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The Hippy Clothing Co. Blog
  • About the hippy movement - A fascinating history of hippies
  • Kate Goldstone

About the hippy movement - A fascinating history of hippies

We sell beautifully made, quirky hippy clothing. We've done it for decades. In fact our shop was set up by a stalwart of the original hippy movement, Rudolph, way back in 1967. His son-in-law  Stuart and various other family members still run the store today in the heart of Brighton's famous Lanes.

As you can imagine, we're steeped in hippy values. But what does it mean, exactly, to be a hippy, and does it have any relevance today? We thought it'd be interesting to give our readers the low-down on where hippies came from, what the movement as about and how it survives to this day.

The history of the hippy movement

Originally it wasn't even a culture. The hippy movement was so extraordinary and rebellious that it was forced deep underground at first, and stayed there for some time. The movement's starting point was the USA, and it all kicked off in the mid 1960s. But the hippys' compelling ideals soon saw it spread worldwide, and the notorious Summer of Love set the whole thing in stone.

Where does 'hippy' come from?

Apparently the word hippie is derived from 'hipster', AKA someone who was bang on-the-button with the culture and fashions of the day. It originally described the Beatniks, who lived in New York City's super-cool Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. But roll back time a bit more and you find the roots of the name in the 1940s, where African American jive slang used the word 'hip' to denote people and things that were fashionable and fully up-to-date.

While early hippies inherited the language and the counter-cultural values of the so-called Beat Generation, they took things to a new level by starting their own unique style of communal living. They went psychedelic, took drugs, embraced the sexual revolution and were dedicated to peace and love. In a nutshell they freed themselves from the societal restrictions of the previous generation, a crusty traditionalist generation who'd been involved in the mass slaughter of millions during two world wars.

The Summer of Love, a version of which resurfaced in the 1980s thanks to House music, took place in the summer of 1967 on the West Coast of the United States. And in 1969 Woodstock Festival - on the East Coast – set the movement in stone and made it internationally famous.

Here in Britain peace convoys made pilgrimages to a host of free music festivals, earlier at Stonehenge and later on the Isle of Wight. Australian hippies gathered at Nimbin for the infamous Aquarius Festival and the annual Chilean Cannabis Law Reform Rally, AKA the Piedra Roja, caused ructions as older people across the world became convinced the end of the 'civilised' world as they knew it was nigh.

“Get your hair cut!”

Hippy fashion was instantly recognisable and drove members of the old order nuts. As late as the end of the 1970s older people still called hippies 'long haired louts' and shouted at them to 'get their hair cut'. But their colourful style lived on despite mainstream society's disapproval, a symbol of young people's  individuality and their right to be different.

The previous generation was obedient, subservient and accepting. The hippies were rebellious and disobedient, more interested in altruism, mysticism, honesty, peace pleasure, kindness and non-violence.  The two couldn't have been further apart. 

Rejecting traditional western religions

Most hippies rejected organised religion, although Buddhism and Hinduism were popular. Personal spiritual experiences were more important than the collective stuff Christianity and so on offered, and many hippies delved deep into the distant past to rediscover ancient folk beliefs like the neo-pagan Wicca faith.

A far-reaching influence

As you'd expect, hippie fashions and values soon started to affect the world's culture, influencing everything from popular music to TV, film, literature, the arts and, of course, fashion.

It's difficult to imagine just how unreal, weird and unique the hippy fashion scene was when it first surfaced. After all, it has been embedded deep in British culture ever since and has long been mainstream. But at the time it caused all manner of shock and horror. The song 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 the city, causing fresh moral outrage across the old-school world. But by then the hippies were here to stay.

In the words of Herb Caen, who wrote an article at the time for the San Francisco Chronicle, “Except in their music, they couldn't care less about the approval of the straight world." According to Time magazine, hippy culture was all about “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." You can imagine how the whole thing terrified the establishment and made them absolutely furious.

Over time the original hippies won a lot of support for their dedication to love and peace. At the same time they were criticised for their anti-work, pro-drug and permissive ethos. But whatever your views, they changed the world forever. And they're still at it.

Thanks to the hippy generation...

The Baby Boomer generation, in which the hippy movement originated, is famously rebellious. They changed the way things were traditionally done. They refused to automatically respect the people who ran the world, reserving their respect for those who actually deserved it. They changed society for the better, threw out the old ways and brought in the new. These days the common man – and woman! - hold the keys to their own destiny. In a way we owe today's world, with all its freedoms, to the hippy movement.

Many of the original hippies made lifetime commitments to the lifestyle they'd created, where life and love were free and easy and personal choice outweighed society's rules. But by the 1980s the movement was mostly over, no longer a powerful social and political force but a mainstream lifestyle choice. Hippie culture has never died out completely. You'll still find hippy types in all walks of life, and the movement's style still echoes down the decades.

Festivals are an expression of old hippy values. Whenever you see thousands of people co-existing peacefully in a soggy British field and enjoying music together whatever the weather, you have the hippy movement to thank for it. Younger generations still appreciate the mellow, laid back, tolerant message the hippies first sent out into the world all those years ago. The house music phenomenon and associated drug scene brought the whole hippy thing back to sparking life in the 1980s and '90s. And hippies can still be found to this day, clustering in bohemian enclaves in almost every nation on the planet.

We're here 47 years later, still selling hippy fashion

The legacy of the hippie movement continues to permeate our society. Thanks to them it's OK to have sex before marriage, live together without getting married, be gay or bi or transgender, travel just for the pleasure of it and express your religious beliefs – no matter how off-the-wall – freely. Co-operative businesses and creative community living, natural foods and herbal remedies are all mainstream these days. And, of course, shops like ours still thrive. Trends come and trends go... but forty seven years after Rudolph opened our hippy clothing store, we're still here.

  • Kate Goldstone

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