The Hippies Subculture

Story by: Sean Kook

Visual by: Noah Weinberg

Date: 3/02/21

Prompted by the Vietnam War, the hippie movement was an expression of nonconformity to the American social customs spearheaded mostly by adolescents and young adults in the 1960s and 70s. This critical view towards conventions was extended to ideologies beyond the cultural life, including capitalism, consumerism, and materialism. Some of the hippies’ trademark features included long hair, beard, colorful garments, rock and roll, and, most notably, psychedelics, namely lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). This counterculture movement stemmed from what can be considered the “founder” of the hippies called the Beat movement. Among other distinguished figureheads of the Beat movement was an influential poet and writer Allen Ginsberg, who joined the cause in 1954. The purpose of the Beat generation was a bit more specific than that of the hippies in that they sought to transfer poetry from academic boundaries into forms of human life. The expression of poetry came in the form of jazz music, reading performances, fashion, and other talents. In fact, Ginsberg’s renowned work The Howl was performed and adapted by numerous culture houses.

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The Beat movement itself came to fade away in the 1960s but the values and social changes it sought to attain were merely transmuted into the hippie movement. This new movement gained wide popularity as American intervention in the Vietnam war increased. The hippies’ wholehearted embracement of free thought and peace served to be one reason the movement was the most intimidating opposing force against the Nixon administration and its blinding desire to win the Cold War against USSR. In fact, the hippies’ efforts were just steps away from success when the Nixon administration launched the War on Drugs campaign, a deceptive political propaganda that sought to undermine domestic protests in order to globally popularize American capitalism. Further information about war on drugs can be found in the Vistory titled Mass Incarceration in the United States.

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“If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there.” Of course, the reference is made to highlight the somewhat excessive use of LSD, a defining characteristic of the hippies. One of the most prominent proponents of this drug during the Hippie era was Timothy Leary, a renowned psychologist and writer who was fired from Harvard for conducting a study on the effects of LSD and psilocybin on volunteer student subjects. His famous saying, “turn on, tune in, and drop out” was a reference to the American education system and his clear disavowal of conventional thinking. His conviction of the benefits of LSD was accompanied by rock and roll bands such as the Grateful Dead. It is famously known that the band members not only took acid and psilocybin before concerts but also established a designated area in the audience section where people could ‘trip’ to acid during their concerts.

While the members of this counterculture movement did not quite reach what they had hoped for in the beginning, their radical approach to revolutionize ways of thoughts, opinions, and cultural features at least diversified the once homogenous society into one more ‘quite like it’ to today. It reaffirmed not only the power of collective action and peaceful protests but also the power of music and cultural expression to inspire others to join the movement. In addition, controversies prompted by the hippie movement led to intellectual debates and a revival of intellectualism in hopes of crafting a better and a more just future.


LSD and The Hippies: A Focused Analysis of Criminalization and Persecution In The Sixties
"Beat movement"
"How the Vietnam War Empowered the Hippie Movement"
"Going Too Far: The American Public’s Attitudes toward Protest Movements"