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History of Hippie Backpack

evolution of hippie bags

Narayan Shrestha |

Traveling in the 1960s and 70s with just a bag became a famous representation of counterculture values embraced by hippies around the globe. 

What began as basic fabric pouches transformed into colorful forms of artistic self-expression proudly taken to wherever wanderlust called. 

As free-spirited travelers spread messages of peace, these hippie bags (aka boho bags) also contributed to global awareness campaigns promoting social justice. Their lasting influence still motivates imaginative individuals today.

Bell Bottom Backpacks

Early hippies participated in protest marches advocating for civil rights and an end to the Vietnam War, during a turbulent period in American politics. They used lightweight cotton and linens adorned with peace signs or psychedelic patterns to create over-the-shoulder saddle bags, allowing them to carry banners or musical instruments hands-free between rallies. 

As they embarked on extended travels with minimal possessions, German-imported school backpacks became popular. These "bedroll backpacks" featured roomy compartments and adjustable straps that distributed weight evenly, enabling travelers to transport blankets, books, and supplies across highways. 

To recognize fellow journeyers amid varying reactions from others, colorful embroidered patches were added to the packs like vibrant banners marking campsites along their way.

Beads and Bells

In the Sixties and Seventies, as more travelers roamed Europe and Asia in search of authentic experiences off the beaten path, hippie bags became more elaborate. They were adorned with affordable beads, bells, and mirrors hand-sewn along the edges to add movement with each step. 

The intricate woven and stitched designs often held local cultural significance, paying homage to various encountered philosophies.

Stores in India offered textiles in stunning hues and patterns that inspired further artistic expression. Patchworks transformed into vibrant rainbow tapestries embracing avant-garde self-expression boldly. 

With interior pockets for organization and outer pouches for saving space while keeping small treasures close by, these pouches could be paired with belts or sashes to transform hip packs into bold boho bohemian fashion statements.

Messenger Bags Emerge

By the end of the decade, as people settled into communities and started families, there was a noticeable shift in the way hippie fashion was adopted. 

Messenger bags became a popular choice for parents, worn across the chest like postmen's sacks to allow them to securely hold their children with one arm. The bags also came to be known as hippie crossbody bags because of how they were worn.

These bags were typically made of waxed cotton or leather and featured multiple pockets and straps, making them versatile for carrying schoolbooks, tools, or groceries. 

Their handcrafted details continued to reflect artisanal craftsmanship through decorated bezels, charms and appliques that symbolized causes close to people's hearts.

Today's Legacy

Boho bags are rooted in Bohemian traditions, and closely associated with the hippie culture for their free-spirited and laid-back ethos, which is reflected in the fashion they inspire. This style can be observed in loose and comfortable jackets, scarves, clothing, and bags that carry a relaxed appeal.

Despite their name, boho bags complement hippie ensembles seamlessly due to their subtle similarities. These chic accessories are particularly well-suited for women and enhance leisurely strolls and outings. 

Symbolizing a carefree attitude, boho bags pair perfectly with flowing and artistic attire such as baggy pants, floral garments, and fringe tops. While some may be as small as purses or hippie tote bags, hence not ideal for extended travel, you would still find them useful on various occasions where compactness is preferred.


Fashion trends may change, but the timeless simplicity and creativity inherent in hippie bag designs persist. Today's brands are bringing back popular bell-bottom packs and tie-dye pouches using modern materials. 

Vintage stores around the world offer a plethora of well-loved items steeped in memories. Whether on urban streets, college campuses, or at music festivals, vibrant totes, clutches, and waistpacks continue to represent self-expression and artistic flair. 

These bags promote a sense of community and evoke a spirit of adventure even in settled surroundings. Hippie bags always symbolize endless possibilities for fresh artistic narratives on the horizon.

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