (Rayban style is a staple) and for the ladies, grab a leather or leather/ animal print look small handbag to sling across your body, slap on some sunscreen and you’re set for a folkin’ good time.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can start to mix and match pieces, create layers and get a group of friends together and take the scene by storm. Maybe some time down the track you’ll even turn up in a future folky fashion post right here!
TinPan Orange combined managed almost the entire shebang, get that group some hats!