‘Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary’ by Sarah Leigh

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In an effort to expand and diversify our content we have asked Sarah Leigh, managing editor of trend forecasting site Mpdclick.com and author of Sarah Leigh’s Style Files to contribute a monthly article to our blog. Here is the first, a look at the 40th anniversary of seminal rock festival Woodstock and the numerous styles it spawned.

There’s something about the hippy movement of the 1960’s that makes me think they were on to something…and arguably you can, and many have compared the subculture’s heyday as similar to the time we now face.

For example, in 2009 there are a record number of communes and shared living arrangements popping up across the world –not places for oddball ‘free love’ types, but homes for like-minded creatives, seeking an alternative to the humdrums of reality. Yes, this, amongst other things, is a direct result of the economic downturn and recent political discord, but this mirrors the ethos of the 1960’s hippy whom occupied communes, promoted a bohemian care-free way of life and made music acts and festivals as infamous as we consider the likes of Woodstock are today.

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Hippies stemmed from the Beat Generation of the 1950’s (pioneered by the likes of American writers including Allen Ginsberg), who sought a romantic desire for a spontaneous, independent existence following the strong intellectual undercurrent that swept the postwar era. The 1950’s were a time of readjusting to a post violent and economically unstable environment, just as 2009 sees wars continue in the Middle East and the global recession continue to blight society. As the 1960’s began, and hippy movements and collectives popped up across the globe, inspired by the values of the Beat Generation, off they went with their anti-war protests and proclamation of a ‘new dawn’.

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Hippies turned to their alternative arts of street theatre, and synonymous music genres as a way of expressing their feelings and their protests. Hippies opposed political and social convention, choosing a gentle ideology that favored peace, love and personal freedom. 2009 has also seen the number of protests rise, most notably in a calm and orderly fashion, as documented in Welcome To The Fold’s September post Protest Chic, objecting against anything from war, to lack of money, to unemployment to climate change.

1969 saw the zenith of hippy culture; Woodstock. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Woodstock was one of the ’50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll’.

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August 2009 saw the 40th anniversary of the now infamous music and art festival. The 1969 event and subsequent documentary movie cemented its place in history with bands like Grateful Dead and singers Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix playing to the 500,000 strong crowd at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in White Lake, Sullivan County. The documentary movie, re-released on DVD this year captured the hedonistic weekend in all its glory, later receiving the Academy Award for Feature Documentary.

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Over the years many have been inspired by the bohemian attitude and aesthetic of Woodstock, while many films and songs reference it, most recently director Ang Lee re-told the story featuring critically acclaimed young actors Demetri Martin and Emile Hirsch in ‘Taking Woodstock’. The comedy-drama is based on the memoir Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte. Cue a barrage of 1960’s hippy get-up on the big screen.

Given the frequency with which hippie looks are richly revered and regularly revived, Woodstock’s anniversary spawned yet another resurgence. Spring/summer 2009 enjoyed bohemian headbands, floral maxi dresses, denim waistcoats and high-waisted denim flares.

The remarkable era looks set to drift well in to autumn/winter 09/10’s mindset; fashion power house Topshop’s latest trend ‘Marianne’ boasts “the fashion zeitgeist of the late 60s with glamorously bohemian pieces”, not to mention “rock-royalty shades…tarnished sequins…textured Mongolian gilets…and platform thigh boots [to] finish off the free loving rock-chic look”

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Earlier on Style Files I documented the rise in Beatnik styling, using the film Almost Famous as inspiration for the look.

It’s not unusual for such an iconic event to influence fashion time and time again, but my question is will it ever stop? The bottom line is hippy and Beatnik infused trends are fail-safe and entirely commercial, with a shed load of differing looks to explore. Don’t give up on ‘boho’, if the economy and political landscape have anything to do with it, it’s a safe bet for at least another summer.

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