Temple student shares music, promotes activism on Instagram

Clare Sykes has run her retro-themed Instagram for two years, where she posts content about the music and fashion of the 1960s and 70s.

Clare Sykes, a freshman communications studies major, stands in the Johnny Ring Terrace on December 6, 2020. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Ever since Clare Sykes’ parents played “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles for her at a young age, free-spirited rock and roll has stuck with her.

“That’s something we like, laugh about and look back on because it’s like, I was so little asking her to put the Beatles on and now they’re such a big part of my everyday life,” said Sykes, a freshman communication studies major.

Sykes posts daily on her Instagram page @RetroHippies about retro-styled makeup and outfits, pictures of musicians from the 1960s and 70s and photos taken on significant days in history, like musicians’ birthdays or music festivals. The Instagram account has more than 100,000 followers who share Sykes’ love for 1960s and 70s fashion trends and music and her passion for social causes like Black Lives Matter and fighting xenophobia.

“It just like, ended up blowing up and taking me somewhere, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” Sykes said.

Sykes’ interest in listening to rock and roll and wearing fashion trends from the 1960s and 70s inspired her to create the account in February 2019. Her posts include photos of The Nazz, a band formed in Philadelphia in 1967, pop singer Cher and Led Zeppelin’s final American concert in 1977.

She gathers her photos from Pinterest, online archives of old magazines, like CREEM Magazine and Rolling Stone, and photos scanned from books about the 1960s and 70s she owns, like Led Zeppelin’s 50th-anniversary book. 

Sykes is happy her followers enjoy her account’s aesthetic, but hopes it contributes to positive change by also sharing information and resources about current social issues, she said. 

On her Instagram story, Sykes shares information and links promoting awareness of social issues like increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sykes’ informational posts teach people about events like Juneteenth, a celebration of slave emancipation, and she includes links to donation campaigns for organizations like Black Lives Matter to encourage followers to donate and educate themselves about different causes, she said. 

“I don’t want to just sit by and let things happen,” Sykes said. “Just because it’s not affecting me doesn’t mean it’s not affecting anyone.”

In 2020, 52 percent of social media influencers posted about Black Lives Matter, 56 percent worked with nonprofits and causes they support and 58 percent posted educational resources about COVID-19, Forbes reported.

“People are looking for resources, and if I have such a large platform and I’m not using it for proper reasons, then what’s the point?” Sykes said.

Sykes also posts about her favorite small businesses and tries to emphasize ones run by people of color, Indigenous people and people with disabilities to promote work from creators who often get less recognition than white creators, she said.  

Morgan Gardiner, 18, lives in Oceanside, California and manages the account @Citrosoul where she styles the clothes models wear in photoshoots, sells clothing packages of retro clothing and resells vintage clothing she finds at estate sales and thrift stores. Sykes has highlighted products she purchased from Gardiner several times since they met on Instagram in early 2020.

“She’s probably one of the nicest people that I’ve met on social media, she’s so supportive and she doesn’t have to be,” Gardiner said. “She uses her platform and she hands it to us, people with smaller platforms trying to do good things as well.”

Sykes believes activism is connected to the 1960s and 70s and that current generations are responsible for continuing momentum of past activists, she said.

“That’s exactly what they were fighting for and they didn’t have social media to post it, so they did that towards their music,” Sykes said.

College students, organizations like the Black Panther Party and marginalized groups protested for civil rights, racial equality, women’s liberation and equal rights for homosexuals throughout the 1960s and 70s, according to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Sykes acknowledges the 1960s and 70s were “not all peace and love” by also posting about events like the shootings at Kent State University in 1970 and including information advocating for gun control, she said.

“It’s kinda one of those history-repeating-itself moments where like, we see a lot of the same things that people were fighting for in the 60s and 70s are still just as prevalent if not more prevalent today,” Sykes added.

Alyssa Frens, a 19-year-old who lives in Dalton, Pennsylvania, follows @Retrohippies and became friends online with Sykes around a year and a half ago. 

Frens believes social media pages like Sykes’ are a good way to educate younger generations who frequent social media, she said.

“Social media such as @Retrohippies is able to spread awareness that people may have not seen in other ways,” Frens said. “Influencers, since they are all online, it’s popular among young people who may not be watching the news as much.” 

Sykes plans to post more fashion and makeup content and promote more small businesses and online creators this summer, Sykes said.

“My goal is just for people to know that I’m accepting and am listening and want them to be heard,” Sykes added. “I’m always going to be here to support people and post and spread awareness.”

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