Hippies are often depicted as lazy bums who oppose any form of authority in pop culture. Marijuana leaf, bandanas, Hawaii shirts, peace symbol, various psychedelic substances and granny glasses have all become irreplaceable icons of the Hippie culture. But this “happy-go-lucky” depiction can often shroud and misdirect people from the fact that the Hippie movement sprung from a very tumultuous time in American history. The desire to spread non-violence, tolerance, freedom, peace and above all, love, is what gave birth to this Hippie culture.
The beginning of Hippie culture
The reasons behind the rising of Hippie culture are many. The word “Hippie” is believed to have come from the Afro-American slang words like “Hip” or “Hep” which meant sophisticated and up-to-date. It started as a counterculture movement in the 1960s, by college students in the U.S.A. Slowly this movement spread to Canada and Great Britain as well. The youth by this time had seen the horrors of the World wars first hand. In Great Britain, Hippies stood for the disarmament of nuclear weaponry and in the USA they demonstrated anti-war programs during the ongoing Vietnam war. The assassination of then US President J.F. Kennedy also propelled the Hippie movement.
Although the movement arose as an opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1955–75), hippies often didn’t directly engage in politics. They believed in non-violence and demanded peace and freedom.
Initially, they were just a group of free-thinking dropouts from college, who were against rigid societal norms and organized religion. Among these were young and talented writers, musicians and poets who romanticized sex, substance usage, opposed jobs, opposed organized religion and asked for loosened rules. The movement gained momentum when, women, who were up until that point dedicated to household works, started joining these Hippie groups in great numbers.
What was the Hippie lifestyle?
Hippies despised jobs and structured living and separated themselves on every margin possible. They indulged in intake of psychedelic substances that cause hallucination and trances filled with bright distorted colors and surreal visuals. Their attire matched their lifestyle as they grew out long hair, wore beads and wore bright-colored floral shirts.
Hippies learnt from different sources and devised their principles from around the world. Hippies took inspiration from The Whole Earth Catalog, an American Counterculture magazine, which first appeared in 1968. It became a guiding light to them. The historical precedent of hippies goes as far back as the sadhus of India, the spiritual seekers who renounced the material world in search of knowledge. Even the counterculture espoused by classical Greek philosophers like Diogenes of Sinope and other cynics were examples of early forms of Hippie culture.
Hippies preached about nonviolence and love using their popular phrase “Make love, not war,” for which they were sometimes called “flower children.” Hippies favored openness and advocated tolerance as alternatives to the restrictions and regimentation they saw in middle-class society, which lived for materialistic goals. Hippies were open about their sexual relationships and asked the world to adopt the same. They were instrumental in sculpturing modern American culture and to a certain extent, the world culture.
Since the beginning of the Hippie movement, popular artists resonated strongly with the Hippie ideologies. Many writers, poets and musicians would take this Hippie culture to a wider audience. A remarkable and monumental event for Hippies was the Woodstock Music Festival, held in 1969. Tens of thousands of Hippies and music enthusiasts poured into Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in New York where the festival was being held. Pillars of rock music such as the Grateful Dead, Santana, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young and the guitar god Jimi Hendrix were all present at Woodstock, performing their hearts out. Even a respectable Indian classical musician like Pandit Ravi Shankar was performing. It is one of the biggest events in the history of music and its influence on the later musical genres is undeniable. Not only that but the speeches and songs performed in Woodstock transmitted the Hippie ideology to anyone who listened.
Veganism, spirituality, non-violence, organic meat and produce, renewed interest in paganism, wizardry, occult sciences and Yoga, freedom of drug usage, liberty of sex, economic and class equality etc..; are the Hippie ideas that seeped into modern society. Many Hippies, quite ahead of their time, supported the LGBTQ community.
Hippies often wore clothes with bright and colorful patterns. This form of clothing, which once dominated the fashion scene of the world, persists despite its dwindling popularity.
A counterculture movement against war, authority and discrimination, became a subculture and kept influencing the West and eventually the entire world. Hippie legacy still shows in art, fashion, lifestyle and entertainment.
I am Akanksha, a budding blogger and a culture enthusiast. I’m in 12th pursuing science. Where my love for literature is undivided, my eagerness to continue studying culture and history brought me here.