Hippies’ Fashion and Influence at LSU

by Madeline Robertson, Rivers Bruce, Michael Curry, Kaylin Thompson

hippies 1971

Anti-war protest at LSU, 1971, Gumbo yearbook

While many people may initially conjure an image of bell bottoms, tie-dyed clothing, and round sunglasses on a carefree individual in a Volkswagen van, hippies’ impact was much more than just the clothes they sported. In the era following World War II and facing the Vietnam War, the people of the 60s and 70s had big shoes to fill. Hippies “became famous for their influence in the widespread Vietnam protests” and their movement began to grow due to the attention they drew (Cogswell). Hippies are also known for their longing of open-minded love, experimental drug use, and overall relaxed attitude. At Louisiana State University, hippies maintained this identity with challenging authority and demanding reforms as shown in the yearbook picture of 1971.

The most recognizable aspect of the hippie movement is the way they expressed themselves through fashion. Men and women alike wore bright and colorful shirts, jeans, and either sandals or no shoes. They grew their hair out long, and many men had lengthy, unkempt beards as seen in the yearbook picture of 1972.

hippies 1972

Gumbo yearbook, 1972

This new style of fashion completely changed American culture. At the time, university dress codes included suits and ties for men while women were instructed to wear dresses or long skirts. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, leading people to feel as they finally had a voice. Louisiana State University was mainly a conservative college at the time, and students had an issue with the traditional rules and ideals held by the university. In order to achieve a higher sense of individualism, they started to protest the norm. However, the hippie movement began to wane in the late 1960s and into the 70s.

There are a few historical events that played a vital role in the development of the hippie movement. On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War. There were four students killed while nine others left injured. In the wake of this tragedy, only eleven days later, there was another shooting in Jackson, Mississippi, at Jackson State University. It is said that there was a group of about one hundred African American students that were throwing rocks at people, starting fires, and flipping cars. All of this chaos was due to a lie that had spread from the news that the popular civil rights activist, Charles Evers, was killed. The police showed up to calm the crowd and instructed them to go back to their homes. The authorities said they saw a sniper aiming at them, so they opened fire on the crowd. As a result, they killed two people and injured twelve more. A later discovery revealed that there was no evidence of a sniper in the area. Finally, in 1971, over 12,000 people were arrested while protesting the Vietnam War in front of the White House (Cowan). The draft ended in 1973, the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and with that, the hippie culture truly began to die out.

The hippie movement created a relaxed, but distinct style. The fashion of hippies that was originally developed was designed to show opposition to the ill effects of mass production and consumerism on society. The style that was prompted by the activists of the hippie movement was not originally a specific style. They simply did not want to buy into consumerism and increase the wealth of the rich, so they tried to wear recycled clothing or make their own clothing out of old pieces of material. These clothes were often made with concepts and inspiration from traditional African garments and fabrics, Indian prints, or prints with Native American influence (Monet). In the Louisiana State University yearbook of 1973 there is a close-up photograph of a girl laying on a car with a dress that is a great example of the African fabric influence on hippies’ clothing.

girl on car 1972

Gumbo yearbook, 1973

The un-uniform style of the clothing was eventually directly influenced by the increase in LSD and other drug use. LSD is a synthetic hallucinogenic substance that is immensely potent. In addition, LSD brought on a new appreciation for bright colors and psychedelic patterns. Monet describes the clothing in detail, “Colors bled into other colors and the geometric shapes of the early decade melted into amoeba patterns, vibrant swirls, and Indian paisley.”. The clothing styles that the hippie movement established changed the way different classes of people felt that they had to dress. It did not matter if a person was wealthy or poor, the style created by this hippie influence erased the line that separated classes of people.

The Louisiana State University’s Gumbo yearbooks, provided a plethora of insight that allowed for a very personal understanding of what hippie culture manifested as, especially on the campus. The hippie movement is a perfect example of a situation where fashion is used as an instrument to demonstrate larger scale cultural changes.  The fashion of the time period was a direct reflection of the overall feeling regarding the national events and general attitudes towards government and institutions. The hippies’ fashion can be known as a remarkably memorable time that has left a lasting impact on the American society as a whole.

Works Cited

Cogswell, Ned. “The History of The Hippie Culture.” Culture Trip, 16 Nov. 2016. www.theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/the-history-of-the-hippie-cultural-movement/.

Cowan, Barry, Michael J. Desmond, Walter L. Fleming, and Thomas R. Ruffin. “History of LSU.” LSU Libraries. Louisiana State University, n.d. Web. 17. http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/archives/historical-information

Gumbo. 1971, print, Louisiana State University, Louisiana, p. 49.

Gumbo. 1972, print, Louisiana State University, Louisiana, p. 16, 21.

Gumbo. 1973, print, Louisiana State University, Louisiana, p. 448, 467.

Lobenthal, Joel. “Hippie Style.” Love to Know, www. fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-history-eras/hippie-style.

Marsden, Emily. “Cause and Effect of the 1960s Hippie Movement.” Where Soul Meets Body. WordPress, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. emilyemarsden.wordpress.com/academic-writing/cause-and-effect-of-the-1960s-hippie-movement/.

Monet, Dolores. “Fashions of the 1960s – Mods, Hippies, and the Youth Culture.” Bellatory, 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Fashionsofthe1960sModsHippiesandYouthCulture

Rorabaugh, W. J. “Hippies Won the Culture War.” History News Network, 27 Sept. 2015. www.historynewsnetwork.org/article/160407.

students 1973