Monday, March 10, 2008

What the Heck is a Bobo?

I asked a friend in Paris this one night when she referred to herself as a "Bobo".

She replied to my question, “Bobo est désigne certains habitants des arrondissements aisés ou nouvellement aisés de Paris, en fait issu de l’anglais américain "bobo" ou "bohemian bourgeois", après le succès du livre "Bobos in Paradise" de David Brook (2000). Il désignerait une classe urbaine aisée, mais de gauche (angl. amér. "liberal")”

Translated into English that means "a Bobo is an alternative bohemian with some cash".  She went on to say that "'Bobo' as a term is really and only specific to the Parisians who live or find entertainment in the 9eme, 10eme, 11eme, 12eme, 19eme or 20eme districts of Paris."

Just a plain old school bohemian is well known: Bohemians avoid fashionable places and snobby groups, preferring to instead support the environmental movement, be very liberal, take part in literary and/or artisitc pursuits and interests. Your traditional bohemian dresses in a more casual or alternative style of dress while sneering at high fashion.  Bohemians like to pride themselves on rebelling against the social and cultural norms, but that said they as a group still form their own norms of fashion and behaviors which are followed as rigorously as any social group does.

Related, yet different, to that is the Bobo.  A Bourgeois-Bohemian (Bourgeois-Bohême = Bobo) is someone who is still into this kind of scene, with literary an artistic interests and a dislike for conventional social rules, but they also happen to have a decent job and some spending money; a middle-class bohemian.  They want cool places to hang and go out, and are into art and literature as well.  Truth be told, these Bobos are the crowds that artists prefer as they also have the money to buy some art!  The term Bobo reached its popularity after the success of the book “Bobos in Paradise” by David Brook in 2000.  Gadabout will be reading this book and reviewing it in the near future...so check back to see what it's all about.

If you’re into high fashion, being ‘seen’ and know things like who Brad Pitt is dating then you go get drinks on the Champs-Elysees.  But, if you’re a Bobo, you prefer to go to a great many other places instead.  Perhaps you have the cash to hit the Champs-Elysees, but why drain your checking account and hang with snobs in overly modern charmless bars if you don’t have to?

Furthermore, if you’re just a regular ol’ Bohemian the best hang-outs shift yet again, and you can feel proud that over time all the Bobos and Snobs want to find out your best-kept secrets.  According to my friend, the coolest places start out as Bohemian hang-outs. Then, over time, the local Parisian Bobos catch on to that area and start to infiltrate.  Slowly the atmosphere starts to change with the influx of middle-class money...and then the suburban Bobos catch on and begin to arrive. This is where the real invasion occurs, as far as the local Parisian bohemians are concerned.  Then, more time passes, and in about 5 years, the area starts to transform into a place of high-fashion and snobs, with souring drink prices to go along with them,  that both Bohemians and Bobos alike run a mile from.

Therefore, if you want the coolest and most laid back places to go out in Paris, and places that won’t completely break the bank, then you want to snoop out where the Bobos are, or even better, where the Bohemians are...as the place where the Bohemians are hanging out isn’t likely to transform into a snob-joint for many years to come.

**Photo Credit: Flickr CC - Some rights reserved by Cicilie Fagerlid

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