Hippie chic: between subculture and stereotypes


Contemporary Art

Shortly after my recent trip to Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts inaugurated an exhibition which I was unfortunately unable to visit. Entitled Hippie Chic, it is an interactive display of over 50 outfits of Sixties hippy clothing by brand names including Ossie Clark, Geoffrey Beene and Yves Saint Laurent bearing all the hallmarks of the time: the colours and patchwork, the “spiral” tie-dye t-shirts and long skirts. Also on view are shag rugs, round eyewear, colourful necklaces, hair bands, spinning lights and a vintage jukebox with records by artists such as The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix.

I have already mentioned the interaction between art, fashion and music in my posts on David Bowie and Punk, a recurring theme in contemporary creative language, but what strikes me about the fashion of the 60s is the process: then, unlike now, rebellion provided the inspiration for haute couture. This exhibition, where Hippie Chic is elevated to an art form, seems to go beyond the stereotypes and expresses what it strongly represented in the years of rebellion and pop culture, namely the subculture that has changed the way we see things.

From this point of view, every reference to hippie chic in contemporary fashion, and it happens almost every season, becomes a lukewarm cliché of those years of social revolution, cynicism and idealism.