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History of Boho Style (Part I)

Bohemian or “boho” style is all the rage these days, from fashion to furniture and everything in between, but the term leaves a lot to the imagination – and that’s probably fitting for the casual vibe it describes.

But, if you want to embrace the style it might help to know its history and origin, and how the look has evolved into what it is today.

Bohemian Geography

Everything comes from somewhere, and bohemian style is no exception. It is unique, though, in that its name reflects an entire geographical location that is in no way related to the popular style trend.

The borders of Bohemia have shifted over the years, and since 1993 it has existed as part of the Czech Republic, but as a kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire from 1198 to 1918 its territory once encompassed larger swaths of Austria, Hungary, Bavaria and Poland.

Ancient Bohemia, though, was even less bounded before this time, when the territory was first named after the Boii, nomadic Celts who first settled the land. But, the bohemian cultural movement that seeded the birth of the style we know today didn’t originate with the Boii …

Bohemian Culture   

It wasn’t until hundreds of years later, in Paris in the early 19th century, that Bohemianism arose as a counterculture movement centered on the nomadic Romani people living there.

Romanians didn’t start it, though; it was an outgrowth of European artistic expression that focused on Romani clothing, colors and decor. Parisian artists were inspired by the free-spirited foreign culture, that they mistakenly assumed originated in Bohemia – hence the name.   

Much as with other youth movements – like America’s Beat movement in the 50s, which helped give rise to the hippies of the 60s – Bohemianism took root in large part thanks to the angst-fueled European bourgeoisie; young idealists fed up with the nationalistic status quo who were ready for a change.

What’s really cool, however, is how these European progressives ended up shaping an American style that would flourish for generations, particularly among young rebels who would grow up insisting that style was the last thing on their minds.

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about bohemian style, and when it first arrived on American shores. 

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