What Head Shops and Smoke Shops are Really About!

If you have ever driven around anywhere you should have seen a sign that reads “head shop”, or you might have seen a sign that reads “Smoke Shop”. But what do those words really mean? Where did the phrase “Head shop” come from? We can easily guess how “Smoke Shop” came about, but whats with “Head Shop”? Well we here at SSD decided to do some digging and find out what it’s all really about!

Wikipedia defines Head shop as a retail outlet specializing in paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis and tobacco and items related to cannabis culture and related countercultures. But wait! That sounds like a smoke shop! Well, you would be correct, sorta. The phrase Head Shop came about in the 1960’s in cities and towns with a large amount of college age kids. It was a place where “hippies” or “anti-establishment” people could find important underground newspapers and the underground comix of Robert Crumb and other counterculture cartoonists, which had little access to the established channels of newsstand distribution.

So what happened to shops like that? Well by the mid-1970s, the sale of drug paraphernalia was outlawed in many places, and the distribution network for underground comics and newspapers dried up, so the retail mainstream discovered and co-opted aspects of the head shop’s market niche, such as acid rock and eco-friendly products becoming more of what we know it as today.

So where did the phrase Head Shop come from? Well, a lot of people assume it was because of the popularity of the super uber famous band The Grateful Dead, fans of their’s being “dead heads”. While others claim “head” is actually an acronym for “He Eats Acid Daily.” But in all likelihood, the term found its root in slang that originated in 1913. This year marked the first indication of someone pairing the name of a drug with the word “head” to insinuate a subject as an addict, aka pot head.

So where does the phrase “Smoke shop” come into play? Well, it seems like that’s more of a geographical thing than an actual difference between the two.  In some locations, the phrase “Smoke Shop” refers to actual tobacco and cigarette shops. Whereas in some locations Smoke shop could mean tobacco smoking accessories and hippie attire. It all just depends on where you are at.

So what is it called in your town? Head shop or Smoke shop? It all doesn’t really matter, but do remember all Head Shops are created equally where as not all Smoke Shops are. So make sure to just always use Head Shop if you’re looking for some sweet weed related stuffs. But make sure not to say anything weed related in these shops! In the US it’s still grounds for removal or results in suspension of all sales for that time period. In some shops, simply saying the word “bong” is grounds for removal from the shop.


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