Glassy-eyed. Bong-toting. Expressing themselves with weird hairstyles — what hippies refer to as dreadlocks but are otherwise known as rat tails, or mop tops even.
Puffing away, sporting obnoxiously large glasses that do not quite flatter their faces, and acting like a group of unhygienic, half-witted young adults. Participating in Movember — or what is known as the act of growing a moustache in the month of November to support prostrate cancer victims and all of this is done in the name of ‘neo-hippie-ism’, if that is how it can be referred to. That stereotype about new-age hard-work-disdaining ‘make love, not war’ hippies is yet prevalent all around the world and Mumbai does not shy away from the universal cliché.
A quick drive around some city areas and one would be damned not to notice the retro hippie movement that seems to have crept into the fashion landscape and the ambience of the satellite city. While to many stiff-necked, being hippie is a subcultural truism of the 1960s that they often associate with drug abuse, laziness, and body odour, it in fact highlights the non-conformist attitude linked to hippies’ mistrust for societal norms.
One that has people, such as a resident Akshay Narang strongly abide by. Vegan, because “meat is murder”; spiritual, because “religion is man-made”; tree-hugger because “have you seen the state of our ozone layer?” Is he morally or spiritually elevated compared to the rest of us mortals?
Not quite, he shares. While he still drives a car because “one has to be practical”, he also believes in his minor contribution towards making the world a better place. “What is with these overly uptight social attitudes and the need to strive for money and not happiness?” he asks, before going on about his fascination for yoga, meditation and his fight against the “repressive society” that we live in. His words would make us believe that we live in a thinly veiled fascist society, where our voices are silenced, “Do you genuinely believe that free speech is a universally accepted right in India?” he questions, adding his grievances against the government in a country where he believes people’s freedoms have slowly been whittled down. A big fan of indie music festivals, he does not quite refer to himself as a ‘hippie’ but understands the neo-hippie references made about him, given his choice of lifestyle.
To many, being hippie is nothing but a fad that has now found its way in the fashion scene in the world. A fashion student, Shilpa Panjabi, explains that the hipster culture, as she calls it, “Has always inspired designers and hit the masses in a commercially successful way.” However, she also admits that it has somewhat contaminated mainstream fashion with its faux non-prescription eyeglasses and much-too skinny jeans for men that she feels “are now unfortunately a prerequisite in this new-age hipster garb.” A fashion bandwagon that she says many neo-hippies, who are not-quite-hippie-yet, have now jumped onto.
Be it for non-conformist reasons or because of fashion’s new wrinkle, the 1960s-reminiscent movement seems like it is here to stay for long.