“A subculture is a culture within a broader mainstream culture, with its own separate values, practices, and beliefs. In sociology, the concept of subculture explains the behavior of some social groups; sociologists study subcultures as one way of studying culture. Subcultures can be based on diverse factors, including where people live, shared interests or profession, age, ethnicity, and religion.”


The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s, swiftly spreading to other countries around the world. The Hippie culture remains evident in 2011. The etymology of the term ‘hippie’ is from hipster,  and was initially used to describe: beatniks who had moved into New York City’s Greenwich Village,  San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and similar urban areas. Both the words “hip” and “hep” came from Black culture and denote awareness. The early hippie ideology included the countercultural values of the Beat Generation. Some created their own social groups and communities, listened to psychedelic rock, opposed the Vietnam War, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and magic mushrooms to explore alternative states of consciousness.

In January 1967, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate park  in San Francisco popularized hippie culture, leading to the legendary Summer of Love on the West Coast of the United States, and the 1969 Woodstock festival on the East Coast. Hippie fashions and values had a major effect on culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and the arts. Since the widespread movement in the 1960s, many aspects of hippie culture have been assimilated by mainstream society. The religious and cultural diversity espoused by the hippies has gained widespread acceptance, and  Eastern philosophy and spiritual concepts have reached a wide audience. The hippie legacy can be observed in contemporary culture in myriad forms from healthy food, to music festivals, to contemporary sexual mores, and the cyberspace revolution.

The hippie movement in the United States began as a youth movement. Composed mostly of white teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, hippies inherited a tradition of cultural dissent from bohemians and beatniks of the Beat Generation in the late 1950s. Beats like “Allen Ginsberg” crossed-over from the beat movement and became fixtures of the burgeoning hippie and anti-war movements. By 1965, hippies had become an established social group in the U.S., and the movement eventually expanded to other countries. Hippies were often pacifists and participated in non-violent political demonstrations, such as civil rights marches, the marches on Washington D.C, and anti-vietnam War demonstrations. In addition to non-violent political demonstrations, hippie opposition to the Vietnam War included organizing political actions groups to oppose the war, refusal to serve in the military and conducting on collage campuses that covered Vietnamese history and the larger political context of the war.

The hippie ethos influences The  Beatles and others in the United and they turn influenced their American Counterparts. Hippie culture spread worldwide through a fusion of rock music, folks, blues and and psychedelic rocks; it also found expression in literature, the dramatic arts, fashion and the visual arts, including film, posters advertising rocks concerts, and album covers.

Along with the New left and the American Civil Rights Movements, the hippie movement was one of the three dissenting groups of the 1960s subculture. Hippies rejected established institutions, criticized middle class values, opposed nuclear weapons and the vietnam War, embraced aspects of Eastern philosophy, sexual liberation, where often vegetarian and eco-friendly, promoted the used of drugs that produce hallucinations which they felt expanded one’s consciousness, and created intentional communities. They also used alternative arts, street theatre, music and drugs as part of their lifestyle and as a way of expressing their feelings, their protest and their vision of the world and life. Hippies opposed political and social orthodoxy, choosing a gentle and non-doctrinaire ideology that favored peace, love and personal freedom, perhaps the best epitomized by the Beatle’s song “All You Need is Love”.


Yet the mythology of that summer in 1967 has never disappeared. The San francisco hippie, dancing in Golden Gate Park with long hair flowing, has become as much of an enduring American archetype, 60s counterculture has had a significant impact in out culture today. The Summer of Love resonates in strip mall yoga classes, pop music, visual arts, fashion, attitudes towards drugs, the personal computer revolution, and the current mad dash toward the greening of America. Collage and high school students began streaming into the Haight during their spring. City government leaders, determined to stop the influx of young people once schools let out for summer, unwittingly brought additional attention to the scene. An ongoing series of articles in local papers alerted national media to the hippies’ growing momentum. That spring, Haight community leaders responded by forming the Council of the Summer of Love, giving the word-of-mouth event an official-sounding name. The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia, middle-class vacationers, and even partying military personnel from bases within an easy drive’s distance. The large influx of newcomers began to cause problems. The neighborhood could not accommodate so many people descending on it so quickly, and the Haight-Ashbury scene deteriorated rapidly. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood


John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas took 20 minutes to write the lyrics for the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”. Scott McKenzie’s recording of the song was released in May 1967. The song was designed originally to promote the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the world’s first major rock festival, which was attended by over 200,000 people. “San Francisco” became an instant hit  and quickly transcended its original purpose. The evolution of The Beatles and their music also contributed to the global impact of the Summer of Love. The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released on June 1, 1967, in Europe and two days later in the U.S. With its psychedelic influences, Indian instrumentals, vivid album cover and drug references, it encapsulated the very essence of the Summer of Love. The Beatles had moved beyond their “mop-top” era, and on June 25, 1967, their song “All You Need Is Love” was heard around the world as part of the “Our World” radio broadcast, further emphasizing the countercultural ideals of love, freedom, and unity.

Dick Hebdige in his study of British punks in Subculture: The Meaning of Style, is only one dimension of subcultural formation. They come to resist this process is understood by Hebdige as taking shape through a variety of practices, most of which recall the earlier formulation of ritual, argot, music, and dress. The subculture defines itself through a number of stylistic forms: intentional communication, bricolage, homology and signifying practice. Intentional communication is an ironic gesture, where visual ensembles are understood, at least by members of the subculture, as fabricated and function as forms of display. Bricolage, a term borrowed from Levi-Strauss to describe a science of the concrete (of the everyday, of the banal) is a descriptive tool employed to account for the reconfiguration the naturalized meaning of an object. Elevated through the rhetoric of style, of objects takes on another layer of cultural value, acquiring a new symbolic resonance and meaning subject to the discourses and visual idioms specific to the subculture. Hebdige also borrows from Levi-Strauss the notion of homology to explain the connection between seemingly disparate cultural practices. Homology is understood as the “symbolic fit” between a subculture and the lifestyles and attitudes it acts out.c


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