Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Alex Frank writes about a Tie-Dye Baseball cap.
This year I went down to Tennessee for Bonnaroo. Even though it was my first time, I’m a judgmental enough guy that I went with lots of preconceived clichés swirling through my brain. I imagined dusty hippiedom, flower power, barefoot sunsets and all of that. I tried to go native by packing tie-dye shirts and old ’70s desert boots into a big Mexican print duffel bag. It’s the classic tourist mistake of trying to dress the part. It’s just like when I moved to New York with a bag of nice pleated pants and oxford shoes and it turned out my romantic image of the city had nothing to do with the shitty Bushwick apartment I moved into that sits between two junk yards. I can’t install an air conditioner in my bedroom because the bars on my window are too shallow. Goodbye pleated pants! Same jolt happened in Tennessee. I felt like a fool in my cheap hippie drag. I was spotted at the Atlanta airport on the way down by some kids in Tevas and cargo shorts who asked me if I was going to Bonnaroo, but I think they only called me out as a joke, an outsider, maybe even a NARC. It turns out Bonnaroo has very little to do with the 1960s, except maybe a few passing nods to back-to-the-garden earthiness by way of vegetarian quesadillas and drum-making classes. It’s mostly just rave culture and pop culture wrestling with each other in the mud. More glowsticks and MDMA and Top 40 bands than peace signs and free love.
That’s probably a good thing. You can’t live in the past. I adapted quickly, got used to eating heavy Tennessee barbecue in the afternoon sun and sharing turf and mud with super drunk college kids who wore beer-helmets. It’s way better that way. Who needs nostalgia when you can ride a ferris wheel that flashes crazy digital lights designed to make you trip out and watch a band perform in front of a 100 foot tall LED screen with a technicolor video of a woman dancing? A couple of people also had these insane T-shirts with screens sewn on them that lit up like a production board. Turns out, the present is really flashy. I will say, though, amidst all this newness, that the only souvenir I bought at Bonnaroo was this low-tech tie dye hat. I haggled down the price to $10. It was cheap, maybe, because it doesn’t light up and you can’t drink beer from it. Or maybe it was cheap because it’s an attempt at a bargain basement ’60s throwback, but I don’t think I remember seeing people wearing baseball caps in the Woodstock documentary. Either way, I didn’t wear it even once while I was at Bonnaroo. It just seemed too obvious, too much like the dad trying to hang out with the young kids. But since I’ve been back and wearing it a bunch in the city, all the New Yorkers I meet—with their myriad of clothing references and their funny rural fantasies of what life is like outside the five boroughs—think it’s pretty cool.