Illustration of a character wearing glasses with an ice block on its head and yellow text on a blue background
Beatniks represented a mainstream depiction of the Beat Generation. Herb Caen, a columnist at San Francisco Chronicle created the term “Beatnik” in April 1958, to satirize the Beat Generation in association with Sputnik, the Russian satellite. Fashion trends emerged of black turtlenecks, leggings, straight cigarette pants, dark glasses, goatees, berets, horizontal striped shirts, and loose sweaters. In mass media, silly, chill, and indifferent characters represented beatniks, who typically frequented coffee shops, played the bongos, and used drugs. Beatnik lingo influenced American popular culture, with beatnik men and women referred to as cats and chicks. Words such as “cool”, “like”, “crazy”, “dig”, and “rad” entered everyday American vocabulary. This trend lasted until the early 1960s.
However, in reality, the Beat Generation was a literary movement rejecting capitalism, materialism, and conformity to the status quo which featured writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1940s-1950s. The referred to themselves as Beats, meaning “weary” and “beatific”. They worked on their craft, and explored spirituality by experimenting with drugs, jazz, sensuality, and Eastern religions. Beats detested the beatnik fad. This movement influenced hippies and other alternative cultures.
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