As I reexamine just what happened to the hippies and conclude that the movement continues in many strands we now take for granted or simply overlook, I am nonetheless struck by a reaction in seeing a number of men who continue the look. Their long hair and threads may fit the style but for the most part they exude an aura of loser. Or, worse yet, a bum.

Sometimes it’s the cane they need for walking or an indirection or their lonely gaze. Missing a projection of derring-do or colorful theater or cool leadership, they instead seem to be more in need of a handout than any extension of underlying comradeship. In the height of the outbreak, back in the ’60s and ’70s, we often found ourselves pooling resources and abilities, perhaps just for a communal dinner or a party or a rally. There was an unstated mutual responsibility. Here, I feel only one-sided need. Never among them do I see someone I’d consider for a roommate, if I were still single.

Let me add this doesn’t fit all of us older guys in beards and long hair. But we have come through quite a lot over the decades, personally and as the carriers of a vision, to make me feel more like a survivor than a victor. For the most part, it’s been rough. Some of us did find ways to pay the bills without abandoning the style. Some have done it in the inner city, while others kept truckin’ on in a back-to-the-earth mode. Some have evolved into something, uh, higher. More mellow, peaceful, even wiser.

My own experience in the past year of growing out my remaining hair into a ponytail has brought its own perspective. It never seemed to tangle like this, for one thing.


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