Going from being an American-bred raver to an immigrant raver on European lands, one of the first differences that struck out to me about the scene here was the rave fashion. I was glad I didn’t arrive decked-out in my finest American rave gear because I definitely would have been the odd one out! The biggest visible difference between European and American rave culture is definitely in the attire, and here’s the run-down on the main differences.
If were to describe American rave fashion in a couple words, I think “anything goes” sums it up. European, on the other hand, sticks with “sleek and chic”.
In the US, you really can express your creativity in whatever way you want, whether it is by making your own outfit, wearing a costume, wearing every day clothes, or wearing barely anything. Whatever you decide to or not decide to wear, no one will bat an eye (unless you’re wearing a dress shirt and slacks, then you definitely don’t fit in). It’s common to wear a bra or crop top, paired with short shorts or a tutu.
In European rave fashion, you never get girls that show a lot of skin. Style seems to go along the principles of “hippie/hipster/urban chic”. Depending on the show, you also get punk ravers, whom I’ve spotted at drum and bass festivals and hardstyle festivals. In general, though, Americans definitely wear a lot less clothes to raves than Europeans do.
A lot of Europeans also wear DJ or festival gear to support the artists or genres they like. At Q-Dance festivals, for example, a large percentage of festival-goers are always wearing clothes with the festival name, artists, or sub-genres. Merch stores often sell out within the first couple hours of the festival.
My favorite people at raves are those in costumes and you do see these in both continents. Another similarity across continents is the existence of shirtless bros! They’re everywhere!!
In the American rave scene, undoubtedly one of the symbols of a raver is having kandi bracelets. In European rave fashion, people don’t wear kandi nor do they know what it is.
However, I’ve seen many people don a different kind of bracelet in Europe – the festival wristband. In Europe most festivals give you a wristband to wear for the duration of the festival, and many EDM fanatics will keep the wristband on for months and even years to come. I’ve seen people with an arm full of festival wristbands from years of raving, it’s pretty hardcore that they keep the wristband on day and night for such a long time (no comments about the hygiene).
In America, besides the kandi galore, ravers pounce on any opportunity to express their creativity. It’s all about the accessories to put the finishing touches on your jaw-dropping outfit. Americans have dozens of ways to style their outfit and any and every accessory is welcomed; there’s no such thing as being “over-accessorized.”
On the head, Americans opt for spirit hoods or flower crowns…
While Europeans go for flower crowns or hippie head accessories…
For sunglasses, Americans wear colored and framed glasses, with or without the lens…
European rave fashion dictates name branded and demure sunglasses, in basic colors like black or brown.
Americans wear leg wraps, crazy tights, and fluffies on their legs…
Europeans keep it modest with the sheer tights in cold weather, and nothing in warm weather.
Americans definitely one-up the Europeans in terms of rave “gadgets”. Europeans don’t really bring any gadgets or toys, while Americans glove, orbit, and more.
In the US, practicality comes first when it comes to bags. And the most practical bag to use while dancing is the fanny pack for girls. Yes, the bag that we previously thought were only for your grandmother or nervous travelers is the go-to item for raver girls (and some boys). We raver girls swear by it! It’s the best bag to avoid drag, bouncing, and clutter when dancing. And, keeping your possessions close to your body avoids having people reach into your possessions and steal your stuff.
Fanny packs don’t seem to be as common in Europe, though I have seen quite a few British girls using them! Most ladies just bring their regular cross-shoulder bag.
Men either bring nothing to raves or a backpack. In the States, hydration backpacks are more common than they are in Europe. Europeans will often bring actual backpacks to raves, armed with everything they will need for the party, from sunscreen to an extra sweater (it can get cold at night in parts of Europe).
In both Europe and the United States, it’s all about the comfort when you dance. Tennis shoes or sneakers are both great choices here, and shoes with some padded soles are easier on the feet. Anything to help you last dancing 8+ hours.
Girls in heels are rarely ever seen, and those that do will definitely not wear heels again the next time they go to a rave, it’s just simply impossible to dance for 8 hours straight like that. In Europe, I do see girls donning cute sandals at festivals and parties, but inevitably their feet always get stepped on and soiled. When raving in both continents, wearing comfortable, close-toed shoes is the ONLY way to go.
There you have it, a head-to-toe comparison of the differences of rave fashion in Europe and the United States! Which do you prefer?
Tendelle has been traveling since 2014 seeking the best EDM experiences on the planet. She currently lives in Amsterdam where she spends on weekends exploring the music scene here! You can follow her dance music adventures on her blog.