Tie dye history cannot be separated from the counterculture movements in the American 60s and 70s. This period categorized itself as a counter to the 1950s, the strict social guidelines imposed by the period, and essentially everything their parents valued. The “hippies,” as they’re called, were hip for change.
Tie dye (or tie-dye) became their symbol, a physical version of the chaos, freedom, and vibrancy that they hoped to encourage in their lifestyle. However, it dates back much further! Today, tie-dye remains a reminder of that era and a lasting symbol for peace and anti-materialism. However, it doesn’t hold quite the same cultural impact that it did in its heyday. Read on to learn the history of tie-dye and what motivated its creation.
Tie Dye History: Rejecting the Past
Tie-dye history in this country begins with WWII. Unlike many inventions from necessity, tie-dye has been a purely cultural invention.
The 1950s was a period of strict guidelines. Those who fought the war had become parents without “really” knowing how in a lot of cases. They fought Germany as teenagers and came back to become fathers.
They created a version of their parents’ rules that were even more strict. The 1950s personified strict social norms, enforced family values, and harsh discipline. While this created feelings of prosperity and normalcy for many, for many others, that peace was an illusion. The children of those parents came of age in the 1960s prepared to forge their own path.
They associated the 1950s and their parents’ upbringing with their parents’ wars, with violence, conformity, and materialism. These represent the main factors that the hippie or counterculture movement sought to defy. They did so in their literature but also in their lifestyle choices.
But where does tie-dye come in?
Creation of Tie-Dye: Freedom in the Abstract
Tie-dye itself actually dates back literally thousands of years to ancient India (4000 B.C., to be precise). Textiles could be dyed in intricate random patterns by “plucking” the fabric before dying. In that context, tie-dye encouraged ritual ceremonies like wakes and marriages. It therefore symbolized luxury through its random, almost natural beauty.
Much later, Japanese Shibori used the technique in the 700s for more decorative purposes. This is the cornerstone of the hippie’s appropriation of it in the 1960s. But why the hippie movement?
The randomness of tie-dye became symbolic of the movement’s pleas for individuality. The materials were so readily available that anyone could participate, rejecting the uniformity of the past with their own unique ideas of love and peace. Woodstock and the rock movement connected to tie-dye and made its popularity soar.
Tie dye history involves an invention from early history appropriated for a modern social movement. Now, it’s as common to see tie-dye in the classroom as in the streets.
The random, unique beauty of each design represents the freedom of the movement as well as the creativity of the future. The bright colors bring to mind the generation that wanted to do anything to avoid their parents’ values. As a result, even today, people use tie-dye to reject the past, fight the system, and look toward a more individualistic future.