7 Myths About Modern Bohemians
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
What is bohemianism?
So before I get started attempting to straighten out the facts and figures, allow me to share with you this excerpt from the Wikipedia article, Bohemianism, to help you better understand the history of modern bohemianism as we know it today:
"Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people and with few permanent ties. It involves musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.
This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the nineteenth century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities.
Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and—in some cases—voluntary poverty. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème (literally "high Bohemia").
The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early nineteenth century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class, Romani neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who were mistakenly thought to have reached France in the 15th century via Bohemia (the western part of modern Czech Republic)..."
I have found that those who already have an idea of what bohemianism is have been a little misguided by the portrayal of stereotypical absinthe drinking, velvet and lace wearing poets in movies and books. Today's melding of the hippie and bohemian subculture is causing a little confusion as well, so I'd like to take a moment to straighten out a few misconceptions you might have about modern bohemians.
1. Bohemians are Hippies.
It's kind of the other way. From the late 1800s to the 1940s, bohemians slowly evolved into what was known as "hipsters" who then evolved into the "beatniks" of the 1950s and 1960s. Many beatniks traveled the world and favored Asian countries such as India and Morocco. They came back to the US bringing with them Eastern clothing, art, ideologies and religion. Thus another bohemian movement was born but these bohemians were referred to as "hippies".
Fast forward to today, and bohemians and hippies have branched off into two separate subcultures that can easily be combined into a subculture all its own. Bohemian hippies have the crunchy and groovy qualities of a hippie with the romantic and hedonistic tendencies of a bohemian.
2. The Bohemian Motto is "Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Love".
Nope. Many millennials' first view of bohemianism was in Baz Luhrmann's hit musical, Moulin Rouge - myself included. The words "Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love" are on the outside of the DVD, in the soundtracks CD insert, and Ewan McGregor's character, Christian, states at the beginning of the movie:
I first came to Paris one year ago. It was 1899, the summer of love. I knew nothing of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler or Satine. The world had been swept up in the Bohemian revolution and I had traveled from London to be a part of it. On a hill near Paris, was the village of Montmartre. It was not what my father had said. But the center of the Bohemian world. Musicians, painters, writers. They were known as the children of the revolution. Yes! I had come to live a penniless existence. I had come to write about truth, beauty, freedom and at which I believed above all things, love.
The movie was amazing, bohemianism was portrayed as an ideal lifestyle, and the phrase "Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love" resonated with many young people who adopted it as their own personal motto.
If bohemians actually had a motto, it would probably be
"There's no such thing as too much jewelry".
3. All Bohemians Drink Absinthe.
I'm pretty sure that at some point every bohemian has drank absinthe or has explored the idea of drinking absinthe. It's not the magical hallucinogenic concoction that everyone thinks it is and it never was. It was simply a flavorful green liquor. (Don't quote me on this, as this is my recollection from a documentary I watched several months ago). In the early 20th century, absinthe got a bad rep for being dangerous because French bootleggers were making it cheaply by using toxic substances to give it it's distinct green color; subsequently, this absinth would make people ill. Absinthe contains thujone which in high doses can cause erratic behavior, but you would get alcohol poisoning before feeling its effects. Absinthe is not the preferred choice of modern bohemians as it too expensive to be drank regularly by people of average income. If there was a preferred choice of alcohol for bohemians, it would most likely be red wine - any kind. Cheap, expensive, grudgingly in a box or in a jug; it doesn't matter. Just give them some dang wine.
Absinthe is pretty great though. I've even made my own from a special herbal mix steeped in Everclear. Did you know it still tastes the same without the fancy water drip and sugar cube? You can literally just stir the sugar and water right in there with a regular old spoon. The experience isn't as romantic, but you'll still end up with the same results.
4. All Bohemians are Poor.
Some bohemians are entirely too hedonistic to allow themselves to be the starving artist type. They're crafty and clever and will definitely find a way to make money somehow before getting to the point of starving. There are plenty of rich bohemians out there and some are absolutely swimming in money because of their talents. Some notable rich and successful modern bohemians are: Johnny Depp, Iris Apfel, Russell Brand, Helena Bonham Carter, and Steven Tyler.
5. All Bohemians are Painters, Musicians, and Poets.
Bohemians MUST expressive themselves in some way artistically. That's a huge part of what makes them bohemians! BUT that doesn't necessarily mean they all express themselves through paintings, music, and writing. Bohemians also express themselves with fashion, performance arts, pottery, interior design, event planning, architecture, landscaping,and much more.
6. Bohemians Shop at Free People and Anthropologie.
Unless these said bohemians are raking in the dough, then probably not. A bohemian would probably faint at the sight of the price tags on the garments and home decor at those stores. As variety is the spice of life, bohemians value quantity over quality and would rather spend $100 on ten dresses at a thrift store, than $100 on one. The items at Free People and Anthropologie are very beautiful, but knock-offs and the original ethnic or vintage style can be found on eBay, Etsy and thrift stores for WAY less! Bohemians are very frugal and they know that you don't have to go broke to get what you want!
7. Coachella is a Bohemian Festival.
Nay. And again to you I say, nay. Coachella is a weekend music and arts festival held annually in Indio, California. It features big name mainstream bands and performers that most bohemians have probably never even heard of. A bohemian might go for the art, but with general admission going for $399 plus an optional shuttle pass for an extra $75 according to this Forbes article, it is very unlikely that a bohemian would want to spend that kind of money just to see art and listen to music they don't like. So why do people dress like bohemians at Coachella? Probably for the same reason why people wear costumes to renaissance faires and comic conventions - to dress up in something fun and unique in an environment where it's completely acceptable to do so.
Do you feel enlightened? Thanks for reading!