In 1967, during an anti-war protest outside of the Pentagon, Jan Rose Kasmir stood clad in a loose-fitting button up paisley shirt, a short boyish haircut, and dangerously armed with a delicate flower. Inches from her face were the bayonets of the National Guard. She should have been afraid, but Kasmir showed no fear: she exuded the same care-free, life-loving aura as her attire. Like the floral patterns dancing around the collar of her shirt, Jan Rose was a young hippie dancing amidst the violence that surrounded her.
Just as the described scenario was perfectly captured by Marc Riboud in his well-known anti-war photograph, the 1960s is a moment in time that encapsulates the essence of freedom, the exercise of civil rights, and liberty in musical expression. Coincidentally, clothing was to promote anti-war sentiments in the 60s. Because of this, each key feature of this era was significantly affected by its associated accessories and attire.
One of the most prominent aspects of the 60s was the music that defined the decade. Iconic names like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones all found that they could use their platform to represent their opinions to a broader audience. A commonality shared by all of these musicians is that they wanted to share their opposition to violence, specifically the Vietnam War. Though a multitude of lyricism portrayed such virtues, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix went above and beyond, going so far as to include anti-war sentiments in their wardrobes.
Drawing inspiration from the British Army, The Beatles utilized military-esque uniforms in their Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album concept to develop alter egos. However, rather than being uniform in color as uniforms should be, the “Lonely Hearts Club Band” were clad in an array of colorful tunics and ranking patches. What typically would have been a pillar of authority became twisted and utilized to convey the psychedelic, abstract, and revolutionary music that The Beatles produced.
Similarly, Hendrix also turned aspects of war and violence into ironic portrayals of his anti-establishment point of view. Formerly a soldier himself, the American guitarist rejected the upright demeanor of the military and adopted old military uniforms onstage to show the world how obsolete war was. This choice in fashion also heavily contrasted his flamboyant and nonchalant personality, defying the stereotypes associated with the clothes he wore.
Perhaps more pervasive in current culture is the hippie stereotype that also arose in the 60s; despite popular beliefs, there was more to this subculture than sunshine and rainbows. Hippies frequently adorned flowers, floral patterns, and flower crowns, leading them to be given the moniker “flower child”. The power of the flower, as seen in Jan Rose Kasmir’s case, was a direct statement of the rejection of violence. Likewise, the cheesy peace signs which we now see plastered to everything marketed for middle-schoolers had once been symbolic in the 1960s, and another aspect of hippie fashion. Originating as a symbol used by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, the peace sign was adopted by the hippies in order to decorate their clothing and serve as an endorsement against war. Lastly, hippies often wore loose and liberating clothing such as bell bottoms and flowy blouses that embodied their attitude towards life in general. Such a lifestyle — rejecting conventional values and advocating for non-violence — became a subculture, observable in the way the members of the hippie community dressed.
One final and creative way clothing was used to depict the values of individuals during the 60s may be familiar to students who have taken a government class: Tinker v. Des Moines. For context, a group of teenagers in 1965 collaborated in wearing black armbands to school, publicly showing their support in ending the Vietnam War. Fashion in and of itself is a statement, but when it is used primarily to make send a message, it becomes something much greater. In this instance, the realm of fashion became a critical aspect in defining freedom of speech in America. Unfortunately, the teenagers were sent home for causing a disturbance, but the issue of whether an article of clothing was protected under freedom of speech became a source of great debate.
Once again, we see the correlation between fashion in the 1960s and anti-war sentiment, but Tinker v. Des Moines paints a broader picture of the impact that fashion during this era has on our society today. Self-expression and style of dress in America shaped what could be defined as speech. The 60s paved the way for future generations to demonstrate their ideas to a broader audience; we see this now with graphic designs and printed t-shirts. As we wear our beliefs just as the baby boomers before us did, each article of clothing becomes another article in the story of us.