El Circo took them.
A little while ago, Jenka Gurfinkel wrote a brilliant post linking the fashion-induced feather shortage to the emergence of the Circus subculture and style, coming out of Burning Man:
Our story begins almost 12 years ago, in a little town in Oregon, by the name of Ashland, where a group of kids came together to start a circus performance troupe called, El Circo. The group would gain recognition within the Burning Man culture for the extravagant parties they threw at the festival, featuring lavish fire performances, a large, geodesic dome venue, and a top-notch sound system that attracted world-renowned music acts to perform there. In a 2005 San Francisco Bay Guardian article on the effect that the various groups within the Burning Man community have had on San Francisco nightlife — an impact which now extends to the entire west coast’s, and arguably global, dance culture — the writer paid particular attention to the influence of El Circo...
The whole history's fascinating, and it brings up something I've touched on here before: how a relatively small subculture magnifies its influence. In the previous case, I focused on the reasons aging Hollywood narcissists show up in so many productions.
El Circo's case is very different, and more positive. But something of the same underlying process is at work, with a difference.
Now, Ashland has a population just over 20,000. Unlike Hollywood, it's not a metropolitan hub plugged into media that can quickly magnify the influence of its cultures. However, El Circo were really damn creative and instead plugged into a subculture, in the form of Burning Man, that could magnify that in its annual, temporary metropolis.
Their panache and style is unique enough that others pick it up after the citizenry of Black Rock City dispersed to their separate corners, including those in aforementioned metropolitan hubs. More mainstream art subcultures, always craving an infusion of the hot new thing, pick it up. Given time, you have Steven Tyler in feathers, pissed off fly fishers, and one tribe out of Ashland that's spurred a larger movement while changing the way people dress around the world.
There's a reason why the third word in Coilhouse's alt culture mantra is INFECT.
Now, fringe artistic subcultures gaining massive popularity is not new, despite the fact that every generation or so the same subcultures seem to forget the process occurs. However, the incubator of Burning Man is, relatively speaking, as is the way that more globalized communications decrease the necessity for El Circo or similar groups to plug in to more mainstream cultural networks to get their message out. There's other ways to magnify now, and they're seemingly less dependent on location than before.
More food for thought.
Update: Talking with Gurfinkel via Twitter last night, she added an important caveat: the tipping point for the El Circo style came after some of its designers moved to Los Angeles. Metropoli remain important, and LA in particular remains a major magnifier for entertainment/fashion subcultures, as its been for a number of decades. As with any time of turmoil, old and new methods of spreading an infection are at work at the same time.