The Hippies

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American society and culture experienced an awakening during the 1960s as a result of the diverse civil rights, economic, and political issues it was faced with. At the center of this revolution was the American hippie, the most peculiar and highly influential figure of the time period. Hippies were vital to the American counterculture, fueling a movement to expand awareness and stretch accepted values. The hippies' solutions to the problems of institutionalized American society were to either participate in mass protests with their alternative lifestyles and radical beliefs or drop out of society completely. The government and the older generations could not understand their way of life. Hippies were often portrayed as criminals, subversive to the morals and best interest of the public. Although misunderstood, the hippie had a great impact throughout the country, still surviving today in American culture. The term "hippie" itself became a universal term in the late sixties. It originated in a 1967 article in Ramparts, entitled "The Social History of the Hippies." Afterward, the name was captured by the mass media as a label for the people of the new movement. (Yablonsky 28) Even before this, the word "hip" described someone who was "in" and "down", wise to what was going on around him. By the 1960s, some of America's youth created a gap between themselves and their parents. They grew their hair long because it was natural and therefore considered beautiful. At first, the idea of men with long hair was absurd and society considered it a sign of homosexuality. When it became clear that the establishment felt so strongly about hair, the attitudes of young rebels changed. One young man responded after being questioned about his unkempt appearance: Growing hair does not mean that I am or am not a homosexual. It does mean that I am willing to stand up for my rights as a human being and that includes my right to be harmless to all people. It also indicates my unwillingness to get on the treadmill of killing for a vast machine-like government. If I am scorned and called dirty because I allow hair to grow on my face and my head, then so much the better, for by this I indicate the seriousness of my belief. I scorn the society that has created this monstrous robot-like conformity that feeds the war machine as Hitler found robots to feed his war machine. (Perry 188) In contrast to the short crew-cut style that every young man adhered to during the fifties, the hippie popularized a diversity of hairstyles with no single ideal image to fit. The clothes worn by hippies were also chosen to express anti-establishment sentiments to the public. Their pants, shirts and dresses were made of comfortable, natural fibers like cotton and denim. Many articles of clothing were handcrafted, such as belts, shoes, necklaces, and headbands. As poverty spread, the hippie wardrobe grew increasingly shabby. They shopped at thrift shops and places like the Diggers' Free Store. "Gray, dingy, torn clothes and broken shoes became the characteristic style of the hippies." (Wolf 18) Spawned out of necessity rather than style, these clothes were another symbol of their retaliation against the system. The hippies' approach toward life was much more relaxed and open-minded than the rest of society. Sex was a major issue associated with the hippie culture of the sixties. Society had built up barriers against intimate contact between the sexes for decades. Throughout American history, pre-marital sex was offensive and unacceptable to society. "The hippies challenged these limits by practicing sexual activities spontaneously an openly. Their promiscuity left the nation in disbelief: having multiple partners and engaging in casual sex with little emotional engagement." (Mills 112-113) The female's sensuality was actually realized and flaunted. These girls did not dress in conservative, concealing clothes to hide themselves. Hippies realized the beauty of the human...
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