Bohemian, what it is and curiosities about the famous lifestyle

The term bohemian or more correctly bohemian describes a non-conformist lifestyle that has characterized the life of numerous artists, writers, musicians and actors, coined at the beginning of the nineteenth century; it is a French term because the first proponents of this movement lived in the salons of Paris well in the 1800s. In response to the increasing industrialization that characterized the world, fashion and culture of the time, these people tried to express themselves again in contrast to the modern dynamics of the moment, resulting in an attitude that is even a little naive, light, open and certainly original, almost of protest with respect to the surrounding world.

The Bohémiens imprinted their lifestyle (called Bohème) on scandal-like behaviors such as having extra-marital sex and usually adhered to poverty, clashing with their normal status: in South America, in fact, the children of rich families adopted behaviors of Bohemian inspiration leaving their riches, even as they indulged in alcohol addictions by distorting the intrinsic meaning of the rebellion.


In reality, the Bohémiens were artists, poets and in any case young creative people who began to live in the slums of the gypsy quarter in France, adopting the lifestyle, beliefs and freedom connected to the nomadic population, with a clear purpose of escape from the changes taking place. .

The word itself, Bohème, is a neologism derived from an erroneous popular belief that the gypsies came from a region of the present Czech Republic, Bohemia; clearly at the time there was still no awareness of the planetary territory and the real origin of some peoples on which a veil of mystery lay, so close to practices, magical arts and superstitions still present in Europe.

The term itself, however, dates back to a few centuries earlier, when after the Thirty Years’ War in 1621 the Protestant inhabitants of Bohemia were defeated and some of them had to adhere to Catholicism, under penalty of persecution: some of these, students of the University of Prague fled to Paris, where they attended the Sorbonne, the ancient university famous in history. Naturally the French were immediately intrigued by these characters so different from them in the uses, customs and lifestyle and some Parisian students began to imitate some behaviors, making them their own. This trend disappeared a bit in the course of history, but remained in the collective imagination, associating the concept with wandering gypsies, unconventional personalities and disinterested in the judgment of others.

In 1851 in France the writer and poet Henri Murger emphasized the style he himself pursued by publishing a book entitled “Scènes de la vie bohème”, a series of stories deriving from personal life experiences in which the protagonists were a group of light-hearted young people bohèmes, set in 1840 Paris; the stories were published in episodes in the magazine La Corsaire. According to the writer, the bohemians could be categorized into three broad categories, always congruent with the philosophy that permeated the whole cultural movement:

  • The unknown dreamers. They are non-professional artists who hope success will come and save them from the condition of extreme poverty in which they are subjected.
  • Amateurs. Bourgeois who consciously choose to follow the dictates of what they think the bohemian movement is, but often retrace their steps, driven by the boredom that has marked them in the change.
  • Famous Bohèmian Officers. They are people who have made it and have been successful, becoming rich, but remain firm to the inalienable principles of the bohemian life, giving up material wealth and living an extravagant and frugal life. On the other hand, if they changed, they would no longer be classifiable as bohemian.

What is the Bohemian Lifestyle

Bohemien is an adjective often approached to artists who go beyond the fashions of the moment, but it does not necessarily concern a particular way of dressing or clothing. The meaning is much deeper, since the epithet is assigned to poets who live an inner ambiguity, driven by a literary and artistic passion and on the other hand, rejected by a society and a morality that does not accept them for what they are, he does not understand its modernity and manifest art.

Bohemian artists respond to this attitude with avant-garde works, provoking and desecrating present moral and ethical values; their behavior does not conform even in interpersonal relationships, but leads to destructive, asocial and self-annihilating behaviors. As anticipated, the pre-established society is a cage for the bohemian artist, a chain that opposes fantasy, imagination, clouding the spark of creativity: the only way to free oneself from this prison is to rebel and oppose common sense and to ready-made costumes, externalizing one’s self without superstructures.

The bohemian is a nomad by definition, a free person, heedless of his own appearance and personal cleanliness, sentimentally free and free from socially considered standard institutions such as marriage, advocating loving freedom and material poverty seen as a value and not as a flaw.

In today’s society it is increasingly important, even in the age of social networks, to differentiate and be alternative to the mass, unique, against the tide and this style is making a comeback, on the wave of some manifest behaviors linked to fashion and embodied by some stars such as Kate Moss, of common origin from the hippie culture of the sixties and seventies, but it is an understatement to define bohème as a synonym for fashion; the concept itself is antinomic to the consumerism to which it can be compared.

In the way of dressing, the bohemian world is characterized by the use of large, shapeless, soft and sometimes ethnic and exotic fabrics, very colorful and light-hearted, mocking and ironic by definition: from this point of view, in the common imagination they are clothing very similar to those used by the hippie movement that draws heavily from the bohemian past.

How it has changed over time

The bohemian lifestyle had a great resonance at the time and is still directly connected to the artistic world today: among the artists, intellectuals, students, dandies, vagabonds and dancers of the Moulin Rouge, the trend soon became a original to live your own self and creativity.

Some of these great characters of the time, including the cursed poet Baudelaire, author of the Flowers of Evil, Flaubert, the Impressionist painter author of the posters of the Moulin Rouge Toulouse-Lautrec, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Degas were attracted by this philosophical current, finding themselves discussing the issue in the historic Caffe Momus, a particular meeting place where the main creative minds of the French art scene sat at the same tables and tried to create the future world as they imagined it, far from the founding values ​​of the moment, like the bohemians .

As well as the Caffe, Mme Sabatier’s house also became a very popular salon for these avant-gardists, artists, dancers, adventurers and conquerors who also indulged in amorous manifestations inclined to the bohemian cultural movement.

All this tourbillon marked the culture of the following centuries and young people were the spokespersons of this culture from which other subcultures we have already talked about emerged, the so-called beat generation and the flower power movement.

Today the old figure of the bohemian is also called more sympathetically boho to define and emphasize the same inclination of the past era to this new technologically advanced and modern world, so that the vision as fashion is not anachronistic, but the creative philosophy and philosophy are clear. the departure from the values ​​and ethics of today’s society.