The Top 5 Counter-Culture Styles of the Past Half-Century

Every generation has its own take on counter-culture style. While select sartorial styles and cultural attitudes come into being and never leave, such as the hippie persona, others are more finite. These latter groups can be tagged to a specific period of time both in terms of nascence and decline; examples include the beat generation and metal heads. Each counter-culture group has its own niche in terms of music, writing, clothing, hairstyles and even general disposition. We think it’s fair to say that over the past half-century some counter-culture subgroups have made a lasting, valid contribution to history, while others just kind of … sucked.

5 The Hipster

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And so we arrive at today’s most popular mildly non-conformist cultural subgenre: the hipster. Hipster style can range from dark blue jeans and work boots to fancy sweaters and wild mustaches perched above leather-elbow-patched tweed jackets. Oh, and scarves … lots of scarves. Hipsters constantly try to outdo one another in an effort to be “uber-hipster,” and as such much of the clothing is getting slightly out of hand in terms of pointless accessorizing and tightness of pants. Fortunately, a large part of the hipster image involves lauding intelligence and education, if those positives come with an overly large dose of irony and sarcasm. If a movement has to take hold on this sweeping of a scale, at least they don’t listen to Megadeath.

4 Grunge

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The grunge movement was born of a new, simpler type of rock music, but it extended well beyond the fans of Nirvana and Pearl Jam’s musical appetites. Grunge became a movement influencing much more than mere sonic proclivity, affecting the way people dressed, spoke and interacted with the world. The style of clothing was simple and unadorned, and the outlook on life was cynical.

3 Metal Heads

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You can still find so-called metal heads out in daylight today, but their numbers have dwindled since their mid-‘80s heyday. They called themselves head bangers, thrashers and a host of other names, and they thrilled to the dulcet strains of bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeath and Hellhammer. The music was loud and angry, the lyrics ranging from nihilistic to demonic. Most adherents wore their hair long, their T-shirts emblazoned, and were a generally cliquish subculture with little crossover into mainstream society.

2 The Punks

The punk movement was born on the mean streets of hard-luck English towns in the 1970s. Rumor has it that this new breed of in-your-face, street-wise toughs were named for the slow-burning punk sticks they kept smoldering at all times to light their cigarettes. Regardless of the movement’s taxonomy, it quickly spread across much of the globe, with anger seeming to be the main unifying force among its many adherents. The music was stripped-down, loud and aggressive, and the “look” was meant to shock and even frighten. Leather, patches, safety pins and Mohawks were the uniform of this group, which has never fully faded from culture.

1 The Hippie

Perhaps the most iconic counter-culture movement of all time, the hippies were born of the confluence of anti-war protests, musical and literary Renaissance, and a new acceptance of drugs, sex and equality. Hippies preached peace and love and freedom of expression, and their flowing beards and tie-dyed everything were worn to show a marked break from the established “square” order of things. While often idealistic to a fault, ultimately the hippie message was—and remains—one of peace and tolerance, and who can’t support that? Also, the music was excellent.

Looks like the values sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll are still alive and kicking today!

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