Bookshelf: Native Funk & Flash by Alexandra Jacopetti (1974)

The 1960s and early ’70s were a time of liberation in the United States, not only politically and sexually, but also musically, artistically, and sartorially. People from all walks of life were turning on, tuning in, and dropping out from their “regular” lives and congregating around the country — especially in San Francisco’s Bay Area.

Alexandra Jacopetti’s 1974 book “Native Funk & Flash: An Emerging Folk Art” is a collection of photos highlighting people who manifested some of these radical ideals in and by the clothing they created for themselves. Personal style has long been an art form, but here, clothing is used as a rejection of mainstream aesthetics and values, and acts as a celebration of the handmade, hand-adorned, and hand chosen. These custom pieces both extended the life of the item and also emblazoned the wearer with messages of peace, love, psychedelics, spirituality, and an overwhelming sense of artistic self. It was clothing but also folk art in the purest sense.

Jacopetti notes in the forward to the book, “Many of us have hungered for a cultural identity strong enough to produce our own versions of the native costumes of Afghanistan or Guatemala, for a community life rich enough for us to need our own totems comparable to African or Native American masks and ritual objects. The native funk and flash in this book tell us something of that hunger and what we are doing to fill it, as well as something of the meaning of those artifacts from other places and times.”

(All photographs by Jerry Wainwright)