- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hippies in all their tie-dyed glory have become a brand name. Many brand names, in fact.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals there are 107 registered “hippie” trademarks that peddle products or services somehow strategically aligned with Day-Glo paint and paisley. There’s Hippie Crud, a Missouri-based manufacturer of granola bars. Hippie Nation sells clothing; Hippie Bling, jewelry. There’s Hippie Chick (a candle fragrance), Rich Hippie (more jewelry), Hippie Hash (frozen potatoes) and Hippie Cookies.

But wait. The agency also has granted 85 trademarks for “freaky,” 61 for “flower power,” 101 for “peace and love,” 23 for “purple haze” and 11 for “summer of love,” granted to San Francisco’s Summer of Love, Summeroflove.com and Summer of Love Expo, among others.

The granddaddy of them all is “Woodstock,” with 176 trademarks. While some sell coffee or clothing, several represent legal wrangles pitting owners of the New York farmland that hosted the 1969 music festival against rock festival producers, historic associations, merchandisers, communities, tourist offices and assorted entrepreneurs.

Earnest old granola freaks still want to preserve the area for “pilgrims,” while for others, well, let’s just say there’s gold in them thar hills.

But, hey, man. Like. Uh-h-h-h. What?

Let us drift back to, oh, 1967. Make it August. In the name of global marketing research, let us query the very hippies who developed this instantly recognizable international brand.

Look, there are some genuine hippies over there. See? They’re wearing woven apple-seed necklaces, amethyst amulets, water buffalo sandals, 13-button Navy surplus bell-bottoms and bells. My gosh, they’re probably not wearing underwear. Put that in the creative analysis, quick.

“Sir, oh sir? Can you explain the genesis of your breakaway brand? Did it emerge from a focus group, or did you base its media trajectory on strict demographics and market studies?”

Uh-h-h-h. What?

The historic hippies of yore would have gazed at their interrogators with benign disinterest. There would have been some terrible dog named Tuba roaming about indecorously urinating on the grass and wearing a bandanna. Somebody might have had a crummy guitar but invariably could play “Eve of Destruction” because that tune has just three chords.

Some, but not all, had long hair. There usually was a girl with fabulous eye makeup or one holding a peacock feather/wilted flower/old doughnut. The girls had nicknames like Canary or Kat, though they were really Debbie or Linda. The group was, for the most part, convivial and made instant friendships over wilted flowers and old doughnuts. Most had dark underpinnings, more “All Along the Watchtower” than “The Rain, the Park and Other Things.”

But they were what they were, and they lived without much rhyme or reason, certainly no strategic thinking. Forty years later, this has distilled into a recognizable brand, with trademarks.

“Peace signs, tie-dyes, beatnik poetry, politics and music. The 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love is approaching and with it vivid reminders of how influential this counterculture movement was to American history. The hippie movement was more than cultural phenomena; it was a lifestyle,” proclaims the California-based Brooks Co.

The ad agency is helping Time/Life promote its new “Summer of Love: The Hits of 1967” boxed set.

“Hippies” recently debuted on the History Channel and “Summer of Love” on PBS — which surely signals that the Age of Aquarius is full of age all right, and geezers.

The hoity-toity sociologist would quickly interject, “Purists say the movement ended Oct. 6, 1967, with the so-called hippie funeral in Haight-Ashbury. Others contend it ceased to exist at Altamont.”

Yes, maybe. But in the Age of Nefarious, a new clothing collection is based on that failed, violent 1969 rock concert. Lover Clothing will debut its Altamont line for women this fall, featuring crocheted minidresses, knit hosiery and Indian boots that some little hippie chick — in theory, anyway — would have worn while waiting for Mick Jagger to emerge from a stage door.

But hey. It’s not a bad concept; the clothes are kind of cute, and the models look like they could be named Canary. It is testimony that the global megamarketing culture has stunning powers of observation for specific detail and nuance that can home in on the culture of one day: Dec. 6, 1969. Nothing is disposable anymore, and at least no one has forgotten the hippies.

“Yeah. We were cool for about 20 minutes,” notes one former long-haired freak, now vice president for a financial concern.

Hippies are not the sole source of branding. Now it’s the beach bums’ turn. The city of Huntington Beach, Calif., has trademarked the phrase Surf City USA and will license the name on wearables, home furnishings, gifts. The brand will be managed by Global Icons, the same marketing group that handles the affairs of the hillside sign over Hollywood. Uh-huh. That sign. It’s trademarked by the city of Los Angeles and has its own government-appointed trust, Web site and yes, agent.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and terrible dogs named Tuba for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at [email protected] washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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