The 250-year-old gathering is hyper-macho, hyper-feminine, steeped in tradition, and welcome to all

Each June, 1,000 caravans and several hundred horse-drawn vehicles travel to North West England for the Appleby Horse Fair, the largest gathering of gypsies in England. Horses are washed in the River Eden and then trotted up and down the flashing lane where they are traded. There are fortune tellers, buskers, palm readers, and stalls selling clothing, hardware, china, steel, and carriages.

The fair generally attracts 10,000 gypsies and tens of thousands of other visitors drawn to its otherworldly charm. In 2020, the fair was cancelled for only the second time in its 250 year history. Photographer Danny Lowe traveled two hours from his hometown of North Yorkshire to visit the gathering for its 2021 return. “They’re a very warm bunch of people and you feel very connected when you spend enough time with them,” he explains. “For them, it’s like being reunited with family.”

For Lowe, the fair’s allure is rooted in its staunch commitment to tradition. The men are hyper-macho and the women hyper-feminine, both in personality and style. Men wear buttoned up polos and track suits. Women wear fake tans, pasted-on eyelashes, and massive floppy bows.

The extremity of style, Lowe noted, is most obvious in the children. “I think the bottom line is keeping the raw tradition of the traveling community, and to do that by passing it down to the younger generations.” In an exclusive series of images for Document Online, the photographer shares an ode to the gyspy fashion of Appleby.

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