Since 2012, the Austin City Limits Music Festival has gone from being a September fest to one taking place in October—partly to avoid conflicts with Texas/OU weekend, but mostly to prevent hundreds of thousands of festival-goers from turning into human sweat puddles in the sweltering Austin heat.
This year, though, it doesn’t really matter. The first weekend of the festival runs this weekend, from October 4-6, and we’re still very much in the midst of our interminable summer. Sunday’s high is slated to be 99 degrees—making it the hottest ACL Fest since 2005, back when the festival took place before the autumnal equinox. That means that dancing to Lizzo, weeping to The Cure, and headbanging to Guns ‘N Roses will be a much sweatier activity than most attendees would hope—and the relatively low humidity, while a boon in that people should be able to breathe more air than water vapor, means that the conditions are ripe for the kind of “dust bowl” effect that can turn an ordinary music festival into something downright post-apocalyptic—which happened at ACL in 2005 and Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2011.
So how do you prepare for three (or six, if you’re doing both weekends) long days of sweltering suns, stirred-up dirt, and massive, parched crowds—and still look your best? Worry not: we’ve got a style guide custom-designed for the various elements.
Lightweight, flowing garments, designed to allow air to freely circulate
Flowing skirts, short shorts, and bare midriffs are a staple of summer festivals and fests like Coachella, which takes place in the literal desert. While October is ostensibly an odd time for such an outfit—in years past, it was possible to get chilly at night during ACL!—this is a brave new era. The ways that people prepared in The Before Time are irrelevant, so you might as well lean into it.
Goggles, oversized cargo pants/shorts, and combat boots, with no shirt
Similarly practical, this is an aesthetic that screams “what a lovely day” even as the relentless heat and sand threatens to overwhelm you. The goggles guarantee that you’ll still enjoy a clear field of vision even if dust gets kicked up by the hapless masses, and will ensure that should you need to make a fast getaway to the stage where Tame Impala is playing, you’ll be able to hightail it on your way to Valhalla.
A metal hockey mask and a leather harness with a studded codpiece
For those seeking a statement look that’ll still allow their skin to be cooled by the air as it expels moisture through the pores, we’d recommend one that features a little bit of leather and a few spikes. The gallons of sweat dripping off of your body should provide a natural lubricant to avoid chafing, while the studded codpiece will prove to be an asset should the crowd turn antagonistic. As for the mask? That’s just fashion, baby.
A full-body chainmail dress
If you’re a more modest sort, but still want to make sure that the airflow is circulating through your entire body as the sweltering heat besets your frame, might we recommend a dress made of pure chainmail? While it’s admittedly a heavy outfit to wear for three days of fun in the sun, if you’re up for strategically picking a stage and staying put—Saturday night, you can catch Gary Clark Jr. and Childish Gambino without moving—you’ll get to enjoy more of the outfit’s benefits versus its shortcomings.
A dirty red onesie with a double-necked guitar that shoots fire
While beating the heat is a practical endeavor, if you’re attending a festival like ACL, there’s almost certainly a part of you that is there just to be seen. You don’t just want to rock out to Mumford and Sons, you want to look good while you do it. How better to let everybody know the kind of rock and roll party animal you are inside than to sport an eye-catching red unitard—and to defy nature itself by streaming bursts of flame from the neck of your sinister-looking guitar?
Just some random stuff cobbled together with whatever you were able to salvage from the ruins of civilization
Most likely, this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival will be an ordinary—if sweaty, and potentially dusty—affair. You’ll probably be able to get by with an extra bandana to keep from inhaling a bunch of dirt. But the extreme summer we’ve had in 2019—combined with the new propensity of cities on the Texas Gulf coast to get blinding sheets of rain dumped upon them with little warning—does have us worried about the future.
This one might be more of an ACL 2020 style tip, but if you’re preparing for a future in which every night we does the tell so that we remember who we was and where we came from, you can get a head start on the fashion of our grim future this year by just wearing whatever you were able to find after those that came to salvage showed up. Have a great festival, everybody!