UELook: the origin and return of cheap and colourful tie-dye

This week we are going to be looking at the clothes people are wearing and looking at the contexts and meanings they have.

One massive trend that is due to come back into fashion this summer is the use of tie-dye. As we know tie-dye is often associated with the 1960s hippies and such like, but where did it come from and where does it stand in today’s world?

Tie-dye came from the Japanese technique of Shibori, the use of folding cloth and dye to create patterns. Shibori was created in around the 8th century, so this technique has been around longer than people may realise. There is also the technique of batik which came about in roughly the 4th century. Batik is the use of dye and wax, the wax is used to block off the dye so some places in the fabric remain undyed. Batik is less like the tie-dye we see today, however, it does remain to have cultural relevance within the use of dying throughout the world, and is still practised widely today.

The use of tie-dye was popularised by American youth protesting the Vietnam War. The 60s marked the true start of youth culture, teenagers started to have a voice and this was how they chose to show it. Tie-dye was a cheap and effective way to display their thoughts for love and peace. This is similar to many past youth subcultures, where the trends they took part in involved little money, like the punk subculture.

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