In the 1960s, a new group of young, long-haired and wild people began to form in San Francisco, California and soon spread throughout the rest of the country. These people were given the name hippies, defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a usually young person who rejects the mores of established society and advocates a nonviolent ethic.” Hippies were young adults that derived from the middle-class, rejecting the older generation’s rules and rebelling against the ideal of work and ambition. The hippie movement started to form after President Kennedy’s assassination and became even more apparent because of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and the surfacing of mind-altering drugs and a new kind of music. Because of the hippie movement, laws have been created banning illicit drugs and discrimination and more races, ethnicities and lifestyles are accepted.
Hippies created their own counterculture that revolved around free love, peace, drugs and music. They were the anti-establishment, outraged by the Vietnam War and protested for peace. Hippies were non-violent and turned to drugs and music to rebel and to feel freedom and a new experience. They believed in expanding their sexual relations, encouraging any kind of sex and throwing all taboos out the window. They encouraged nudity, going against the old Puritan values of modesty and finding the beauty in the human body. Hippies wanted healthier, more organic food to eat, contrary to the manufactured, TV-styled dinners that many Americans had come to enjoy. The hippie movement was all about discovering new things, exploring new ideas and rebelling against society.
In 1963, the U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, thus beginning to alienate American youth from the government. After Kennedy’s murder, the ideas of conspiracy and government cover-ups gripped America and caused an epidemic of paranoia. The media helped to create the post World War II era a climate of fear of communism by emphasizing the growing strength of the enemy every day.
In 1965, after the Vietnam War had been active for nearly ten years, Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, initiated a strong escalation of the American involvement in Vietnam. By 1968, there were massive anti-Vietnam War marches, protests, sit-ins and student strikes in major cities and on college and university campuses across the country. Young men were being drafted against their will to fight in the war and over time, their resistance grew stronger, leading up to even more protests. Leading most of these protests were hippies. Young adults had become disgusted with the war and the society they lived in and rebelled against the traditional American lifestyle, craving peace and happiness.
As the Vietnam War dragged on, the nation watched their world crash and their loved ones come home wounded or sometimes not even come home at all. Hippies, along with many others, grew dreary and just wanted everyone to get along, so they were directly affected by the Civil Rights Movement. Many hippies believed that everybody was equal and that everyone deserved the same right to go to school and vote. Along with war protests, they also took part in protests against discrimination. They did not just march and use their voices to protest against the war and racism, but they also used their appearance by growing out their hair, wearing colorful clothing and jewelry and patching up their jeans.
Along with their bold clothing choices, hippies, along with many others, took advantage of a new form of contraception that was being offered known as “The Pill.” Sex no longer meant having children, so it became more casual. Free love was a common concept at the time and hippies believed that one was free to love whomever they pleased, however and whenever they pleased. This philosophy encouraged young adults to explore their sexuality more than they had before. Sex became an open and accepted part of the hippie lifestyle and many explored non-traditional sex, including group sex, public sex and homosexual sex.
Hippies discovered new ways to express themselves through protests and sex; they also turned to music as a form of emotional, spiritual and political expression. Music was more than just a form of entertainment, but it also passed on a message and allowed people to explore their inner world and guide them on a quest for meaning. Along with music, hippies used drugs such as marijuana and LSD for self-exploration, freedom, rebellion and a new experience. At the time, people did not know the dangers of drug use and it was normal to smoke or swallow whatever was handed to them. The infatuation with LSD lasted for a number of years until it started to get negative publicity because of the traumatic trips and flashbacks that began to emerge. On October 6th, 1966, LSD was made illegal in the United States, although the prohibition did not lead to a lower consumption until years later. On October 27th, 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was passed, fighting against drug abuse and preventing the possession of controlled substances
The hippie movement was a direct effect on the laws that were created to prevent drug use that still exist today. The hippie movement also affected the Civil Rights Movement, which eventually resulted in several laws giving African Americans and women the same rights and white men, including the equal rights to vote and to an education and work. Women are no longer expected to be housewives and it is accepted if a woman wants to have a job.
Distinct appearance and clothing was also one of the immediate legacies of hippies. 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. Additionally, the style of the 1960s hippies influenced clothing fashions and trends for decades after and some still exist among the teenage population today, especially the peace symbol and colorful jewelry.
Because of hippie’s sexual openness, alternative lifestyles such as homosexuality and transexuality are generally more accepted. Young adults have become more sexually active at a younger age because of the influence of past generations. Overall, the hippie movement was a time of not only exploring oneself and rebelling against society, but it was also a time of acceptance. After the hippie movement, African Americans, working women, homosexuals, nudity and non-traditional apparel all became generally more accepted. Without the hippie movement, the United States would not be as free and adoptive as it is today. The 1960s was a highly influential time and the hippies were highly influential people. Bob Dylan, a musical sensation and activist of the hippie movement said, “People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around – the music and the ideas.”
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