The old saying about things being darkest before the dawn has probably never been more true than in the recent history of America’s “eggheads” and "longhairs."
The 1960s brought changes in American values that, in time, would put the kinds of people whose marginalization had been almost complete in the 1950s in arguably the best position they had ever enjoyed in this country. The changes involved a variety of social and political movements that eventually came to be lumped together under the umbrella term "The Movement," or described in somewhat more lifestyle-oriented terms as the Counterculture.
One of the first places the change became apparent was in young people’s music.
Early rock and roll had a distinctly thuggish quality about it. It was what hoods and greasers in black leather jackets with cigarettes dangling from their lips listened to, and it was made by people who came across as either hoods themselves, or wild-man hillbillies, or denizens of the dangerous netherworld of the ghetto.
In the 1960s, the surly tough guys were superseded by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles. These were slender young men with soft, high voices and hair so long it was often called girlish. Their songs were prized for their creativity, sensitivity and depth.
To be able to achieve not only acceptance, but outright adulation, for qualities such as subtle artistry and intellectual sophistication, represented a more abrupt change in American values than anyone who had lived through the 1950s could have dared imagine.
Moreover, this transformation was by no means limited to the world of music.
Political activism and protest also evolved into being cool and hip and “in”—and brought status to students who were only too aware of their longstanding previous social unacceptability. It ultimately became something of an inside joke among members of the New Left to taunt one another good-naturedly about being “leftist Commie pinko queers.”
Meanwhile, those who had previously occupied top rungs on the status ladder found their positions made suddenly precarious. Members of top athletic fraternities who had been accustomed to being described as “the gods on the hill” found that suddenly, a lot of girls just weren’t interested in them anymore. Even in more middle-of-the-road campus circles, a lot of the girls tended to think that if you played football well, that was nice—but if you played the oboe well, that was nice, too.