19 Actions That Defined You as a Hippie in the ’60s & ’70s

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Imagine the pulsating beats of a Woodstock evening, the air thick with incense and idealism. Picture yourself dancing barefoot on lush summer grass, surrounded by a tribe of free spirits united in their quest for love, peace, and understanding. 

The hippie era wasn’t just a movement, a lifestyle, an ethos, a colorful tapestry of diverse actions and expressions that challenged the status quo and reshaped society. Ready to relive the magic? 

The Peace Sign

Photo by Mariordo

Initially designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom (British artist) for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the symbol combined the semaphore signals for “N” and “D” to stand for “nuclear disarmament.” 

As many as 500,000 people participated in the 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, where the peace sign was omnipresent. High-profile events like the 1969 Woodstock Festival saw thousands of attendees flashing the peace sign (cue: fringed jackets and flowing skirts) as a sign of solidarity and hope for a better world. 

Tie-Dye Fashion

Photo by Annaheina

This unique dyeing technique involved twisting, folding, and tying fabric before applying multiple colors, creating mesmerizing, psychedelic patterns that became synonymous with the counterculture and love for individuality. 

The rise of tie-dye can be traced back to 1968 when innovations in textile art brought it to the forefront of mainstream hippie culture. Music icons like Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker donned tie-dye attire, solidifying its status as a cultural identifier.

Flower Power

Photo by Mr. Choppers

American poet Allen Ginsberg popularized the term “Flower Power” in 1965 to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. These young crusaders gave passersby flowers, inserted stems into rifle barrels, and decorated their hair with blossoms. 

Their message was clear—love trumps hate, and flowers, with their fragile beauty, became a poignant symbol of hope. Famed rock band The Cowsills even immortalized the sentiment in their hit song “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” which reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

Free Love and Communal Living

Photo by Bull-Doser

Couples and singles alike discarded the constraints of conventional monogamy and sought more open, liberated interactions. The idea was simple yet radical: love freely, without the bounds of jealousy or possessiveness. 

In A Generation in Motion: Popular Music and Culture in the Sixties, David Pichaske notes that by 1970, approximately 2,000 communes across the United States (from the Drop City in Colorado to The Farm in Tennessee) housing over 100,000 people. These communities became experimental grounds for new governance, economy, and social structure forms. 

The Summer of Love

Photo by GinaCostanza76

This defining moment, centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, saw over 100,000 young people flocking to the city in search of peace, love, and a new way of living. Amidst a backdrop of revolutionary music, art, and emerging social consciousness, the Summer of Love (1967) embodied the essence of the hippie movement. 

During the Summer of Love, the number of arrests for drug possession in Haight-Ashbury surged by 700%, reflecting both the widespread experimentation with psychedelic substances and a stark clash with mainstream society’s norms, reported Time magazine. 

The Woodstock Festival

Photo by Annaheina

Held in August 1969 on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 400,000 people gathered to experience three days of peace, music, and unity. It was captured in the 1970 documentary “Woodstock,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and immortalized the festival’s ethos.

Woodstock wasn’t just about the music – although the lineup was legendary, featuring iconic performances from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Santana. It was a statement: a mighty cry for peace during a time when the Vietnam War loomed large and societal divisions were stark. 

The Birth of Eco-Consciousness

Photo by Navigator84

Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, “Silent Spring,” published in 1962, spotlighted the harmful effects of pesticides, especially DDT, sparking widespread environmental concern. Her compelling narrative and scientific rigor opened the eyes of many to the fragile balance of nature. 

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day (organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson) saw 20 million Americans take to the streets, auditoriums, and parks to demonstrate a healthier, more sustainable planet. Communes and collectives, like The Farm in Tennessee, embraced organic farming, recycling, and renewable energy. 

The Back-to-the-Land Movement

Photo by IFCAR

Spearheaded by figures like Helen and Scott Nearing, the Back-to-the-Land Movement was a direct response to the turbulent zeitgeist of the era. As cities became synonymous with pollution, crime, and the soul-crushing 9-to-5 grind, many young idealists sought a different existence.

By 1972, it was estimated that over 500,000 people had left urban centers to establish rural communes, according to a report by the Stanford Research Institute. They grew their food, raised animals, and often embraced alternative energy sources like wind and solar power. 

Mind-Expanding Drugs

Image provided by: Benespit

Chief among these was LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), a potent psychedelic that became almost synonymous with the era. The psychedelic experience offered by LSD was touted for its ability to dissolve the ego, foster profound insights, and enhance a sense of interconnectedness with the universe.

Other hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms and mescaline also played pivotal roles. Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception” (1954) and  Leary’s advocacy popularized their use. Leary, a clinical psychologist, famously encouraged people to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” which resonated deeply with those disillusioned by conventional societal structures. 

Spiritual Exploration

Photo by Annaheina

This era saw a surge in interest in teachings from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, with notable figures like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Swami Satchidananda capturing the imagination of the youth.

Books such as ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Dass and ‘The Tao of Physics’ by Fritjof Capra became staples on the bookshelves of many young individuals seeking to expand their consciousness and escape the materialistic confines of Western society.

Rock and Roll

Photo by Alexander Migl

Iconic figures like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison became the voice of the youth, their performances transcending mere concerts to become communal experiences. The legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 is a testament to this, where over 400,000 people gathered in a muddy field to celebrate peace, love, and music. 

By the end of the ’60s, The Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone magazine, founded in 1967, swiftly became the hippie bible, documenting the rise and spread of Rock and Roll culture.

Political Engagement

Photo provided by MrMatus

Inspired by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., many hippies participated in marches and sit-ins, striving to dismantle racial segregation and promote equality. The iconic 1963 March on Washington, attended by over 250,000 people from all walks of life, saw a diverse crowd calling for jobs and freedom.

The anti-war protests against the Vietnam War were a hallmark of this era, with an estimated 500,000 people gathering at the 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. 

The Women’s Liberation Movement

Photo by Vauxford

Pivotal organizations like the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, were at the forefront of advocating for gender equality. By 1970, NOW had grown to over 15,000 members, indicating widespread acceptance and support for the cause. 

The iconic 1968 Miss America protest, where feminists crowned a sheep to symbolize the patriarchal objectification of women, serves as a nostalgic emblem of the movement’s boldness and creativity. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, which prohibited sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. 

Creating and Appreciating Art

Photo by Navigator84

In the 1960s and ’70s, art became a powerful medium for voicing dissent, exploring spirituality, and fostering a sense of unity. Whether through music, painting, sculpture, or performance, the artistic endeavors of the time were characterized by their bold experimentation and a rejection of conventional norms.

The works of beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and writers like Ken Kesey, who authored “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” resonated deeply with hippies, encapsulating the zeitgeist of rebellion and soul-searching. 

Embracing Alternative Medicine and Holistic Healing

Photo provided by James St.John

A rebellion against the conventional Western medical practices that many felt were impersonal and overly clinical. Hippies turned to natural remedies, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and practices like yoga and meditation to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit.

The venerable publication Mother Earth News, founded in 1970, became a go-to source for those seeking a health-conscious lifestyle. It covers topics from natural foods to herbal remedies.

Long Hair and Bohemian Fashion

Photo by Chasbrutlag

Inspired by cultural icons like The Beatles, whose members let their hair grow in the early 60s, and Eastern philosophies that celebrated natural living, many young people embraced long hair as a statement of freedom and non-conformity. 

Drawing inspiration from Native American attire, Eastern religions, and the Art Nouveau movement, hippies donned bohemian fashion (flowing skirts, bell-bottom jeans, fringed vests, and tie-dye shirts), reflecting a rejection of mass-produced, restrictive clothing in favor of handmade or second-hand garments that told a story.

Guerrilla Street Theatre

Photo by Peteer

This form of theatre brought art directly to the people, bypassing traditional venues and societal gatekeepers. It was raw, real, and revolutionary. 

Take, for instance, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, founded in 1959, which became synonymous with Guerrilla Street Theatre. They used comedy and drama to deliver potent political messages, amplifying the voices of the counterculture. 

Traveling the World in Search of Adventure

Photo provided by James St.John

Embracing the ethos of “turn on, tune in, drop out,” popularized by Timothy Leary, many hippies embarked on soul-searching journeys across Europe, India, and other mesmerizing locales.

The famous “Hippie Trail” was a popular route that stretched from Western Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and India, sometimes extending to Nepal and Southeast Asia. Many turned to the works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg for inspiration, with Kerouac’s “On the Road” serving as a bible for aspiring adventurers.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Rights

Photo by Topntp

Despite the widespread discrimination and legal challenges, hippies stood firm, championing equality for all. The gay rights movement gained significant traction in the late ’60s, the watershed moment being the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City’s Greenwich Village. 

In “The Gay Metropolis,” Charles Kaiser notes that by 1970, several gay and lesbian organizations had been founded across the United States. These organizations aimed to promote visibility, legal recognition, and protection for LGBTQ+ individuals.

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