From Flappers to Hipsters

100 years of mesmerizing, terrifying, cringe-inducing youth icons.


If youth is wasted on the young (and it is!), it's also a constant source of desire and anxiety in American society.

There's virtually no social panic or cultural love affair like the ones about the kids these days, whether it's fear of fawning over flappers; hating on or hailing hippies; or freaking out or rhapsodizing over ravers. Millennials and even-younger kids are dismissed as a narcissistic "Generation Selfie" that is dangerously self-obsessed. At least when they are not being praised as independent and individualistic.

Here's a quick tour of a century's worth of mesmerizing, terrifying, cringe-inducing youth icons. The list is incomplete, so please add in the comments section your favorite youth icons that got the cold shoulder.

Mental Floss

Flappers (1920s). Flappers were young women with short hair, boyish figures, and a devil-may-care attitude toward social etiquette and conventional gender roles. They were supposed to be sexually liberated too. The first use of the term comes from a 1920 movie starring Olive Thomas, who died in one of Hollywood's first big press scandals. Popularized by writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, flappers were also considered dangerous dimwits. As Wikipedia notes, "The secretary of labor denounced the 'flippancy of the cigarette smoking, cocktail-drinking flapper.' A Harvard psychologist reported that flappers had 'the lowest degree of intelligence' and constituted 'a hopeless problem for educators.'"

Next: Zoot-Suit Brutes…

Mercury News

Zoot Suiters (1940s). pParticularly popular with young Italian-American, black, and Chicano young men in the 1940s, Zoot Suits were exaggerated versions of male fashon of the times.

Few things intrigue and piss off people more than unique styles of dress (and hair, in the case slicked back with everything from Vaseline to axle grease) and zoot suiters quickly became identified with criminality and rowdy behavior along with marginal ethnic identities. Malcolm X favored the fashion as a youngster and described it thus: "a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell."

The extravagance of the outfit was taken as a direct assault on war-time austerity in America during World War II. That—and a huge amount of good old-fashioned anti-Mexican sentiment in Southern California—led to the notorious Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, when mostly white servicemen stationed in and around Los Angeles waded into mostly Hispanic neighborhoods in East Los Angeles and stripped and beat zoot suiters and burned their clothes.

Next: Beatniks….


Beatniks (1950s). The phrase beatnik was coined by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen as a way of mocking a youth subculture that had been bubbling up for a decade-plus but only fully came into view with the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road in 1957. Wrote Caen a year later:

Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.'s beat generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!)," read an item in Caen's April 2 column, "hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles' free booze. They're only beat, y'know, when it comes to work.

An predominantly urban phenomenon, the Beats helped to mainstream sex and drugs, though they tended to prefer jazz to rock and roll. As with many youth subcultures, the leading spokesmen (and yes, they were mostly if not exclusively men) were often older than the kids they inspired. Kerouac was pushing 37 when On the Road finally saw print and only had a decade of life left in him.

Next: Hippies!

Hippies (1960s). Also known as "flower children" and a million other (mostly) negative terms, hippies arguably were the most fully formed youth icons of the past century. They completely captured the public imagination of all generations, created a rich set of cultural artifacts (music, novels, art, movies, fashion, festivals, you name it) and fully realized all the hopes and fears of adults by threatening to, in the words of Timothy Leary, "turn on, tune in, and drop out."

Next: Punks…

Punks (1970s). If nothing else, the emergence of punk music and fashion in the 1970s was a testament to the never-ceasing ability of the younger generation to alienate older people. On one level, punk was simply an inversion or negation of everything that hippies stood for, with peace and love being replaced with anger and hate. On a more profound level (and a smaller scale, as punk never went mainstream in the way flower power did), punk was the conscious start of the do-it-yourself (DIY) sensibility that fully informs virtually every aspect of contemporary life. Feeling left out by or alienated from mainstream society, punks created their own clothing, music, and social groups.

Next: Young Republicans…

Young Republicans (1980s). If punks knew how to piss off gentle hippies, kids in the 1980s really knew how to shock their elders: They turned Republican behind the seemingly ancient Ronald Reagan. In the elections of 1984, 1988, and 1992, the youth vote actually identified with the GOP at a higher rate than the overall electorate.

The idea of boomers raising kids who would vote Republican was a running gag on the decade-defining sitcom Family Ties, in which Michael J. Fox (pictured) portrayed the Nixon-loving son of ex-hippies.

Next: Ravers…

Ravers (1990s). Throughout the 1990s, young people gathered in often-unauthorized locations while high on Ecstasy and other drugs to dance the night away at so-called raves. By combining music and drugs and huge crowds, ravers were in many ways a throwback to 60s' hippies, which no doubt was one of the reasons baby boomers were so freaked out by it all.

Fears of raves led ultimately to then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) pushing through the Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act (RAVE, get it?), which ended up becoming law in 2003 under a slightly-less trippy name.

Next: Hipsters…

Hipsters (2000s). If there is one defining youth identity of millennials (and there might not be, really), it's that of the hipster, defined by Time magazine in 2009 as:

Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They're the people who wear T-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you've never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don't care.

You can pick apart that definition—and just about any other one you can think of—but hipsters are the new hippies. At least for the time being.

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  1. You forgot the greasers in the 50s.

    1. Also the Goths from the 80s-90s. I liked the music but not the rest. I was more of the Young Republican culture. Actually, I ran with multiple groups including Goths, Punkers, Jocks, ROTC and Preppies.

      1. Sounds complicated. When I was in high school there were essentially 2 distinct groups: Shitkickers or, more disparagingly, goat ropers and people who were not shitkickers or goat ropers. This was semi-rural Texas in the early-to-mid 1970’s.

        There were sub-groups within the larger divisions but people tended to move rather freely across those sub-groups; likely because it was still a relatively small school at the time.

        One particularly distinctive sub-group were the guys who wore wigs to school because of the dress code restrictions on hair length. That was gone by my junior year but it was comedic while it was in effect.

        1. On the Gulf Coast of Texas we had the Goatropers like you and the Surfers as the overall divisions. The Surfers contained the subset of the wig wearing guys.

          It was like school administrators thought that a guy whose hair touched his collar was a distraction to learning but a guy wearing a cheap wig stuck on top of his head over a pile of hair wasn’t.

          1. That pretty much sums up the whole wig thing. Apparently because my hair was within specs I wasn’t getting high before class in the morning and at lunch and spending the day zoned out, safe from instruction and fascinated by the play of light in the hair of the chick sitting in front of me.

            Nope, not me.

        2. There were more groups. It was Southern California with over 2,000 students. The group dynamics were complex, but fortunately there was no tension between groups. Most students formed a mixed group of close friends with extended friends from their preferred groups, except the nerds. They disappeared when they could. I always imagined they were working on some evil plan.

      2. Goths and Alternatives (who listened to Echo, Joy Division etc.) of the 80s definitely should be included along with Greasers of the 50s.

        1. The Alternative music of the 80s was great (I remember listening to KROQ on a Walkman in the back of class), but it wasn’t as radical a culture as the Goths. Now I need to fire up my media player and browse me some 80s.

      3. Well werent you just the little peacekeeper.

    2. And bobby soxers from the 1940s.

      1. and Reasonoids from the 2000’s

        1. The Reasonoids are too small a group to be of any importance. They might warrant a sub-footnote under “libertarian splinter groups“, which falls under: “Libertariansfractured by design.” Who are in turn listed right after Anarchists, who are smaller in numbers, but more more unified in outlook.

    3. I was just going to type that…

  2. Libertarians rejoice! In victory for property rights, the Catholic Church recovers stolen property possessed by Satanic group.

    The Satanists had proposed to use consecrated Hosts in a ceremony in a public building. In a lawsuit, Catholic authorities said that “If the unauthorized individual has possession of a consecrated host, it must have been procured, either by that person or by another, by illicit means: by theft, fraud, wrongful taking, or another form of misappropriation.”

    The Satanists surrendered: “A lawyer for the Archdiocese confirmed that [Satanic leader Adam] Daniel’s attorney had surrendered the wafers to Church officials in the afternoon.”

    (from Vice news)

    Supporters of property rights everywhere rejoice!

    1. How do they know the wafers that were surrendered were the Catholically consecrated ones, and not black market wafers that have been consecrated to Satan? Epistemology is a bitch when it comes to unfalsifiable belief, ain’t it?

      “If the unauthorized individual has possession of a consecrated host, it must have been procured, either by that person or by another, by illicit means: by theft, fraud, wrongful taking, or another form of misappropriation.”

      Not true. Back when I was a eucharistic minister who took the Eucharist to a mental hospital, I discovered that one of the patients was not chewing the Eucharist, just keeping it in her mouth until I left, and she had a whole tabernacle’s worth hidden in her room. I gave her the wafers so there’s nothing the law can do.

      1. Sounds like “wrongful taking, or another form of misappropriation.”

        1. Sounds like you’re reaching hard enough to tip over.

        2. Is there any other food service in the world that has after-market rights over the food once it enters the recipient’s mouth? Special privileges for religious orgs makes baby Rothbard cry.

          1. What if the Oscar Meyer Weiner Corp gave away some free franks on condition that “these franks may not be sold or resold, gifted or re-gifted, except to someone willing to sing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song!”

            Would that be enforceable? If not, why not?

            People often lend out their property on conditions, or sell it on conditions concerning resale, etc. The greater includes the less – the right to sell or give away includes the right to sell or give away with conditions.

            Am I missing something, Rothbard Babies?

            1. Perhaps the Church is ickier than the Oscar Meyer people?

              1. I’ve been to a Catholic mass myself, even ate me a piece of Jesus, and I don’t remember having to sign any such contract as a condition of engaging in their ritual cannibalism.

                1. You don’t have to ask for someone’s signature before imposing conditions on using one’s own property. If there’s someone on your lawn, you can tell them to leave, even if they haven’t signed a contract.

                  The Church has extensive written guidelines about the conditions on which Catholics may receive Communion, eg, in the Canon Law.

                  As for non-Catholics, the U.S. bishops, at least, have issued written guidelines.


                  It’s not as if the Satanists studied these written statements and said, “well, there’s nothing there which stops us from taking these ‘wafers’ and doing what we want with them.” On the contrary, they know perfectly well that they’re *not* allowed, and that’s the fun part for them!

                  1. Canon Law governs the giver, not the receiver. If a priest gives out a wafer in violation of Canon it’s an issue for his Bishop.

                    1. First, I suppose you would agree that the greater power (don’t give your property to anyone) includes the less (put conditions on the use of the property you give out). So all that remains is quibbling over the *method* by which a property owner communicates restrictions on the use of the property he gives out.

                    2. Not without a contract. Without a contract I don’t agree with shit. The method is the point. Otherwise I’ve got a lawsuit against the bum down the street who I gave 5 bucks for food but went and bought a 40 with it.

                    3. Isn’t the act of receiving the goods or services an acknowledgement of, and agreement to, the contract if the contract is made known beforehand ?

                    4. Isn’t the act of receiving the goods or services an acknowledgement of, and agreement to, the contract if the contract is made known beforehand ?

                      Depends. Some contracts are inherently unenforceable by either common law or statute.

                  2. They should have let them eat them. As I recall they are supposed to burst into flame.

            2. Yes, but even assuming such an arbitrary condition is legally enforceable, it has to be communicated before the transaction. All I said to that woman was “The Body of Christ”. No end user license agreement was communicated.

              Even if there were enforceable conditions on the gift that were unfulfilled, that would constitute breach of contract, not theft, and third parties would not be required to return the item.

              If Anne gives Bob a lawnmower in return for Bob giving Anne a car six months later, but Bob gives Charlie the lawnmower and doesn’t give Anne the car he promised, Anne has no legal recourse to seize the lawnmower from Charlie; she can only take action against Bob for breach of contract.

              1. I think the catholic church has one of those “bite through” EULAs that are all the rage nowadays.

    2. They sell the unconsecrated Hosts in liquor stores in the Philippines. Up to the point where they’re blessed, they’re just a kind of cracker.

  3. “If youth is wasted on the young (and it is!)”

    Prescription strength medication is wasted on the elderly.

    1. I know. If I had the kind of shit available to Moldy-Americans, I’d be higher than Keith Richards in a heroin-powered moon rocket.

      1. “Do you want to cure the sniffles, or not feel your head?”

        Foxworthy, quoting his Gramma

  4. But don’t you see, each of these generation of yutes added to the decline of genteel civilization until now, when we are teetering on the brink of oblivion waiting for the millenials to give us that last little push. Old people have always been right.

  5. John porn:…..ape-768901

    1. Yea or Nay?

      1. The photo doesn’t seem to match the description so I can’t be sure.

      2. he awoke to find the 5′ 7″, 240-pound Gilman on top of him


        1. Typo. She looks 140.

          1. Yeah, the picture doesn’t show a 240lb woman. But it also looks like a facebook selfie. And as we all know, your selfie is chosen as the ‘peak you’, not the current you.

            1. Also worthy to note is that she is 31 weeks pregnant and two months sober.

  6. ‘Children are the future,that’s why we have to stop them now’,Homer Simpson

  7. In victory for property rights, the Catholic Church recovers stolen property possessed by Satanic group.

    I’m so relieved those crackers have been returned to their rightful owner. We’ll all sleep easier tonight.

    1. Who you callin’ a cracker???

    2. If I give you a review copy of my book, with the phrase “NOT FOR RESALE” displayed prominently, can you resell it?

      1. If you gave it to him he’s not reselling it.

        1. OK, then, sell it to him.

          1. There’s a video game company out there just waiting for your services.

            1. I’m not talking about enforceability, I’m discussing the principle.

            2. I’m not talking about enforceability, I’m discussing the principle.

              1. The courts won’t enforce it either. Random commands written on a sold object are not binding contracts.

                If a cereal box says “NOT TO BE EATEN WITH MILK” on it, and I pour milk all over the cereal before eating it, can the cereal manufacturer sue me?

                1. Eternity is a long time to be wrong.

  8. Everyone who originally read that as “Fappers” please raise your hand.

  9. An predominantly

    Please explain.

  10. my neighbor’s step-aunt makes $86 an hour on the laptop . She has been unemployed for six months but last month her check was $19903 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read the full info here….


  11. “Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay.”

    Is this really an example of hipster-ism or just the normal reaction of healthy, decent men and women?

    1. Normal people may disagree with your taste in music. It takes somebody deep into self-obsession to sneer at you for it. Since most young people are still growing out of the self-obsession of adolescence (assuming they ever will) the ones who are sneering are either youths, or people who imagine they they are mistaken for youths.

      1. A lot of people sneer at me for my taste in movies.

        1. I am perpetually amazed at the number of movies released every month that I would pay money to not have to see. That said, I am well aware that my list of such movies and yours are likely to be very different, and I love that that can be so.

          And I think that the video revolution has proven two things beyond a shadow of a doubt

          1) Film Snobs who carried on about the kind of films you could only see if you had taken a college course in film were largely full of it.

          2) Whatever Desi Arnaz was being payed to put up with that sniveling redhead, it wasn’t enough.

          1. I wouldn’t have minded some sack time with her when she was in her prime.

          2. *Whatever Desi Arnaz was being payed to put up with that sniveling redhead, it wasn’t enough.*

            LOL. Lucy was paying all the bills in that relationship. Desi was just a pimp.

      2. Are you saying you wouldn’t sneer or make fun of someone who spent several minutes extolling the virtues of say, Celine Dion?

  12. And back in the day scandal reigned as feckless young men and women actually embraced each other dancing the Waltz!

  13. Ted hasn’t chimed in yet on the Flappers?

    1. You should see Joan Crawford’s early silents, before she became the Mommie Dearest parody

    1. The Outsiders or GTFO.

      1. Yes! Forgot that movie.

        1. Wasn’t The Outsiders just A Separate Peace for a new genertion?

  14. I could have sworn Ravers were around in the late 80s and early 90s which makes them Gen X as well. I went to a few Raves back then.

    1. Or was it early to mid 90s? I forget. I’m old.

      1. Ravers were definitely a thing by the early 90s.

      2. With that kind of memory we are convinced that you actually attended raves.

        1. Didn’t take drugs though.

    2. Pacifiers and glowsticks. Not everyone’s cup of pee.

  15. I don’t care what these yutes call themselves. STAY OFF MY LAWN. And pull your pants up dag nabbit.

  16. At what point in US history did teens stop being “adults” and start being something else.

      1. I’d date it at least to the federal law making transportation funding dependent upon having a 21-year-old drinking age, which passed in the mid-80s.

  17. My best friend’s Uncle makes $76 /hour writing H&R features on the internet . He was been out of a job for 8 months but last month his pay check was $19582 just phoning in articles on Millenials and hipsters. Navigate to this site……..o-hipsters

    1. “was been…” Man, my parody skills suck.

      1. No, no that adds authenticity.

    2. $19582 in counterfeit Monopoly currency?

  18. At least when they are not being praised as independent and individualistic.

    Is the writer on some new reality annihilating drug or just blind to the real world?

    Today’s youth are absolute entitlement junkies who could only appear remotely “individualistic” in worlds devoid of lock-step political correctness. Plant Earth may have such worlds somewhere, but certainly not in the Americas or Europe.

    1. I once dated a divorced woman with three children who lived with her wealthy parents.

      She took great pride in crowing to other people how “independent” she was.

      Once the pussy was no longer new I pointed out to her the difference between being independent and stubborn.

      She was stubborn but not the least bit independent.

  19. Nothing on metalheads? It’s a subculture that’s persisted since the late 70s, is still vibrant, and far more musically diverse than punk. Metalheads were the subject of a big “sex/drugs/satan worship/violence” public health crisis in the 80’s, which like most crises of it’s type was almost entirely based in sensationalized fears.

    Come on, The Jacket. I expect better from you.

  20. “Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay.”

    ‘Cop’? Really, ‘cop’?

    Just how ‘down with The Kids’ are you, Nick? Get a mess of groovy rap sessions going in your crib?

  21. If one point is that all these various expressions of counter culture have or had the potential to metastasize and take over the host, bringing dissolution, well, that hasn’t happened, yet. And, I don’t think it’s going to anytime soon. Jesse James and his gang were counter culture heros back in the day.

    My nonconformist tribes of choice were Surf Nazis and Skate Rats. They’re still around, crossing several generational groupings now. We had/have our own dialect, much of which made it into mainstream colloquial speech: gnarly, tubular, crankin, rippin, shredding, to name a few. There was tribal dress, visual art depictions, movies (thank you Bud Browne) , music (mostly borrowed from the Beach Boys), mode of transportation (skateboard, duh) and culinary expressions, which essentially came down to whatever food stuff would fit into a burrito. We moved in pods from one hot spot to another, taking temporary control of the surroundings, dropping in, ruling our domain and moving on. There was as much or more drug consumption as any of the groups acknowledged here. There was a hierarchy, locals verses 909ers and territorial disputes to go with it, none of which ever made headlines.

    As the saying of my era goes, “if you remember the 80s, you didn’t live them.”

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  23. Left out the Cholo; seems like an evolution of the Zoot Suits of the 40s….

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