What Perfumes Did Hippies Wear?

  • By: Nathan Cherry
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Ah, hippies. 

These free-spirited, eccentrically dressed youngsters (now in their 70s), were once infamous for their powerful odor. 

But what perfumes did the hippies wear? And if one were inclined to smell like a hippie in this day and age, how would one go about it?

Hippies were more famous for their lack of bathing than their perfumes. However, hippies were known to wear patchouli, musk, sandalwood, and strawberry oils. They often burned incense as well, which contributed to their particular aroma and helped to mask the smell of marijuana. 

Let’s take a closer look at hippies and their notorious odiferousness. 

Who Were the Hippies? 

If you’re reading this article, you very likely already know who the hippies were. But if you’re out of the loop, never fear – I’m about to give you a crash course in counterculture. 

The hippies were members of a countercultural youth movement of the 1960s. Protesting against the stifling conservative cultural mores of 1950s post-war America, the hippies advocated for free love, non-violence, natural living, and spiritual exploration, and rejected societal conformity, corporatism, and authority. 

Robert Altman/Getty Images

Instead of the clean shaven, crew cut, suit and tie look of the 50s, hippies let their hair and beards grow long, and wore new, far more casual styles, such as tie-dye shirts, moccasins, bell-bottom jeans, and clothing borrowed from non-Western cultures, like dashikis and Native American jewelry and headbands. 

The “Hippie Stink” 

Part and parcel of the hippie lifestyle was a rejection of standard hygiene practices. 

Hippies were known to abscond from bathing, or at least from bathing as frequently as “polite” society demanded, and from using deodorant, which was thought to contain noxious chemicals, support capitalism and corporate interests, and cover up one’s natural aroma. 

In addition, hippies smoked copious amounts of cannabis, which leaves behind a very particular scent on hair and clothes (not that I would know anything about that, of course). At the time, smoking or consuming cannabis was illegal in all fifty states. 

To mask the smell of marijuana, hippies often burned various varieties of incense, such as Nag Champa, a traditional Indian incense, or dragon’s blood.

Hippie ‘Fumes

To further mask the smell of cannabis smoke and BO, hippies wore a variety of perfume oils. 

For the most part, hippies didn’t wear conventional perfumes like, say, Chanel’s No. 5 or Estée Lauder’s Youth-Dew. Those were the purview of their straight-laced parents, and totally not groovy. 

Hippies were known to favor perfume or essential oils, usually consisting of a single ingredient. These oils were considered to be more natural than perfumes, which were, then as now, laden with aroma chemicals. Besides, according to the hippie ethos, buying perfume oils from India was a lot better than supporting big corporate fashion conglomerates. 

The most notable hippie smell was, of course, patchouli oil. 

Patchouli is a fragrant herb native to South and Southeast Asia which is known for its rich, earthy, and rather pungent smell. 

Patchouli in its natural state.

For thousands of years, patchouli has been used for scenting. During the heyday of the Silk Roads, silks were impregnated with patchouli oil to preserve them on long journeys across steppe, desert, and mountain. It’s also a key component of incenses used across Asia, and has been traditionally used in the production of attars, perfume oils produced in the Middle East and South Asia. 

It has also long been considered an aphrodisiac. 

To this day, patchouli plays an important role in perfumery as a base note and fixative. However, in most perfumes, patchouli is diluted to a significant extent, or well-blended with other ingredients. 

Hippies, on the other hand, used raw patchouli essential oil, which couldn’t be described as anything other than an acquired taste. I myself love it, but the polarizing scent of patchouli, combined with the must of unwashed bodies, the sweet smoke of Mary Jane, and old clothes infused with Nag Champa incense, gave hippies their well-deserved reputation as stinkers. 

Other, perhaps less piquant oils were used as well: strawberry oil, musk oil (which is funky in its own right), jasmine oil, sandalwood oil, oud oil, peach oil, cherry oil, and many more. 

As long as it was pure, raw, and far out, it was fit to grace that oh-so-funky hippie skin. 

5 Perfumes For the Modern Hippie 

Say you think that hippies are totally psychedelic and you want to channel that groovy hippie energy in this day and age. 

How should you go about it? 

Well, you could just not shower (please don’t), not wear deodorant (please don’t), not wash your clothes (please don’t), smoke copious bowls of the devil’s lettuce (responsibly and legally, if you so choose), hotbox your house with Nag Champa, and douse yourself in patchouli essential oil. That would give you a pretty authentic hippie shtank. 

But if you want to bring a little bit of that free spirited, free lovin’, psychedelic vibe into your day-to-day without rebelling against socially accepted hygiene standards? 

Well align your chakras, say your namastes, shuffle your tarot cards, light up the ganja pipe (if you are legally allowed to do so) and prepare your serpent of Kundalini for awakening, because I’ve got five classy hippie ‘fumes that will make you wanna party like it’s 1969. 

5. Lush Karma

Key notes: patchouli, orange, pine, lemongrass 

The Lush cosmetics brand is known for its vibey modern hippie/hipster thing, and its perfumes are no exception. Karma (which also has similarly scented soaps, body butters, and shower gels) definitely has that funky hippie patchouli-and-incense soul, but it’s freshened up with boatloads of citruses and aromatics.

Herbal, spicy, orangey, warm, and fresh, Karma is the perfect scent for the latter-day hippie looking for a bit of retro. 

4. Room 1015 Sweet Leaf

Key notes: cannabis, eucalyptus, grapefruit, patchouli

No, the “sweet leaf” in question is not mint. This is a surprisingly wearable (not to work) cannabis fragrance – fresh, woodsy, herbal, and airy, the cannabis is definitely present in the composition, but it never gets too skunky, and the whole thing is supported by a green, earthy foundation of patchouli, eucalyptus, and cashmeran. A classy cannabis fragrance for the modern hippie. 

3. Jovoy Paris Psychédélique

Key notes: patchouli, amber, vanilla, labdanum

Prepare yourself for the Holy Grail of patchouli: Jovoy Paris’ Psychédélique is a masterclass in non-headshop patchouli. Who knew that patchouli could smell so delicious, so lovely, so grand? More chocolate cake than dirty hippie, Psychédélique is a warm, comfy, and cozy perfume that smooths away the rough edges and brings out all of the best parts of patchouli. Could convert even the most vehement patchouli haters. 

You can get your Jovoy Paris Psychedelique perfume here (Amazon).

2. Maison Martin Margiela Music Festival

Key notes: cannabis, patchouli, incense, tobacco 

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a music festival: unwashed bodies, stale cigarettes, weed, mud, vomit, hot dogs, and the faint (or not-so-faint) perfume of porta potties basking in the sun. Mercifully, Maison Martin Margiela’s Music Festival smells nothing like that – more like the ideal music festival. The cannabis shtank fades fairly quickly, leaving you with a smooth, smoky, green, and comforting blend of incense, tobacco, leather, violet leaves, and woods. 

You can get your Maison Martin Margiela Music Festival perfume here (Amazon).

1. Diptyque Tempo

Key notes: patchouli, maté, violet leaves, clary sage

Another lovely patchouli offering directly inspired by the hippie movement comes from French perfume house Diptyque in the form of Tempo. Rich, earthy patchouli is buttressed with herbal maté tea and aromatic clary sage; but instead of going warm, sweet, and heavy, like other patchouli perfumes, Tempo gets an ozonic twist from watery violet leaves and bergamot, making this a cooling, clean, and fresh patchouli fragrance that is just as much at home on a summer’s day as it is in autumn or winter. The perfect fragrance for the classy hippie. 

You can get your Diptyque Tempo perfume here (Amazon).

The Final Word

So, if you want to replicate the smells of the hippies, you know now exactly what you need to do. 

  1. Don’t shower. 
  2. Don’t wash your clothes. 
  3. Don’t wear deodorant. 
  4. Indulge in some of the devil’s oregano. 
  5. Fumigate your home with Indian incense. 

And finally, apply a few choice perfume oils. 

Hippies favored patchouli essential oils, both for the smell and for its ability to cover up the smell of marijuana. Hippies also used strawberry, musk, sandalwood, peach, jasmine, or incense oils, in addition to regularly burning incense. 

Now that you’ve got the knowhow, hop in your Volkswagen, throw on your peace necklace, and mosey on down to your local head shop to get your hippie on.