What did the beatniks wear? Whether you're looking for a costume or are just curious about the artistic nonconformist movement of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and early 1960s, the beatnik stereotype has specific clothing items as well as other features that identified this counterculture. The beatnik movement focused primarily on self-improvement through anti-materialism.
Clothing for Men
The beatnik look for men primarily reflected the young artist's look of France, with tight cotton shirts, berets and scarves. Turtlenecks or horizontal striped shirts emerged as a stereotypical piece of clothing for male beatniks. Plain sweaters with no design were also a classic beatnik look. Beatnik men generally favored all black clothing, including shoes. Big, dark sunglasses were often a key item in a male beatnik's wardrobe.
Clothing for Women
For beatnik women, the look went counterculture to the era's frilly skirts and fancy hair seen in the mainstream culture. Black was a favored color for women, especially black Capri pants, stirrup slacks or pencil skirts. Women's tops might be sweatshirts, turtlenecks, knit shirts, thin sweaters with cowl necks or black leotards. Berets and scarves were must-have accessories for female beatniks. Jewelry was minimalistic, often reflecting Eastern religious symbols.
Men's hairstyles for the beatnik generation included a classic pointed goatee. Growing facial hair made a direct statement against the era's preference for clean-shaved men. Contrasting to the buzz cut common on men, beatnik men grew their hair out longer in more of a bowl cut. The girls wore long, straight and unadorned hairstyles, as they considered going to salons as materialistic. It wasn't uncommon for both women and men to dye their hair black.
Beatnik Look in Movies and TV
The beatnik clothing was firmly cemented into the mainstream media by several movies and television shows. Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face demonstrated the all-black, Parisian-inspired beatnik look in 1956. A beatnik connection to bongos and coffee shops full of poetry made an appearance in the 1958 movie High School Confidential. The Rebel Set (1959) and Beat Girl (1960) also presented plots centered around anti-establishment beatniks.