66 Candid Images That Capture What Life Was Like In The ’60s

Published November 3, 2018
Updated November 23, 2022

Between the incense and the bell-bottom pants, the drugs and the flowers in their hair, the youth of the 1960s had a vision for the world — and you'll be surprised to see just how little has changed.

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Freedom, peace, and love were the keywords of the 1960s. Whether they pertained to the shackles of war, human rights, or simply to individuality, we may consider now the styles in these vintage 60s photos to be outdated, but the ideals are still as strong as ever.

We seem to equate the fierce idealism of the decade to the young counterculture of students and hippies. However, it also seemed like everyone was striving to make America better — they just couldn't agree on what "better" meant. Sound familiar?

The Style

From Jacqueline Kennedy's elegant refinement to the anti-fashion of the hippie set, the decade encapsulated it all. Middle-aged women donned pencil skirts and low heels, the young women wore miniskirts and colorful tights. There were flower children with their sheer bohemian dresses and fringe. The men ranged from a dapper Don Draper-type to Jimi Hendrix. Anything went, as long as your individuality was front and center.

Everything was more pronounced in the mainstream fashion world in the mid to late 60s than they seemed to be before. Hair and collars got bigger and the fabrics became bolder. Garrish pop art was all the rage and cheap costume jewelry came in every color of the rainbow. Shoes ranged from vinyl knee-high heeled boots to ratty Birkenstocks.

Lifestyles saw drastic changes, too. The strict gender roles of the 50s were out as was monogamy. Women's rights got a huge boost, and with it, the sexual revolution was underway. Free love was the new rule and your passions were not something to repress but to embrace.

The Politics

While many of the progressives' initiatives on equality worked themselves into the mainstream, some people still defended older, regressive ideas. Though peace and harmony dominated the airwaves and appeared on protest signs, this decade also bred the leftist terrorism of the Weathermen.

President Kennedy called on Americans to explore this new frontier of freedom and change. Together, he said, we would fight "tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself."

Kennedy's assassination didn't dull the fires of change. Lyndon Johnson carried on the torch Kennedy lit. He helped lift people out of poverty and gave them health care. Getting a college education was not out of reach. It was easy for the revolutionaries to stay motivated with so many successes.

The counterculture of the 1960s became the stereotype of an entire generation — and its style is still replicated. The music is timeless; the slogans still evoke a sense of truth and freedom. Woodstock will forever be the highlight that comes to mind for many.

"Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more." – Erica Jong

Next, check out these cool vintage photos of your parents being cooler than you. Then read about the tragic ends of members of the 27 Club.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Kelly, Erin. "66 Candid Images That Capture What Life Was Like In The ’60s." AllThatsInteresting.com, November 3, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/vintage-60s-photos. Accessed May 27, 2024.