subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates itself from the parent culture to which it belongs, often maintaining some of its founding principles. Subcultures develop their own norms and values regarding cultural, political and sexual matters. Subcultures are part of society while keeping their specific characteristics intact. Examples of subcultures include hippies, goths, bikers, emos, etc.

Counterculture is the culture and lifestyle of those people, especially among the young, who reject or oppose the dominant values and behaviour of society. It is a group of people whose values, beliefs, styles and attitudes differ, or are counter to, the prevailing, accepted culture.

The meaning of the word ‘Hippie’ is from the terms hipster and hippie and derive from the slang word ‘hip‘ meaning knowledgeable, fashionable, up-to-date.

The Hippie Counterculture, or Hippie Movement was active from the 1960’s – 1970’s, originating on college campuses in the United States.

The Hippie Counterculture, or Hippie Movement, was a revolutionary youth movement that rejected mainstream American life and values, that were dominated by materialism, consumerism and violence. The Hippie Counterculture developed its own distinctive, freer lifestyle based on the Utopian ideals of Peace and  Love. Disillusioned young people, concerned about the threat of nuclear war and disenchanted with inequality, began to openly criticize and reject the conventional political and social system.

The young people who adhered to the Hippie Counterculture rejected conventional lifestyles preferring a free, independent and simpler way of life, that was closer to nature.

Many young people dropped out of society,  choosing to live together in communes. Others lived together in city apartments. The most famous, and popular, for hippies was the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.

Hippies’ slogan was  “Make Love, Not War”.

Fashion and clothes during the period were dominated by bright and highly contrasting colors, stripes and unusual patterns using spirals and concentric circles and flowers. Hippie clothing was often loose and made of natural fibers like cotton and hemp. Hand-made clothes and fashion was popular. T-shirts were customized using the Tie-Dye process of dying sections of clothing to create random circular patterns and changes in colors. Hip hugging bell-bottom jeans with flower patches and fringes at the ankle, were worn by men and women. The jeans were accompanied by T-shirts and waistcoats and women wore loose peasant blouses.

Ethnic clothes were popular. Both men and women commonly wore headbands, floppy hats, flowing scarves, and beads. Clothes were often ragged and patched or embroidered. Flowered clothing and embroidery were popular, and flowers became an important hippie symbol because hippies felt connected to nature.

The older generation was shocked by the adoption of the mini skirts. The mini skirt was often accompanied by suede knee-high boots or sandals.

Another fashion that shocked the older generation related to hair. The young men of the Hippie counterculture grew their hair long and often wore beards.

“Flower Power” was a term used to describe the hippie movement, and it was not uncommon for hippies at antiwar demonstrations to give flowers to police and soldiers, even placing flowers in the muzzles of their guns. Flowers were very emblematic of the Hippie Counterculture. Hippies believed it was important to display as much natural beauty as possible, in a world that had been made ugly by materialism and the threat of nuclear war. To the hippies, flowers represented peace and love. Real flowers were worn in the hair and flower images were painted on the face.

Rock music was also important to the Hippie Counterculture and the lyrics of the era reflected the ideals of the movement with strong messages of peace and anti-war lyrics. Famous folk and rock artists of the era included the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Who, the Grateful Dead and Joan Baez.

The term ‘Happening’ was used to describe many performances and events of the era such as art and music festivals. 1967 saw the ‘Summer of Love’ as 30,000 hippies gathered for the “Human Be-In” at Golden Gate Park and the Monterey Pop Festival saw a massive attendance of between 25,000-90,000 people. The 1969 Woodstock Festival attracted 400,000 people.

New Religious movements emerged during the Hippie Counterculture era including the Unification Church (the Moonies), the Transcendental Meditation (TM) led by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Hare Krishna movement. Other hippies embraced unconventional beliefs such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Native American mysticism. Astrology was also popular.

New phrases and terminology emerged, that reflected the ideals and lifestyle of the Hippie Counterculture, such as:

  • Do Your Own Thing
  • Far Out (unconventional or avant-garde)
  • Flower Power (the ideas of the flower children, especially the promotion of peace and love as means of changing the world)
  • Uptight” (anxious or angry)
  • Free Love
  • Groovy (fashionable and exciting)
  • Laid Back (relaxed and easygoing)
  • Let It All Hang Out
  • Psychedelic (relating to or denoting drugs (especially LSD) that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness)
  • Happening (an event or occurrence)
  • Fab (fabulous)
  • Out of sight (hiddenconcealed).

The Hippie Counterculture shocked the world and was branded by the older generation as immoral, revolutionary and anarchistic.

The Hippie Counterculture began to slowly decline during the early 1970’s. The Utopian ideals and the concept of peace and love declined. Hippie communities turned into seedy places with high crime rates. The use of illegal drugs led to increased drug addiction, overdoses and deaths. Hippies were unable to create ideal communities or support themselves and gradually returned to mainstream society. Though the hippies grew older and styles changed, people continued to feel nostalgic about hippie style and values. The 1980s and 1990s saw occasional revivals of hippie fashions and music, if not hippie values.