Knowledge Base

What are Headshops?

What are Headshops?

Ever wonder where headshops got their name? Well, we definitely were curious so we decided to research into the history of headshops one day and here’s some interesting stuff we’ve found. We’re a little more familiar with them referred to as smoke shops today. Let’s think back about 50 years ago, during the 60s and 70s in a time when flower-crown bell-bottom-lovin’ hippies frolicked freely on the beautiful green earth exploring mind-altering drugs (marijuana being one of them). Headshops played a big role in the movement of the liberal youth movement during this time, acting as a place for the counterculture community to rejoice and experience the altered states of consciousness. Today, headshops have arguably become a part of mainstream culture.





What is a Headshop?
This term actually originated over half a century ago, with many theories claiming to be its true origin. Boutiques were typically referred to as “head shops” back then, with the exception of them being called “psych shops” in California. The “head” shop name change stuck around the end of the 60s, used as a suffix at the end of any noun as a way to describe enthusiasm for something. Another debate of the coined term may be originated from a lyric from a popular singer at the time named Jefferson Airplane written in the song “White Rabbit.” The lyric was “Feed your head,” meaning experiment with anything that might alter your “head,” or mind aka drugs.  

jimi hendreix 

History of Headshops

Let’s do a quick breakdown of headshops, shall we? There is debate on what the first ever independently run headshop was in the United States. Some believe San Francisco takes the crown with the “Psychedelic Shop” as the first known storefront headshop to open in 1966. Others claim the first headshop was actually called “The Shrunken Head,” located in Texas.


The purpose of headshops at the time was to have a safe place to provide hippies and others against the mainstream culture a place to hang out with the tools they needed to enjoy their psychedelic experiences. Headshop owners back then did not have profits as their priority and instead were more focused on raising awareness on ideal subcultures in their cities by selling underground newspapers. These underground newspapers also helped counterculture artists find work and thrive in their freedom of expression through comics in these newspapers. Customers were welcomed and encouraged to loiter.


bob marley


The Evolution

Headshops started making money around the late 70s as true details of the Vietnam War were revealed to the young public and established a deep distrust for the government in America and led those to want to rebel. Bob Marley, among other celebrities, graced the cover of a popular underground magazine known as High Times, contributing to the growing attention to the world of paraphernalia. As demand grew, so did profit for these head shops. By the 80s, the War on Drugs took over as headshops faced great scrutiny by the government and concerned parents, heavily restricting what could be sold, what activities were allowed, and enforced laws banning drug selling. In result, thousands of headshops went out of business and the ones left standing refocused on raising awareness about activism.



Present-day Headshops

Although many states still enforce strict laws against selling drugs in headshops within the US, more and more states are finally legalizing marijuana and the growth of the herb industry has been steadily increasing. Headshops today are more referred to as smoke shops, but many headshops are still decorated with the reminiscent tie-dye shirts and Bob Marley posters. Some shops are filled with unique hand-blown glassware that is on display. Many shop owners have added or transitioned to online websites to help add convenience for customers. There are also companies that provide quality wholesale smoke accessories online to help restock smoke shops, such as Tokershub.






One thing’s for sure though, folks - whether it’s called a headshop or a smoke shop, they’re not going anywhere. This was a pretty neat time in history that not everyone knew, and now you know. Anyone can go to a headshop (or now more commonly known smoke shop) and enjoy the experience… but knowing some background history to them adds a little more appreciation to how it came to be present-day for you to enjoy. Remember this piece of history the next time you step foot into a smoke shop and grab your next favorite smoke accessory. Happy smoking!