Mushrooms have reached new highs in popular culture. Sometimes classed as vegetables, but closer in DNA to animals than plants, the magic variety in particular has shifted from markers of hedonistic rave and psychedelic culture to an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle choice. But what has triggered shrooms’ psychedelic journey from hippy trippy to eco-trendy?
From Woodstock to the 90s rave scene, shrooms have been emblematic of hippy, trippy, youth culture. The first Woodstock in 1969 promised ‘’three days of peace and music”, taking place at a time of political unrest in the US. The festival triggered a cultural phenomena of love, generosity, and creativity that saw young people, hippies, and new age travellers come together in huge crowds, all nurtured by the mind-bending effects of the psychedelic substances, magic mushrooms and LSD that formed the fabric of the movement.
Always a fun guy, another high for the notorious mushroom came in the 90s where the rave scene was rampant within youth culture. Less hippy, more trippy, symbols and lingo surrounding mushrooms, acid, and LCD were plastered across neon posters to incite pure hedonistic revolution in the form of illegal raves in abandoned buildings and deserted fields. Mushrooms became synonymous with a riotous youth culture and excess.
So how have perceptions of mushrooms transformed from using the substance to get f***ed up to instead a medicinal, healthful self-care ritual, and sustainable lifestyle alternative. Across TikTok especially, mushrooms have been having their moment. A prerequisite to Witchtok, the trend has seen users delve into crystal healing and spiritual mind-bending, while current trends like ‘california sober’ and sober TikTok discuss alternative highs, all signifying a growing movement away from drugs and alcohol and focus on mental and physical healing.
Fungi foragers have even become trendy, and in fashion, mushrooms are being tapped as a vegan leather. Stella McCartney revolutionised the use of mushroom made leather in her SS22 show: Fashion Funghi. The Paris Fashion week runway was even narrated by American mycologist Paul Stamets, featured abstract mushroom-inspired aesthetics, and the world’s first bag mushroom-leather bag. Created in collaboration with Bolt Threads, the Frayme Mylo bag is made entirely of mycelium grown in labs – using no water and limited electricity pressed in an entirely bio and eco-friendly faux leather.
It’s not for nothing: the mushroom itself does in fact have ‘magical’ benefits. Psychedelically speaking, psilocybin improves low mood and relieves anxiety while the shroom itself is filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, has a low environmental impact and serves as a sustainable alternative to both meat and leather. This shift from mushroom as emblem of a riotous youth culture to a sustainable alternative and lifestyle choice indicates a social shift for Gen Z- who are rejecting hedonism in favour of more sustainable initiatives.
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