The hippies were an important part of American society, even if they presented their ideas in a somewhat unorthodox way.
Most of the time, whenever people think of the hippies, they think of drugs, parties, naked people, etc. The hippies did fit into each of these categories, but they also inspired a number of aspects of our country that most people don’t know about, such as our clothing, our music, etc.
Before the hippies, there were the beatniks, who came from the Beat Generation of the 1950s. The beatniks were a group of rebellious people that read and wrote poetry as a way to express themselves, and they spent most of their time in coffee houses filled with other beatniks. The males often sported loose-fitting hooped t-shirts, goatee beards, and sunglasses; the women wore mostly the same thing, but subtract the beards and add tons of eye makeup. Eventually, the beatniks dropped their poetic ways, and turned into what we know as the hippies.
Average hippies were between 15 and 25 years of age. They were mostly white, middle-classed Americans who saw themselves as being misunderstood by society. Every hippie was different, but most of them didn’t work unless they absolutely had to, they didn’t go to church, and they freely participated in sexual activities.
The movement originally started in San Francisco, California. A large multitude of hippies flocked to the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, which came to be known as the Haight-Ashbury District.
Despite the differences in the groups of hippies, they were all out to promote the message of peace. They are most well-known for their opposition of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and they also helped to jump-start the Civil Rights Movement. Musical shows, peaceful sit-ins, rallies, and street theater are only a few of the ways that hippies expressed their opinions.
Many hippies were musicians, and they wrote music as a way to express their thoughts, feeling, beliefs, and ideas. They held many concerts in numerous places, where they came together to drink, smoke, sing, make love, dance, be together, and just be hippies. The largest and most well-known of these concerts was Woodstock, which was held in Sullivan County, New York. It lasted approximately 4 days, and attracted over 450,000 people. It also caused one of the largest traffic jams in history, which prompted many local and state traffic laws to be passed.
Hippies used many hallucinogenic drugs, such as marijuana, mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) as a way to escape reality and look within themselves. Some hippies also used amphetamines and opiates, but they were looked down upon even by the people who used them because they were harmful and addictive.
By the end of the Hippie Movement, San Francisco’s local government was paying over $35,000 a month for drug abuse treatment for the city’s 10,000 hippies.
Effects of the Movement
Throughout the Hippie Movement, many hippie college students were threatened with expulsion and a criminal record, just for expressing their ideas. It is because of their persistent efforts that we are able to live in today’s society, where we benefit from freedom of speech and equal opportunities for minorities.
The hippies were also the first to notice the need for change in the United States. For example, they strongly supported breastfeeding during an age that focused mainly on commercialized baby formula. Since then, scientists have proven that breastfeeding is a healthier alternative for both mother and baby.
While the rest of society looked down upon the hippies, it is widely believed that if society had listened to more of what the hippies had to say, many of the social and environmental problems that we face today could have been avoided. As Robert Howard states, “The hippie movement that was created in the San Francisco area of Haight-Ashbury offered a serious though not well articulated alternative to the conventional society system.”