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Meanings: Bohemia

If you ever wondered, this is what you should know.

21 Jan 2021 | Malaysia

La bohème


The fashions labelled as bohemian represent the lifestyle ideology that comes with it: an alternative to the traditional way of dressing, paired up with an equal alternative, more liberated lifestyle and a social stance against everything from materialism to society’s constraints.

Over 200 years ago, bohemian was a term referred to an exotic style sense, usually associated with the artists of the time, as well as with writers and certain eccentric intellectuals.

The general perception of the era was that artists dressed similarly to nomadic gypsies, who had their origins in the Balkan area of Eastern Europe, in a region called Bohemia. As a result, ‘bohemian’ became synonym with a culture, or, better said, counter-culture, associated with creativity, artistic expression, as well as disregard to social constructs and mainstream aesthetics.

With time, Bohemians’ style evolved considerably. What started as a necessity (dressing poorly due to poverty) became an ideology – one against materialism, pro-communal living spaces, against social conventions and often against personal hygiene. Later on, the Bohemians took part in the Aesthetic Movement, which stood against the stiff corsets and crinolines of the era. As a result, the Aesthetic Movement followers embraced a new lifestyle and new style of clothing, focused on loose fits, hand embroideries and medieval-inspired designs.


The majority of Bohemian lovers embrace lightness. That is not to say that they do not love passionately or even violently, but rather that their love renounces the heaviness that conventional social narratives place on relationships. The Bohemian lovers of the early 20th century spurned chaperones like the establishment spurned bohemians. Many refused to marry their partners because they saw marriage as a symbol designed to constrain; symbols, when backed by the Bourgeois society, become burdens of insufferable weight.

What was new was the disregard for traditional forms of relationships (marriage for example) and the shift from Victorian values (which emphasised prudishness) to values of exploration, sensual pleasure and aesthetic beauty.

It is within this spirit that the Bohemian lover views love as an artistic experiment, making him or her avant-garde in the modernist sense of the word – a daring expression of authenticity.

Mischievous behaviour is a central tenant of pushing boundaries and Bohemian lovers become ecstatic at the thought of their own wickedness.


The Bohemian muse is very human. Inspiration is discovered through romance; lustful and passionate encounters feed the artistic imagination.

Like Keats’ mysterious voice in Ode to a Grecian Urn, the Bohemian believes that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” The Bohemian lover seeks to love as truthfully and therefore as beautifully as is humanly possible. This does not mean that the Bohemian lover strives always to be honest, but rather that they love in a way which is truthful to themselves.

Bohemian love is all about authenticity. Bohemian lovers listen to their desires and act on them, regardless of the social implications.

Like Nietzsche, the Bohemian lover believes that “What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.” Providing the love is authentic, it matters not whether the majority of people deem it to be immoral, or worse yet, evil.

Source: Google on a dark, cool night. None of the words are mine. All I did was pick paras from here and there, and fixed some grammatical errors and spelling. #grammarnazi

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