By Kristian Bland
Bohemians were hipsters before hipsters were cool. In a way, they were proto-hipsters, paving the way for today’s fedora-wearing man about town.
Of course, that’s not to say bohemians don’t still exist. They totally do. But the line separating the two styles can be a little blurry, like the fuzzy edges of a carefully styled lumberjack beard. Therefore, I need to define the two groups before we go any further.
The short explanation is that today’s bohemians are yesterday’s hippies, while hipsters are more akin to the jazz lounge beatniks of the mid-’50s.
Put another way, modern hipster style can trace its origins back to the beatnik of the “Beat Generation,” a term coined by Patient Zero — Jack Kerouac — in the counterculture outbreak. In fact, Kerouac even referred to the ideal beatniks as “… a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters …” So you know he meant business. Basically, today’s hipster is pretty much the modern embodiment of the beatnik, but with iPhones.
Today’s bohemian, on the other hand, embraces the flower power, moon child aesthetic of the ‘60s when it comes to fashion, but with a sort of schizophrenic, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to interior decorating.
Both bohemians and hipsters try to avoid trends like the plague, which has been a little more difficult for the hipster crowd since retail giants figured out they’d pay through the nose for “vintage” clothing made last week and imported from an East Asian sweatshop.
Bohemians have it a bit easier since they can actually browse the racks at resale shops and find great deals on whatever clothes somebody’s free-spirited grandma used to wear before her ungrateful children cleaned out her closets when they moved her into a retirement home.
When it comes to interior decorating, the blurred line between the two styles starts coming into focus. The short version is that hipsters crave authenticity and rustic charm when it comes to how they decorate their homes. Bohemian decor is eclectic and then some. Still, that’s nicer than calling it crazy. So there’s that.
The architecture of a perfect hipster home will feature things like bare brick walls or even unpainted drywall for a deliberately unfinished, handcrafted look, while every room in your average bohemian house will have a different, contrasting color of paint on the walls — assuming they aren’t already covered in some kind of garish wallpaper straight out of a psychedelic nightmare.
A hipster home should also feature plenty of slightly misshapen furniture crafted from reclaimed wood that can either be left untreated or exclusively covered in chalk paint. Anything made from an old shipping pallet is perfect. For the bohemian, the best furniture should look like you just found it sitting on the side of the road on your way to work in the morning.
As for decorative frills, hipsters are as likely to hang posters of Che Guevara on their walls as they are to nail up a random section of picket fence (in chalk paint, naturally) they found down whichever Target aisle they took on their way to pick up whatever it was they went to the store for in the first place but ultimately forgot to buy.
In contrast, there’s really no telling what bohemians will put on their walls. Honestly, it could be anything from a nice piece of modern art to ridiculously awful taxidermied roadkill. I’m not even joking. I know one woman who owns a stuffed weasel she dressed in a striped blouse before hot gluing a little red fez on its head. You literally cannot get more bohemian than that.
If you’re shopping for a hipster home, be sure to look for one that comes complete with built-in bookshelves you can fill with leather-bound copies of classical literature you can pretend you’ve read. Also handy would be convenient storage areas for a wide assortment of fedoras and berets, along with his-and-her mirrors in the bathroom so one of you can take selfies for Instagram while the other trims and conditions his majestic, mountain man beard.
Things to look for when buying a bohemian home include, but are not limited to: lots of open space to fill with clutter, knick-knacks, random bits of macaroni art (for some reason), doorways large enough to squeeze that old couch you’ve been hauling around since college through, and some small room you can call an art studio. The smell of canvas and acrylic paints should gently waft from it through the rest of the house at all times. Tip: there’s probably a candle for this at Target.
On the off chance you haven’t committed to one of the two styles yet, don’t panic! There’s plenty of overlap between both. Just start buying a lot of vinyl records; maybe grab a few 8-tracks; and don’t forget to pick up an ironic rug at one of those tents that pop up in the mall parking lot from time to time — something with a howling wolf on it, maybe. All of these things will look just fine in any hipster or bohemian home, and you’ll buy yourself a little time to decide which lifestyle fits you best.
If all else fails, you can always fall back on Nerd Culture, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Sure, you might never look cool or fit in at parties. But you’ll have plenty of stuff to distract you from the pain of being socially awkward. Personally, I have an extensive collection of ‘80s movie t-shirts that amuse me to no end, as well as an overabundance of board games that have too many dice and instruction manuals the size of Kansas. My bookshelves are lined with sci-fi novels and video game manuals. The most bohemian thing in my home is a paper skeleton I bought at the dollar store a few years ago that I hung on the wall and dress up for major holidays. (His name is Steve and he looks fabulous in Mardi Gras beads, by the way.) I also own a proper fedora for the hipster crowd, although it’s technically an officially licensed Indiana Jones replica because, did I mention, I’m a huge nerd with absolutely no sense of style or fashion whatsoever?
Maybe the most important thing to remember is not to worry about labeling yourself. Live how you want to live, dress how you want to dress, and decorate your house the way you want it to look. Labels are for soup cans and Tuesday’s underwear.