Anthropologists and Sociologists alike define any social orientation within or fitting under the umbrella of a larger, dominant culture as a subculture. While vastly different in character, the hippie culture is as much a subculture as Britain’s soccer hooligans, Ireland’s pikeys and the anarcho-syndicalists from that Monty Python movie.
All subcultures have their own practices, characteristics, and flaws, and many have some sort of structured or agreed upon set of beliefs. Having been in the company of more hippies than I wanted or thought I could endure, I’ve made note of several such consistencies. Some common, socially universal characteristics can include physical appearance, clothing, music and religious/spiritual doctrine.
Unlike most other subcultures(as learned through personal in-depth research) hippies tend to reproduce. This is not always through the foul-smelling, drug-induced sexual interactions they have become so famous for, but by a twisted process of enculturation that recruits and assimilates weak-minded, socially awkward, and embittered loners. (This recruitment transition is especially easy for the latter because they are already used to being disliked by all of their peers.)
Digressing back to the thesis, hippies have a very conspicuous physical appearance. We all know the gender neutral traits: exposed jet-black bare feet or Birkenstock sandals(for the hippie who has mysteriously come across money); second-hand clothing either too large or full of holes and stains to be of any practical use; wild, unkempt lengths of facial and body hair; and, of course, the knotted, greasy, octopus like dreadlocks. Like individual variations found in any subculture, not every hippie may display all of these characteristics, but a combination of more than one is usually a troubling sign. For example, MoonUnit(tragically a real name) may wear crap-stained rags and sandals, but may not display full on dreadlocks (perhaps only stringy, grease-shined proto-locks). And Mr. Free Waterfall Jr. may emit a nostril-abrasive odor from the unshaven orifices of his rotten hippie body, but may not wear a raggedy tie-dye shirt or any shirt at all. Hippies can be quite versatile in their decrepit style of choice.
Hippies are also well known for spawning an entire genre of music that consists entirely on the concept of a jam band. As you might expect, their music is as obnoxious, annoying, and unlikable as the hippies themselves including musical groups like Widespread Panic, the String Cheese Accident, the Grateful Dead, and finally the legendary hippie band, Phish(Sea Kittens).All hippies love Pink Floyd, especially during their religious rituals(to be discussed later). The above stated bands are expected to ‘jam’ arbitrarily for periods of time, normally lasting 2 hours too long, approximately 125 minutes. This is crucial as a transitionary catalyst into their most holy of spiritual rituals; The Freak Out.
Some anthropologists cite instances where hippies in the wild have been observed making use of any solid or metal object as an improvised ritualistic instrument. Most notably of which are various forms of cooking vessels, kitchen utensils, and landfill fillings. Groups of hippies(or gaggles if you will) march and rally in ironic un-formation to the rhythmic tune of their own over-sized spoons and trashcan lids. Others dance and skip in traditional hippie shambling, usually incorporating various forms of closed eye twirling, that is medically similar to a controlled seizure; objectively, it’s similar to watching a blind person play with an invisible hacky sack. Usually these marches, sometimes beginning as an orderly drum circle, have no purpose, goal, or destination. Depending on the environment, i.e, a protest rally, the improvised noise-making can be intended as cohesion against a common unseen enemy. Scientists have even witnessed said marches railing against the unethical treatment of various forms of algae and phytoplankton.
In combination with these wild improvised music sessions, hippies tend to gather in the center of their huts and dwellings for the purpose of a near hourly ritualistic burning and inhaling of cannabinoid substances. The hippies have been observed attempting to mask the scent of their precious green leaf by light small pungent sticks ablaze in various locations in their bungalows.
Other professionals believe the functions of these ‘incensed sticks’ are rooted in spiritual and religious doctrines. They theorize that the incense is a pleasing offering to an ancient hippie spirit. Such spirits in their religious pantheon include such churlish deities as Uncle Zonker, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia’s cousin Barry, and Tommy Chong. I theorize that this drug use is an important psychedelic ritual who’s misguided goal is to grant the users the ability to communicate directly with spirits of the departed hippie forefathers.
Many people despise the hippie subculture, and after years of research I can clearly see why. I cannot attribute all of these findings to merely my own research, but I feel that it is necessary to make mention of one young man’s amazing work studying and ridding the hippie subculture, Eric Cartman. According to Dr. Cartman’s groundbreaking work, he has discovered a common link between all hippies; they all despise a popular genre of music originating in rural Florida known as ‘Death Metal’.
For more information on Dr. Cartman’s work, feel free to track down a copy of the critically acclaimed Comedy Central documentary, “Die Hippie, Die”.