Ten things hippies and beatniks had in common

While many beatniks despised the hippies who followed on the counterculture trail, the two did have some commonalities.

Here are ten I see.

  1. Alternative living: They both dressed in ways that weren’t socially acceptable, part of their rejection of bourgeois attitudes of American respectability. Hippies, especially, advanced that into group living.
  2. Beards: The beat goatee was signature. Hippies took facial hair in many distinctive directions.
  3. Sandals: On men, especially. Forget the polished wingtips.
  4. Incense: It became a staple of small alternative stores, along with interesting teas like Earl Grey and Gunpowder.
  5. Pot: Jazz musicians were the root for the beats. Having a toke together became a communal expression among hippies.
  6. Free love: Although the birth control pill was approved for public use in 1960, it was still illegal in eight states four years later. Still, it quickly grew in popularity, garnering the condemnation of Pope Paul VI in 1968. Well, if extramarital sex was already taboo, what additional fault would using the contraceptive have? This was having fun while scoffing at conventionality at the same time.
  7. Eastern spirituality: Zen Buddhist and Theosophist influences championed by the beats spread into yoga, Sufism, and other strands of Buddhism in the hippie era.
  8. Pacifism: Opposition to war, though, did not always carry a corresponding nonviolent outlook by hippies, who instead focused their opposition on the military draft and stopping that by any means possible.
  9. Cool: Beatniks liked to “play it cool.” Hippies had their own nuance in preferring to “be cool” as a way of displaying their individuality.
  10. Mass-media caricatures: Both were portrayed negatively in the mass media, usually as warped stereotypes.

7 thoughts on “Ten things hippies and beatniks had in common

      1. Yes, now more than ever. The Age of Aquarius may still be dawning but not without effort. There are a lot of entrenched forces on both the Left and the Right today going against the grain of those threads that were most visible in the 1960s (Beat, Civil Rights, then Hippies). Most visible then, but always there if we can tease them out. Though my 1960s-based values haven’t changed, and I have not become one bit more conservative, I often feel abandoned by an identity-based Left that seems to draw battle lines between races and genders instead of pulling us all together, seems to actively crush dissent instead of welcoming a cacophony of voices, seems to want to BE the cultural police instead of thwarting the cultural police. But when I post on the topic on my blog, I find there are LOTS of us out there – all ages and demographics – that don’t fit today’s Left of Right but share those ideals most visible in the 60s. Never at home on the Right, and alienated by the emergent Left, I say with you, “Now more than ever!”

  1. By the way, Jnana, you’ll be happy to hear that I hitchhiked across Guanajuato state a few weeks ago to San Miguel de Allende, where Neal Cassady died beside the railroad tracks in 1968 🙂

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