Mandatory shirts at festivals, solution or stopgap?

Saturday’s Summer Session music festival in Darwin saw up to 5000 revellers converge on Mindil Beach. Organisers reported that the overall success of the event, and the minimal incidences of antisocial behaviour, could be attributed to their adoption of a ban on shirtless-ness; a move following in the footsteps of festivals like Good Life and Stereosonic.

Don’t get me wrong, that is a great outcome to hear and I am 100% behind this rule becoming mandatory at every festival in Australia, having been to more than a few and witnessing bruss-ery of the highest order. It’s enough of an eye-rolling experience to have to be within close proximity to a herd of meatheads, their stringlets long since abandoned or dangling limply from their back pocket, their abysmal tattoos glistening in the sunshine, a reminder to all that Olde English is perhaps the most terrible of all the fonts.


They strut around like a mob of dickhead Donkey Kongs; flexing and subtly eyeing off each others’ gains and cuts and whatever other hollow achievements they’ve unlocked in the gym leading up to the day (there also always seems to be that one guy who’s just kind of fat but takes his shirt off anyway because he’d be the only one of the boys there wearing one otherwise).

They spend the day wrestling and tackling each other and doing shit that would affront even the most vulgar of neanderthals like the video above. They guffaw in decibels that would drown out a jet engine over their antics and their cheeky banter, being slitheringly lecherous towards anything without a Y chromosome, taking obnoxious group photos of ‘the squad’ and scarcely enjoying the music, which you’ve paid good money and that other regular people have missed out on tickets to see, because these douchebags needed to be accommodated for.

Fuck outta here with your #squadgoals

The most irksome thing to a regular, unassuming festival-goer trying to have fun in a moshpit though might be the greasy, odorous bare torso of a stranger sliming all over your person. I don’t mind a bit of sweat getting on me in a moshpit, that’s life and shit knows enough of mine gets spread around them, but at least have the common decency and good manners to filter it through some cotton first.

Unless you’re a Juggalo, in which case everyone is dead from your general odour regardless of how many shirts you’re wearing.

Having said all of this, the idea that preventing these people from removing their shirts in any way has or will correlate to a consistent reduction in antisocial behaviour at festivals is patently absurd.

Jerks come in all shapes and forms and adorn themselves with a varying level of bodily coverage. That should be obvious to any person capable of critical thinking. I’m sure there are dudes who get around festivals without a shirt on happy as a clam and not causing a shred of trouble, just as there are  enormous assholes running around being dickbags with shirts on.

Expecting an antisocial dick to put a shirt on and magically become an upstanding citizen is as fruitless as putting a pair of glasses on a moron and expecting them to become a genius.

The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side!

These people are probably antisocial dicks in all aspects of life, not just when they walk through the front gates of a festival. You only have to look at the hideous shit being perpetrated by fully-clothed people at sporting events and places like Fortitude Valley and Kings Cross every weekend to understand this. The majority of these people aren’t just going to flat out stop going to festivals because they can no longer be shirtless, they’re just going to put on a shirt (or the stringiest of stringlets) and continue being dickheads.

I’m sure many Australian festival patrons would welcome this ban as happily as I would for the aforementioned reasons, but to consider it the solution to the violence and antisocial behaviour plaguing festivals in this country would be severely misguided.

What is the solution then?

Stereosonic co-founder Frank Cotela slammed the bruss culture surrounding festivals late last year after a huge brawl at the Sydney event was caught on camera and spread online.

For the love of piss, what is wrong with people? Cotela offered a solution in the threat of profiling everybody upon entry to future festivals, an idea that seems perfectly reasonable until you realise it would result in snail-paced lines to get in at best and the potential for blatant discrimination at worst.

An increased presence of security and police has similarly been suggested and in some places adopted, but this also runs the risk of both threatening and alienating the regular people simply seeking to enjoy themselves in addition to the violent thugs it is being implemented with the intent of deterring.

The reality may be that there is simply no one fix-all solution to this problem. It will require nothing short of a massive culture change. A shift away from the gym-obsessed vanity, self-absorbed entitlement and violent aggressiveness permeating the discourse of young men. An end to this ridiculous notion of the alpha male and the pressure to be the biggest and the hardest. A widespread rejection of the idea that it’s some kind of awesome masculine display of toughness to beat the holy shit out of someone who disrespects you instead of settling differences peacefully. And of course a change in the way drugs and alcohol, already exacerbating these inherent social issues, are used by these same young men.

If it sounds impossible it’s probably because it is. Despite all the negative press shaming the whole dudebro culture has received in recent years, they are still out in force at festivals and city nightspots. People still think it’s cool or right to be this kind of person, and until that changes these people will still exist in numbers.

So by all means continue with the ban on shirtless-ness, but don’t expect it to have the same results at the next Stereosonic as it allegedly did at Darwin’s Summer Sessions.