Monday, 15 March 2010


The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s, swiftly spreading to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. (Pictured right: Contemporary Hippie at the Rainbow Gathering in Russia). These people inherited the countercultural values of the Beat Generation, created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as marijuana and LSD to purportedly "explore alternative states of consciousness".
In January 1967, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco popularized hippie culture, leading to the legendary Summer Of Love on the West Coast of the United States, and the 1969 Woodstock Festival on the East Coast. Hippies in Mexico, known as jipitecas, formed La
Onda Chicana and gathered at Avandaro, while in New Zealand, nomadic housetruckers practiced alternative lifestyles and promoted sustainable energy at Nambassa. In the United Kingdom, mobile "peace convoys" of New Age travellers made summer pilgrimages to free music festivals at Stonehenge. In Australia hippies gathered at Nimbin for the 1973 Aquarius Festival and the annual Cannabis Law Reform Rally or MardiGrass. In Chile, "Festival Piedra Roja" was held in 1970 (following Woodstock's success), and was the major hippie event in that country.
Hippie fashions and values had a major effect on culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and the arts. Since the widespread movement in the 1960s, many aspects of hippie culture have been assimilated by mainstream society. The religious and cultural diversity espoused by the hippies has gained widespread acceptance, and Eastern philosophy and spiritual concepts have reached a wide audience. The hippie legacy can be observed in contemporary culture in myriad forms — from health food, to music festivals, to contemporary sexual mores, and even to the cyberspace revolution.
The foundation of the hippie movement finds historical precedent as far back as the counterculture of the Ancient Greeks, espoused by philosophers like Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics also as early forms of hippie culture. Hippie philosophy also credits the religious and spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, Mazdak, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and Ghandi. The first signs of what we would call modern "proto-hippies" emerged in fin de siecle Europe. Between 1896 and 1908, a German youth movement arose as a countercultural reaction to the organized social and cultural clubs that centered around German folk music. Known as Der Wandervogel ("migratory bird"), the movement opposed the formality of traditional German clubs, instead emphasizing amateur music and singing, creative dress, and communal outings involving hiking and camping. Inspired by the works of Friedrich
Nietzsche, Goethe, Hermann Hesse, and Eduard Baltzer, Wandervogel attracted thousands of young Germans who rejected the rapid trend toward urbanization and yearned for the pagan, back-to-nature spiritual life of their ancestors. During the first several decades of the twentieth century, Germans settled around the United States, bringing the values of the Wandervogel with them. Some opened the first health food stores, and many moved to Southern California where they could practice an alternative lifestyle in a warm climate. Over time, young Americans adopted the beliefs and practices of the new immigrants. One group, called the "Nature Boys", took to the California desert and raised organic food, espousing a back-to-nature lifestyle like the Wandervogel. Songwriter Eden Ahbez wrote a hit song called Nature Boy inspired by Robert Bootzin (Gypsy Boots), who helped popularize health-consciousness, yoga, and organic food in the United States.
Like Wandervogel, the hippie movement in the United States began as a youth movement. Composed mostly of white teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, hippies inherited a tradition of cultural dissent from bohemians and beatniks of the Beat Generation in the late 1950s. Beats like Allen Ginsberg crossed-over from the beat movement and became fixtures of the burgeoning hippie and anti-war movements. By 1965, hippies had become an established social group in the U.S., and the movement eventually expanded to other countries, extending as far as the United Kingdom and Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. The hippie ethos influenced The Beatles and others in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, and they in turn influenced their American counterparts. Hippie culture spread worldwide through a fusion of rock music, folk, blues, and psychedelic; it also found expression in literature, the dramatic arts, fashion, and the visual arts, including film, posters advertising rock concerts, and album covers. Self-described hippies had become a significant minority by 1968, representing just under 0.2% of the U.S. population before declining in the mid-1970s.
Along with the New Left and the American Civil Rights Movement, the hippie movement was one of three dissenting groups of the 1960s counterculture. Hippies rejected established institutions, criticized middle class values, opposed nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, embraced aspects of Eastern philosophy, championed sexual liberation, were often vegetarian and eco-friendly, promoted the use of psychedelic which they felt expanded one's consciousness, and created international communities or communes. They used alternative arts, street theatre, folk music, and psychedelic rock as a part of their lifestyle and as a way of expressing their feelings, their protests and their vision of the world and life. Hippies opposed political and social orthodoxy, choosing a gentle and nondoctrinaire ideology that favored peace, love and personal freedom, perhaps best epitomized by The Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love". Hippies perceived the dominant culture as a corrupt, monolithic entity that exercised undue power over their lives, calling this culture "The Establishmen
t", "Big Brother", or "The Man". Noting that they were "seekers of meaning and value", scholars like Timothy Miller have described hippies as a new religious movement.
Summer of Love (1967)
(Pictured left: A 1967 VW Kombi bus decorated with hand-painting).
On January 14, 1967, the outdoor Human Be-In organized by Michael Bowen helped to popularize hippie culture across the United States, with 20,000 hippies gathering in San
Francisco's Golden Gate Park. On March 26, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick and 10,000 hippies came together in Manhattan for the Central Park Be-In on Easter Sunday. The Monterey Bay MonterFestival from June 16 to June 18 introduced the rock music of the counterculture to a wide audience and marked the start of the "Summer Of Love." Scott McKenzie's rendition of John Phillip' song, "San Francisco", became a hit in the United States and Europe. The lyrics, "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair", inspired thousands of young people from all over the world to travel to San Francisco, sometimes wearing flowers in their hair and distributing flowers to passersby, earning them the name, "Flower Children." Bands like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), and Jefferson Airplane lived in the Haight.
In June 1967, Herd Caen was approached by "a distinguished magazine" to write about why hippies were attracted to San Francisco. He declined the assignment but interviewed hippies in the Haight for his own newspaper column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Caen determined that, "Except in their music, they couldn't care less about the approval of the straight world." Caen himself felt that the city of San Francisco was so straight that it provided a visible contrast with hippie culture. On July 7, Time magazine featured a cover story entitled, "The Hippies: The Philosophy of a Subculture." The article described the guidelines of the hippie code: "Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out. Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the mind of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs, then to beauty, love, honesty, fun." It is estimated that around 100,000 people traveled to San Francisco in the summer of 1967. The media was right behind them, casting a spotlight on the Haight-Ashbury district and popularizing the "hippie" label. With this increased attention, hippies found support for their ideals of love and peace but were also criticized for their anti-work, pro-drug, and permissive ethos.
By the end of the summer, the Haight-Ashbury scene had deteriorated. The incessant media coverage led the Diggers to declare the "death" of the hippie with a parade. According to the late poet Susan 'Stormi' Chambless, the hippies buried an effigy of a hippie in the Panhandle to demonstrate the end of his/her reign. Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate the influx of crowds (mostly naive youngsters) with no place to live. Many took to living on the street, panhandling and drug-dealing. There were problems with malnourishment, disease, and drug addiction. Crime and violence skyrocketed. By the end of 1967, many of the hippies and musicians who initiated the Summer of Love had moved on. Misgivings about the hippie culture, particularly with regard to drug abuse and lenient morality, fueled the moral panics of the late 1960s.
Ethos and characteristics
Hippies sought to free themselves from societal restrictions, choose their own way, and find new meaning in life. One expression of hippie independence from societal norms was found in their standard of dress and grooming, which made hippies instantly recognizable to one another, and served as a visual symbol of their respect for individual rights. Through their appearance, hippies declared their willingness to question authority, and distanced themselves from the "straight" and "square" (i.e., conformist) segments of society.
At the same time, many thoughtful hippies distanced themselves from the very idea that the way a person dresses could be a reliable signal of who he was, especially after outright criminals, like Charles Manson, began to adopt hippie personas, and also after plainclothes policemen started to "dress like hippies" in order to harass legitimate members of the counter-culture.
Frank Zappa admonished his audience that "we all wear a uniform": the San Francisco clown/hippie Wavy Gravy said in 1987 that he could still see fellow-feeling in the eyes of Market Street businessman who'd dressed conventionally to survive.
As in the beat movement preceding them, and the punk movement that followed soon after, hippie symbols and iconography were purposely borrowed from either "low" or "primitive" cultures, with hippie fashion reflecting a disorderly, often vagrant style. As with other adolescent, white middle-class movements, deviant behavior of the hippies involved challenging the prevailing gender differences of their time: both men and women in the hippie movement wore jeans and maintained long hair, and both genders wore sandals or went barefoot. Men often wore beards, while women wore little or no makeup, with many going braless. Hippies often chose brightly colored clothing and wore unusual styles, such as bell-bottom pants, vests, tie-dyed garments, dashikis, peasant blouses, and long, full skirts; non-Western inspired clothing with Native American, Asian, Indian, African and Latin American motifs were also popular. Much of hippie clothing was self-made in defiance of corporate culture, and hippies often purchased their clothes from flea markets and second-hand shops. Favored accessories for both men and women included Native American jewelry, head scarves, headbands and long-beaded necklaces. Hippie homes, vehicles and other possessions were often decorated with psychedelic
Following in the well-worn footsteps of the Beats, the hippies also used cannabis (marijuana), considering it pleasurable and benign. They enlarged their spiritual pharmacopeia to include hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. On the East Coast of the United States, Harvard University professors Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) advocated psychotropic drugs for psychotherapy, self-exploration, religious and spiritual use. Regarding LSD, Leary said, "Expand your consciousness and find ecstasy and revelation within." According to the hippies, LSD was the glue that held the Haight together. It was the hippie sacrament, a mind detergent capable of washing away years of social programming, a re-imprinting device, a consciousness-expander, a tool that would push us up the evolutionary ladder.
On the West Coast of the United States Ken Kesey was an important figure in promoting the recreational use of psychotropic drugs, especially LSD, the United States and heroin were also used in hippie settings; however, these drugs were often disdained, even among those who used them, because they were recognized as harmful and addictive.
Newcomers to the Internet are often startled to discover themselves not so much
in some soulless colony of technocrats as in a kind of cultural Brigadoon - a flowering remnant of the '60's, when hippie communalism and libertarian politics formed the roots of the modern cyberrevolution...
(Pictured right: Hippies relaxing at the 1969 Woodstock Festival).
The legacy of the hippie movement continues to permeate Western society. In general, unmarried couples of all ages feel free to travel and live together without societal disapproval. Frankness regarding sexual matters has become more common, and the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people, as well as people who choose not to categorize themselves at all, have expanded. Religious and cultural diversity has gained greater acceptance. Co-operative business enterprises and creative community living arrangements are more accepted than before. Some of the little hippie health food stores of the 1960s and 1970s are now large-scale, profitable businesses, due to greater interest in natural foods, herbal remedies, vitamins and other nutritional supplements. Author Stewart Brand argues that the development and popularization of the Internet finds one of its primary roots in the anti-authoritarian ethos promoted by hippie culture.
Distinct appearance and clothing was one of the immediate legacies of hippies worldwide. During the 1960s and 1970s, mustaches, beards and long hair became more commonplace and colorful, while multi-ethnic clothing dominated the fashion world. Since that time, a wide range of personal appearance options and clothing styles, including nudity, have become more widely acceptable, all of which was uncommon before the hippie era. Hippies also inspired the decline in popularity of the necktie and other business clothing, which had been unavoidable for men during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Astrology, including everything from serious study to whimsical amusement regarding personal traits, was integral to hippie culture.