Hippie vs. Hipster: What’s the Difference?

In popular culture, the terms “hippie” and “hipster” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two distinct subcultures with their own unique histories, values, and aesthetics.

Despite some overlapping traits, there are pronounced differences between the two. Let’s dive into what sets them apart.


Origin and History

  • Emerged in the 1960s: The hippie movement originated in the United States during the 1960s, particularly in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.
  • Rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s: The movement was a reaction against the perceived materialism, repressiveness, and shallowness of the mainstream society.
  • Influenced by eastern philosophies: Many hippies adopted values and practices from eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

Key Characteristics

  • Peace and Love: Central tenets of the hippie philosophy included peace, love, and harmony.
  • Anti-establishment: Hippies often opposed war (especially the Vietnam War), and advocated for civil rights and environmental causes.
  • Natural living: Many chose to live communally, often in rural areas or in communes, embracing a back-to-nature ethos.
In the Gourmet Ghetto (North Shattuck) neighborhood of Berkeley, California, someone has used sidewalk chalk to draw a rainbow on the sidewalk, a symbol both of the hippie movement and of LGBT rights, October 6, 2017.

Aesthetic and Fashion

  • Bohemian style: Flowy dresses, bell-bottom pants, and tie-dye shirts were staples.
  • Natural materials: Hemp, cotton, and other organic materials were preferred.
  • Symbols: Peace signs, flowers, and psychedelic patterns were common motifs.


A mock street sign reads 1967 Hippie, 2017 Hipster, comparing a historical and modern social group within the city, at the De Young art museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, July 11, 2017.

Origin and History

  • Emerged in the 2000s: The hipster subculture began in the early 2000s in urban areas like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.
  • Rooted in a love for all things vintage and indie: Hipsters embraced old-school aesthetics and had a penchant for indie music, film, and art.
  • Influenced by earlier subcultures: While distinct in its own right, the hipster culture drew inspiration from earlier movements like beatniks and, yes, hippies.
An example of hipster style

Key Characteristics

  • Irony and satire: Hipsters are often characterized by a sarcastic or ironic sense of humor.
  • Appreciation for the obscure: Whether it’s a little-known band or a forgotten fashion trend, hipsters often seek out the unique and underrated.
  • DIY ethic: Many hipsters engage in DIY projects, from brewing their own beer to crafting their own clothing.

Aesthetic and Fashion

  • Retro-inspired looks: Vintage clothing, thick-rimmed glasses, and old-school hairstyles are common.
  • Artisanal and handcrafted: Whether it’s food, clothing, or home goods, there’s a preference for the handmade.
  • Symbols: Mustaches, tattoos with old-school designs, and fixed-gear bicycles are often associated with the hipster aesthetic.

Comparison at a Glance

Era of Origin1960s2000s
Key ValuesPeace, love, anti-establishmentIrony, DIY, appreciation for the obscure
FashionBohemian, natural materialsRetro, artisanal
SymbolsPeace signs, flowersMustaches, tattoos


While both hippies and hipsters have made significant cultural impacts in their respective eras, they stem from different historical contexts and embrace distinct values and aesthetics. It’s essential to understand these nuances to appreciate the richness and diversity of subcultures throughout history. Whether you resonate more with the peace-loving hippie or the irony-embracing hipster, both groups offer unique perspectives and styles that continue to influence the world around us.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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