Rags Magazine: An Underground Style Mag from 1970


A part of the underground press movement Rags was published for a year, 1970-71. It covered the worlds of counter-culture fashion with street fashion reports, groovy adverts and a very liberated sense of style. As far as I can tell its print run was all b/w on rag paper.

The December 1970 issue includes “Revolution” (with models acting out scenes from peoples history),”Life Amongst the Amazon Today” (on body modification in Amazonian tribes), “If God Hadn’t Wanted You To Wear a Bra He Wouldn’t Have Invented the Contour Council” (all about “the bra” with super hip writing!!) and “Raggedy Robin Raggedy Jane” (a profile of a Haight Ashbury clown couple).

The SF Diggers went to bat against the hip capitalists in SF but the innocence, creativity and DIY styles displayed in this publication, which seems to have been distributed primarily in underground boutiques, is charming nonetheless. A mystery in its masthead is the listing of “commidify your dissent” artist Barbara Kruger. That name appears as one of two art directors.

Cassandro Tondro has a blog uploading pdf’s of her collection of Rags. Check it out!

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

0 thoughts on “Rags Magazine: An Underground Style Mag from 1970

  1. Though the SF Diggers may have abandoned the Haight by 1970, a kind of anxiety around what it means to sell a counter-culture hangs on in Rags (and lots of other places). As if in 1970 the definitions between fashion and revolution was not quite as clear as some would have it today. This can be seen in the following articles written by Jon Caroll and available as PDF’s posted on the Rags Lives! site.

    Click to access Feb1971-38-39-40-41-42-43.pdf


    To me Rags is interesting cause it captures this confusion so wonderfully.

    More on the Diggers:

    The SF Diggers worked to build a free culture; this included free food, clothing, entertainment and health care. From what I understand, The SF Diggers did the happening “death of hippie” and “death of money” on Haight to attempt to move away from the lifestyle spectacle that they felt their culture had become. This phony culture (in their eyes) could best be typified by the “hip capitalists” who’d set up shop on Haight Street – selling back to the drop outs (and tourists) the culture that was free for people to make in the first place. The Diggers events could be seen as a direct action theater against those trying to capitalize on the free culture the diggers were helping to build. Death of Hippie Parade was held on Haight Oct. 6th 1967. I am told that symbolically it was a farewell to the “hippie” and all of it’s symbolic, commodity baggage. There abouts the Digger’s publicly disappeared, though their work of building a free society amidst our culture of wealth continued in other names. The free food conspiracy (which warped into a coop movement that had many branches at one point) is but one example.


  2. Thank you for mentioning the Rags blog. Yes, Rags was all black and white, printed on newsprint, except for the cover, which was black and one or two colors, printed on a heavier paper.

    Other items of interest:

    Baron Wolman, the publisher, was a well-known rock photographer for Rolling Stone magazine before he started Rags. He published some of his photographs in Rags, as well as the work of other well-known photographers such as Imogen Cunningham and Ed Ruscha, except that Ed later became a well-known painter.

    Jon Carroll, a key writer for Rags, is now a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. The artist Barbara Kruger was one of the art directors for the magazine. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the people on the Rags staff. It was a great magazine — ahead of its time.

  3. Pingback: Underground Fashion

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