How to Look Hot at Burning Man
A style guide for getting down and dirty in the desert.
As if the sudden absence of yoga teachers and massage therapists in your town didn’t give it away, the annual New Age bacchanalia cum Silicon Valley Spring Break blowout Burning Man kicks off this weekend in the desert of Nevada. Planning on going? Hope you planned ahead—this year’s psychedelic pilgrimage sold out in 30 minutes, so unless you got lucky or qualify for the low-income deal, you’re left shelling out to internet scalpers for your chance to spend a week bartering for burritos and sipping Timothy Leary’s ashes.
At least getting there is easy this year. Now you can just catch the luxury helicopter taxi from nearby Reno. And remember: Your money is no good once inside, since the whole shebang runs on the “gift economy.” So stock up on ice, beer, shiny beads, antibiotics, and other things good for bartering. Just don’t call it “barter,” as that’s frowned upon, too. Capitalism of any kind = bad, and decommodification is one of the festival’s tenets. Just imagine how many hemp bracelets it took to stay in one of the private, concierge-run air conditioned fortresses replete with world class chefs and supermodels the billionaires hang in? Sadly, irony is not one of Burning Man’s 10 golden principals.
Once you’ve gained entrance and stockpiled supplies, it’s time to figure out what to wear.
What does one wear to a sand-choked masquerade gala / wooden effigy lynching in the midst of a barren wasteland? What’s appropriate for dealing with glaring hot sun during the day and freezing cold at night, grit infiltrating every fleshy fold and orifice, and scarce (at best) showers? Is this finally a place we can all agree on cargo shorts?
We’ve compiled some inspiration and tips below to help get those creatives juices flowing.
JUST HERE FOR THE BEER
Like a Lord of the Flies x club kid raver mashup, this hodgepodge of colorful accessories are just eclectic enough to disguise the fact that they’re pillaged from some frat’s lost and found. It’s a frivolous look that clearly says, “I’m just here to party and get laid, and then I’m going back to beer bongs and an MBA in marketing.”
BARON VON BULLSHIT RIDES AGAIN
OK, so you discovered at the last minute you could get time off to go. How do you wrangle a costume that won’t break the bank and requires minimal effort? Easy. Hit up the thrift store in Reno on the way to the festival for some cheap flair, and let’s get this week of transcendence going! Parasol? Cowboy hat? Scarf? Black skirt? Done. Remember, the weirder and less matching the better. Bonus points for the necklace made from a janitor’s key ring, which at Burning Man magically turns into a charm bracelet dripping in gift economy gold.
THERE IS NO TRY, ONLY DO
Part of the Burner experience is getting in touch with your inner self. So whether it’s patterned sweatpants and shades or a little black dress and some 28-eye Doc Marten’s, you just be comfortable being you and that’ll be enough to shine.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
Got an old Halloween costume stuffed away somewhere? Dig it out. Now remember that it’s summertime in the desert, and strip away any unnecessary parts so you don’t die of heatstroke, which is a terrible look for anyone. See that? Perfect.
Glasses are always a win in such a dusty situation, with the added bonus that no one is able to see exactly what you’re staring at. Peacock feathers and police hats are psychedelic classics, as are fur pelts, which you can tell the PETA lovers are actually the shed skin of your spirit animal, which gave it to you in case, god forbid, the bugs from last year that “got up in you” make a comeback. Plus, people will keep thinking you’re in a band, never a bad thing.
LESS IS MORE
One key item, that is. A conversation piece, or at least something shiny and colorful enough to distract from the fact that the rest of your costume is a beard and 12 pounds of caked-on sand. Less really is more.
BE A CELEBRITY
Burning Man has long drawn creative types, so celebrities are common. Are you one? If yes, then all you need to do is be you. And maybe add a little Michael Jackson because YOLO.
DRIVE A SICK WHIP
Look, it’s going to be crazy out there, and after a few hours no one is going to notice what you are, or aren’t, wearing anyway. But if you can’t cobble together something that makes you feel like you’re a part of the party, find yourself a wild set of wheels to roll in instead. Just like that guy who lives in the neighbor’s basement and works at a convenience store but drives a new 7 series Beemer already knows, it’s America, so culturally you are what you drive.
Too overwhelming? Making a decision harshing your mellow? Hate everything? Don’t worry, after a few hours sweating it out on the dusty plain, everyone assumes the same post-apocalyptic refuge vibe anyway. Plus, you can always just go naked. No matter what you do, it’s imperative that you don’t commit the cardinal sin of leaving MOOP (Matter Out Of Place), a violation of Burner principals. No glitter, sequins, feather boas, Astroturf, string, or anything else that could easily fall off or blow away. Their published list also forbids “burn barrel ashes,” an interesting choice considering the whole party is a preamble to the open air torching of a massive wooden sculpture. But why overthink it?