Words By: Lennie Prochnow
From the underground to mainstream radio, rave culture has experienced a significant evolution in the United States over the recent decades.
Originating as a style far from social acceptance, rave clothing has morphed into a characteristic of popular culture, easily bought at any mall. Now, retail stores and online shops, like Ravewear.com, specialize in clothing tailor-made to fit a transcendent outing.
The modern rave era is attributed to starting in the mid-1980s in the UK. Rave culture bloomed as a drug-induced subculture, colorfully blossoming from the branches of punk-rock and disco. Taking disco’s ideas of freedom from violence and love of dance, and punk’s deviant behaviors and style. A contradictory combination that created a group of misfit bass-heads and inspired a unique style. Multi-colored hair, mod geometric dresses, fishnets, tight pants, and bright colors revealed themselves together in illegal warehouses, embodying the original rave style. The sub-culture moved to the United States through European DJ’s traveling to the states and throwing parties, centralizing itself in New York City and Chicago; the latter being the birth place of house music.
The key characteristics of the movement from the 1980s progressed into the 1990s as the style was slightly altered by the influence of popular fashion. Midriff bearing halters, wide-legged baggy men’s pants, boiler suits, eccentric glasses and smiley faces all headlined this era. Glow sticks, a rave staple, entered the scene at this time along with the trend of fairy wings and tu-tu’s.
The UK made raves illegal in the mid-1990s , suppressing the culture to night clubs, eventually becoming the catalyst for the emergence of mega clubs. With men and women dressing in dramatic costumes and decorating themselves in extreme, glam-inspired make-up, the US saw a return to the days of disco in fashion and expression. Many American clubs featured go-go style dancers wearing furry boot covers and UV sensitive clothing, starting a style phenomena still seen today.
Into the 2000s, the movement only continued to grow in the United States. Already part of mainstream culture in Europe, raves stayed relatively underground in the United States until around 2010. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the downward spiral of the economy and skyrocketing unemployment rates slowly created a niche for an escape for American youth. Thus, the growing popularity of music festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival, Coachella and Bonnaroo rapidly grew, all featuring more electronic music acts as years progressed as the appeal of the free-spirited rave culture continued to allure the current generation. The music festival environment, with its indie-rock influences, further brought the attitudes of peace, freedom, and a Bohemian style to the rave dynamic. With participants using body paint, fringe, feathers and head bands, and presenting attitudes that parallel the hippie movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Today’s raves represent an “anything goes” attitude. Although, still carrying the style of limited, highlighter-colors, lights, fur and eccentric clothing choices. Rave style has changed from being influenced by outside sources to becoming an influencer on pop culture. From popular music, fashion and social attitudes, raves have become a part of the social norm in the United States. Complete with high-paid celebrity DJ’s and Kandi bracelets wrapped around wrists and arms, raves are moving more into the mainstream of American popular culture.
- Take a gander at the video below from Expert Village for some fashion tips for a rave-tastic night.