A number of middle-class young people growing up in the late 1950s felt that they did not fit into accepted society. Not only did their futures seem planned out for them, with office jobs for the men and motherhood and housework for the women, but those futures also seemed boring and suffocating. In addition, there was an expanding war in Vietnam, and young men were being drafted into the army. By the late 1960s young people who wanted peace and personal freedom began to gather together to express their views. In 1967 people gathered at events like New York's Central Park Be-In and San Francisco's Summer of Love. In October 1967 over fifty thousand hippies gathered in Washington, D.C., to make a statement against the war by trying to levitate the Pentagon building, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, with their collective mind power.

Hippies bonded around their antiwar feelings, but they also broke away from the restrictions of society by practicing "free love" or casual sex, and using drugs, especially marijuana and the hallucinatory drug LSD, both for fun and to open their minds to new ways of seeing the world. Hippies, or freaks, as they often called themselves, also connected around the music of the time, a mixture of protest folk and rock. The 1969 Woodstock Festival and Concert was an important event in hippie culture. Planned for an audience of 150,000, the rock festival in up-state New York attracted 500,000 fans and was a celebration of love, peace, and music.

Hippie style included long, flowing hair for both men and women, and often beards for men. Since hippies rejected the modern American mainstream, ethnic clothes were popular, as were old-fashioned styles. Both men and women commonly wore headbands, floppy hats, flowing scarves, and beads with blue jeans or bell-bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirts. Rebelling against corporate culture meant making clothes or buying cheaply at thrift shops and military surplus stores, so clothes were often ragged and patched or embroidered. Flowered clothing and embroidery were popular, and flowers became an important hippie symbol because hippies revered and felt connected to nature. "Flower power" was a term used to describe the hippie movement, and it was not uncommon for hippies at antiwar demonstrations to give flowers to police and soldiers, even placing flowers in the muzzles of their guns.

Though the hippies grew older and styles changed, people continued to feel nostalgic about hippie style and values. The 1980s and 1990s saw occasional revivals of hippie fashions and music, if not hippie values.

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