A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOHEMIANISM
The revolution had ended, and artists in nineteenth century France, now stripped of their former system of patronage, were plunged into a life of poverty. The wealthy clients who had supported their work for centuries vanished with the monarchy. Due to newfound inaccessibility to both finery and conventional hygiene, artists became outsiders, and many turned to nomadic lifestyles. Their apparel became hallmarked by its threadbare, outdated, and hodgepodge nature, as that was what was available to them.
As outcasts, the creative crowd began to move into low-rent neighborhoods and intermingle with peripheral groups such as the Romani or “gypsy” people of the region. “Bohémien” was the common appellation in France for these nomads who were mistakenly thought to have emigrated from Bohemia, a region of the present-day Czech Republic. As the artistic community began to adopt elements of the Romani way of life along with elements of their appearance, they often became mistaken for gypsies by the bourgeoisie, thereby assimilating under the label “bohemian.” As a result of this, over time, the term bohemian came to simply refer to any socially unconventional or unorthodox person with artistic or intellectual leanings who lives and acts apart from bourgeois society, largely untroubled by its disapproval.
In addition to the external circumstances of the day, artists were also experiencing an ideological revolution. The Romantic Movement of the eighteenth century facilitated a shift in values from the reason and logic so central to the Neoclassical Era to the ultimate exaltation of imagination. The profile of the artist was evolving from that of merely a skilled craftsman to more of a heroic figure – an eccentric genius who was celebrated for his or her own unique voice and contribution to the world. Like never before, aesthetes exhibited their creativity both in how they lived and how they looked.
Self-expression became central to the identity of the artist. They soon began to embrace and even revel in their new lot. They outrightly rejected the restrictive clothing and fashions of Victorian Europe, viewing the mass production of the Industrial Revolution as dehumanizing. These bohemians preferred the authenticity of hand-crafted goods. They preferred soft, loose-fitting fabric. They preferred organic dyes and hand embroidery. They gravitated toward medieval apparel and peasant uniforms. They were intrigued by exotic, oriental designs coming out of places like China, India, Persia, and Turkey. They liked colorful scarves worn around their heads, necks, or waists. They tended toward long, flowing hair and wide-brimmed hats. They curated a look of well-crafted, eclectic dishevelment by combining vintage and ethnic elements, and a smattering of mismatched jewelry, in a way that announced to the world their disinterest in the norms and expectations of a society that decided it had no place for them. These bohemians were carving a path all their own, marked by the pursuit of pleasure, art, and freedom. They were driven by a primordial need to discover beauty, to create, to express, and to experience all things sensual and transcendental.
The bohemian aesthetic and ethos have re-emerged a number of times throughout history, most notable in the beatniks and hippies of the mid-twentieth century and even in the anti-establishment sensibilities of the grunge revolution. In addition, bohemian style influences continue to drift in and out of mainstream fashion in micro-resurgences every now and again. But out there among the artists and creatives of the world you’ll always find the faithful, boho hero, unconcerned with the ebbs and flows and passing whims of the status quo.
THE RTSL GUIDE TO BOHEMIAN STYLE FOR MEN
Shapes: By and large, avoid things that appears too structured, tailored, pressed, restrictive, or straight-laced in any way. Embrace the softer side. Reach for articles that are flowing and drape loosely on your body. Volume is good, though a modern, sophisticated eye will be judicious in the usage of volume, contrasting it with more form-fitting garments or portions of garments. In general, things are better off untucked and un-ironed. Crinkles are cool.
Materials: Think natural. Dress in textiles like cotton and linen or some kind of natural blend. You can embellish with suede and leather, if you so choose. Accessorize with hemp, stone, metal, wood, bone, glass, crystal, clay or ceramic, feathers, more leather, or any other element found in nature that suits your fancy.
Colors: Earth tones are great. Warm, rich colors and even some weathered, washed-out tones work well too. If you can find it in nature, it’s pretty much fair game.
Grooming: Minimal. You don’t even need to own a brush or a comb. Clean-shaven is completely optional. Hair is best not over-producty. A little extra length up top is a good thing. A lot of extra length is also perfectly acceptable.
Got the basics? Good. Now mix. Combine. Layer. And don’t forget to add in some artistry. Prints and patterns are a great arena in which to play. Dabble in ethnic designs. Hit the thrift shop and find something vintage. Throw on some bracelets, necklaces, rings, hats, scarves, or all of the above, if you feel like it – as many as you like. There are no rules. You can even try a little DIY if you’re up for it. Customizing your clothing to introduce some one-of-a-kind originality is bohemian master-class! Remember, in the end, it’s all about self-expression.
A LITTLE BOHO HERO INSPIRATION
Look to the artists of today for a little bohemian style inspiration.
Johnny Depp is the bohemian king.
Russell Brand is a true, modern-day, bohemian icon.
Steven Tyler is a rock-and-roll, bohemian legend.
Other artists who incorporate bohemian principles into their eclectic, personal styles include Jared Leto, Pharrell Williams, Brandon Boyd, Harry Styles, Jason Momoa, and Jason Castro, among others.
Some fashion designers who have exhibited notable bohemian influences in their work include Yves Saint Laurent, Roberto Cavalli, and Pierre Balmain.
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