An alternative lifestyle is a lifestyle diverse in respect to mainstream ones, or generally perceived to be outside the cultural norm. Lifestyle is a media culture term derived from that of style in art. Usually, but not always, it implies an affinity or identification within some matching subculture (examples include hippies, Gypsies, goths and punks). Some people with alternative lifestyles mix certain elements of various subcultures (e.g., grunge musicians were often influenced by a mixture of the punk, hippie, emo and heavy metal subcultures). Not all minority lifestyles are held to be "alternative"; the term tends to imply newer forms of lifestyle, often based upon enlarged freedoms (especially in the sphere of social styles) or a decision to substitute another approach or not enter the usual expected path in most societies.
Alternative lifestyles and subcultures originated in the 1920s with the "flapper" movement, when women cut their hair and skirts short (as a symbol of freedom from oppression and the old way of living). Women in the flapper age were the first large group to practice pre-marital sex, dancing, cursing, and driving in modern America without scandal following them. This was because this new flapper lifestyle was so popular that the flapper's brash behavior became more normal than previously thought.
A Stanford University cooperative house, Synergy, was founded in 1972 with the theme of "exploring alternative lifestyles."
The following are examples which may be considered by some to be alternate lifestyles:
- Nudism and clothing optional lifestyles.
- Living in unusual communities, such as communes, intentional communities or ecovillages.
- Lifestyle travellers, homebirths, homeschooling, home gardening, housetruckers, New Age travellers, vegetarianism, veganism, freeganism, meditation, hypnosis, reincarnation and feng shui.
- Non-typical sexual lifestyle, such as BDSM, swinging, polyamory and certain types of sexual fetishism or paraphilia.
- Alternative spiritual practices.
- Alternative medicine and natural methods of medical care or herbal remedies as medication.
- Eastern religion as sought and practiced by some western converts into faiths based in East Asia and South Asia, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shintoism and so on, as opposed to Monotheism or Judeo-Christian belief systems.
- "Non-mainstream" religious minorities, such as the Amish for example pursue a non-technological or anti-technology lifestyle.
Same goes to the single parent movement, by the growing trend of children raised by one parent, which once was viewed as an alternative lifestyle. It is now mainly acceptable choice of lifestyle, in which the term "alternative" originated to stand for "not the norm, allowed" by social standards of the present time.
- some religious conservatives consider bisexuality, and homosexuality to be alternative lifestyles.
- Bernstein, J. M. Introduction, in Adorno Culture industry p.35 quotation:
Diversity is more effectively present in mass media than previously, but this is not an obvious or unequivocal gain. By the late 1950s the homogenization of consciousness had become counterproductive for
the purposes of capital expansion; new needs for new commodities had to be created, and this required the reintroduction of the minimal negativity that had been previously eliminated. The cult of the new that had been the prerogative of art throughout the modernist epoch into the period of post-war unification and stabilization has returned to capital expansion from which it originally sprang. But this negativity is neither shocking nor emancipatory since it does not presage a transformation of the fundamental structures of everyday life. On the contrary, through the culture industry capital has co-opted the dynamics of negation both diachronically in its restless production of new and ‘different’ commodities and synchronically in its promotion of alternative ‘life-styles’.
‘Life-styles’, the culture industry’s recycling of style in art, represent the transformation of an aesthetic category, which once possessed a moment of negativity [shocking, emancipatory], into a quality of commodity consumption.