In late August, authorities in Ibiza broke up a rave with more than 1000 attendees, prompting people around the world to ask the question: Are people still throwing raves?
The famously underground parties, while still popular, have returned to the subterranean realm after decades of being in the limelight. People’s interests in events start to wane after any amount of time, and raves have been a party staple since the 80s. However, that isn’t to say they’ve gone out of fashion. Rave organizers now try to capitalize on the ‘it’ factor of exclusivity, and thrive on being the most popular secret event in any fifty-mile radius. In 2018, the BBC reported that the number of illegal raves being held in the UK had almost doubled within one year.
Raves don’t just occur in the UK, however. They can take place all over the world, and do. While initially popularized in the UK, they famously originated in Ibiza, but have since become a global phenomenon. Almost forty years after their origins, the parties still prominently feature many of the same traits that originally made them famous. These characteristics can help differentiate raves from other forms of partying, and include loud, bass-thumping techno tracks, vigorous dancing, and an ever evolving fashion.
Rave fashion is one of the most imitated fashion scenes ever seen. Originally, the rave scene was nothing but practical. In the 80s, conservative politics took hold of both the UK and the US. Together, Thatcher and Reagan laid down policies that disrupted the financial security of the working classes, while simultaneously bolstering the already wildly successful upper classes. This helped swell the excessive greed of the 80s, made famous by films like Wall Street.
In addition to economic struggles, social issues like sexism, racism, and homophobia still plagued western nations. Gay men originated the first raves, which took place in already underground clubs. These clubs featured music similar in style to German techno at the time, and fashion that was erratic and vivid in style. However, raves started becoming popular outside of gay clubs, and women and straight men started arriving at the events. With their arrival came a markedly different style.
Raves soon became a symbol of protest for the working class, a triumphant night of orgiastic dance as a way to say eff you to greedy politicians. To match this theme, social norms were obviously thrown out the window. While it wasn’t quite the violent lovefest that politicians in both countries made it out to be, the rampant drug use, littering, and occasional overdoses weren’t a good look for the rave scene. Neither were the clothes, at first.
As a way of going against the status quo, many rave-goers would ignore societal calls for dressing up to go out, and choose to purposefully wear their gym wear or athletic clothes to raves. The rave clothing men wear now for these events has evolved significantly, but the origins for these fashion designs lie in gym shorts, sweatpants, headbands and hoodies. It wasn’t until the early 90s that rave fashion truly came into its own, and started incorporating its famed neon and tie dye designs, in addition to the now iconic Smiley logo.
Since the 90s, rave fashion has done nothing but evolve, especially men's rave clothing. While retaining the classic sort of casual that helped define the fashion movement, designers of all kinds have stepped in to enhance the fairly limited selection of garments for men to wear. The default clothing types haven’t changed at all - cotton tees, tank tops, athletic joggers, and hoodies - these are pretty much the only outfits you’ll see worn by men at raves. What can help distinguish these outfits are their unique designs, which usually feature trippy imagery combined with vivid and bright patterns as well as light up shoes, hats, gloves, and shirts. As a result, looking into a crowd of dancing ravers can be a trippy experience in itself. Your eye has everywhere and nowhere to look.
Men’s fashion has traditionally been much more conservative through the ages. But finally, in 2019, and in the years to come, more and more options that have previously been off-limits to men will become available. Whether it’s Billy Porter in a dress or Jeff Goldblum in a turtleneck, men are starting to fight back against old societal norms. Rave clothing is a great example of this.