Recently, I did the near-impossible: I got tickets to Taylor Swift’s iconic, long-awaited Eras Tour. I attended the Chicago night two show, and yes, you should be jealous that I saw her perform “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” live. Leading up to the concert, the question I got most was, “What are you wearing?” My TikTok and Instagram feeds were flooded with outfit inspo and fast fashion advertisements for eye-catching looks. It was a lot of pressure. After the concert, I was constantly asked, “Was it life-changing?” Even more pressure.
I found myself wondering how concerts got so intense. People camp out for days beforehand, spend a small fortune on the best tickets possible, and treat their concert fits as seriously as a wedding dress. Once you make it to the event, you might even have to fight for your place in the crowd, especially with the way concert etiquette has changed since the pandemic. In the midst of my university finals, I was worrying more about my Eras tour experience than my grades.
The Fan Culture Behind Today’s Concerts
When you think of extreme fan culture, your mind probably darts to the hordes of superfans dedicated to Harry Styles or BTS. You might think of recent tours where people slept in a tent for a week leading up to a concert. But really, so-called “crazy” fans have been around for a long time.
In the 60s, there was Beatlemania, known for the screaming fans who gathered outside hotels and at airports. During his shows throughout the 90s, Michael Jackson’s fans were known for often fainting after simply seeing the performer stand still on the stage. Fan obsession has a long history, but the phenomenon is arguably more prevalent today.
Social media and internet use, especially among young people, have intensified fan culture. A driving force behind fandoms is the search for community and the feeling that you belong to something bigger than yourself. Social media lets you participate in fan culture even if you can’t make it to live shows or aren’t up for camping out. However, online communities build up desire and anticipation for in-person experiences even more.
A 2015 book by Rebecca Bennett called The Digital Evolution of Live Music explored the idea that physical, off-screen music experiences “ground fan identity.” You can imagine how years of being in a pandemic without experiencing live events could build up anticipation for these events to an extreme. So, there’s the pressure.
One feels that if their concert experience isn’t life-changing, they’ve failed. They’re not a real fan or they didn’t prepare for the concert in the right way. It’s fun to get excited about an event by making a lot of preparations, but you risk big-time disappointment if everything isn’t perfect.
Concert Fashion Craze
One way fans have expressed their pent-up anticipation for live events is by planning elaborate, often expensive outfits. The Eras tour is the biggest concert fashion moment right now. Between last-minute studying and late-night essay-writing for my college finals, I was racking my brain for how to formulate a look worthy of the event. I felt I had to live up to all the bold outfits on social media.
Most of the Eras tour outfit inspo posts I saw were simply out of my budget. The items advertised were over $100 with luxury accessories to match. And I didn’t have 40 spare hours to craft an intense DIY piece. What should’ve been exciting became stressful.
Concert style isn’t new either, but it’s definitely gained traction over time. Google Trends shows that searches for “concert outfits” have consistently risen over time since 2004 (except for that noticeable COVID-19-sized gap). Blog posts from the early 2000s once recommended t-shirts and colorful jeans with some fun accessories as concert wear. Now, you’re likely to be recommended the most over-the-top look possible.
The Fun in the Fashion Frenzy
Admittedly, concert fashion is fun… when you have the time and the budget. It’s exciting to imagine yourself in sparkles from head to toe, singing at the top of your lungs. It’s fun to get together with friends and make your own outfit pieces, from bedazzled jeans to friendship bracelets.
But when the planning stops being fun and starts being overwhelming, we can all give ourselves a break. Your outfit doesn’t have to break the bank or take up all your free time to be fabulous. Thrifting offers a space to buy unique items at a lower price. Also, a “clean girl” look is currently in, meaning you can go for basic colors and items and be on-trend. Outfit guides that are flexible to budgets exist if you look for them, too.
And then there’s the classic solution: wearing something you already have. This is what I decided to do myself, and it didn’t make me any less of a fan. I wore red and pink, a loosely “Lover”-inspired fit, and sang fiercely from my nosebleed seat. I didn’t spend money on a new outfit, but I still knew all the words to all the songs. Dazzling fashion is now a permanent part of the Eras tour. Still, a really good outfit is one that fits your life.