I recently went to the opera to see La Bohème by Puccini. Set in Paris’ famous Latin Quarter in the 1830s, La Bohème opens in the dilapidated room of four bohemians. Artists, writers, painters and musicians, they have to pawn their belongings to pay the rent and burn old writings to keep warm. It was an excellent piece and had a bit of everything you’d expect from an opera: romance, death and great music.
However, something that stuck out above all of this was the clothing of the four bohemians. They struck a fine line between formal wear and casual wear, between groomed and rugged – it’s what Christopher Bailey masterfully calls ‘dishevelled elegance’, and it describes the look to a tee.
This is a look that has been in vogue for some time now. The go to for the skinny guy who would throw a smart blazer over an oversized shirt, skinny trousers and a pair of battered Chelsea boots as he quickly ruffles his hair whilst listening to Laura Marling or Dylan.
It’s also a look that has been on the catwalk in different guises for years, with brands like Bailey’s Burberry, Acne, Lanvin, the Kooples and E Tautz having prominently displayed the aesthetic throughout most of their recent collections, although with a varying style.
The collection of images below showcases some of the more well known characters that are said to have lead a bohemian lifestyle – Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Bob Dylan along with a photograph of 1920s bohemians by August Sander:
Their look is one that shows respect, whilst also being quite loose, unconstrained and individual. Although Dylan’s look from the 1960s is probably more relevant to us today, Wilde’s strong look has individual items that are very much making a resurgence.
Fur overcoats, men’s rings and other jewellery, velvet jackets, these are all key trend items for this autumn/winter and when combined in a subtle manner, can look extremely modern and stylish.
The catwalk images below were taken from Burberry, Acne and Lanvin AW12 fashion weeks and demonstrate the kind of aesthetic you can achieve with bohemian inspired pieces. Overall, it’s a very romantic look that includes a lot of layering, oversizing and autumnal materials and colours – all concepts that are seasonally appropriate.
The modern take on this bohemian look includes some rock ‘n’ roll stalwarts, like the leather or denim jacket, giving the look a much more masculine and contemporary edge.
The Kooples are one brand who continually manage to nail contemporary, bohemian inspired looks – whether it be through their slick advertising campaigns or superb lookbooks.
Below you will find a few recent outfits created by Parisian brand, all of which are the epitome of the aesthetic we are looking to achieve today:
Think of Dylan Thomas’ chunky roll necks and woollen jumpers for that casual, lounging around the home look. Consider materials here; wool, cashmere, silk or on trend alpaca or mohair. Look for cosy, non-synthetic fabrics and keep the patterns relatively toned down to maintain an elegant feel without looking like you’re trying too hard.
A classic white shirt under an oversized jumper will always be a winning combination, and a blazer layered over the top would keep the look refined, whereas a denim or leather jacket will provide a harder, more youthful edge.
For those winter nights, think about finishing with a dark trench or peacoat – both would complement the finely crafted layers you have underneath.
Make sure you think about layers when compiling an outfit and how the colours of each piece work together as a whole. Whether each piece is a slightly different shade/texture or you go along the colour blocking route, just remember that to maintain this bohemian aesthetic you need to stay away from anything too bright or neon and look for tones that complement the garment’s natural materials.
The trouser department should hark back to classic materials and designs, being simple yet effective. A pair of slim fitted trousers/chinos in a dark colour are one of the most flexible items of clothing you can own, going well with most items.
However, for this modern take on the bohemian look, an on trend pair of olive or burnt orange corduroys will inject life into your outfit via both colour and texture.
In addition, a pair of this season’s must have style – the grey woollen trouser – will really complement this rugged look. If you want to switch it up, a pair of white or indigo jeans will provide either a touch of Italian elegance or British grit to the outfit.
Shoes make the man. Throwing on a pair of tatty trainers or Converse will jar with this classic, well-made look. If you’re going to go tatty, wear some scuffed Chelsea boots for a rock ‘n’ roll feel or washed leather brogues to emphasise your take on dishevelled elegance.
When it comes to other accessories, let your creativity and personality shine through. Look at the Kooples campaigns to see how jewellery can really add something extra to this particular style. A masculine ring or a simple necklace can elevate your outfit to the next level and shouldn’t be dismissed.
If your outfit needs a tie, make it a woollen one. Hats should either be classic (a felt fedora for instance) or modern and edgy (such as a rolled or fitted beanie), in premium fabrics and a muted colour. Although this really is where your imagination and personality shines through, so go with whatever you think complements the look as a whole.
Finally, perhaps one of the most iconic pieces within a bohemian inspired look would be a scarf or neckerchief. Lightweight silk versions are the most authentic, and statement patterns/colours are fair game – they will inject a sense of flair into your look, and when combined with more muted pieces, it allows them to ‘pop’.
Either drape louchely round your neck a couple of times or tie them short and tight like a true neckerchief. [For more ways to tie your scarf, check out our guide here.]
The bohemian look is certainly experiencing a strong resurgence. Not just on the catwalks of the finest fashion houses, but also on the streets of London’s Brick Lane, Berlin’s Kreuzberg and Paris’ Latin Quarter.
Even if the overall aesthetic is not something you’d like to achieve, the bohemian look is full of key trend pieces that are suitable for AW12 and many seasons to come.
Items like chunky roll necks, woollen trousers, a navy peacoat and a good pair of Chelsea boots are flexible enough to fit into your existing wardrobe effortlessly – easily being dressed up or down, allowing you to develop your own take on dishevelled elegance.