CHARLESTON — First, the Baby Boomers were unseated by the Baby Busters, and then Generation X was invaded by Generation Why. Now, there is a new group in circulation, and they are called The Bobos.
Born as a social class in 2000 but only now starting to gain popularity, a Bobo is a person who enjoys newly found affluence through a successful career, and spends both time and money in classic surroundings boosted by modern conveniences. Formerly labeled as “new money”, this modern-day Bobo is much more socially conscious: Green is not only the color of cash, but a daily practice of protecting the expensive world in which they live.
A Bobo can be spotted on a trendy street, chai latte in hand, dressed “down” in well advertised, logo-branded apparel, walking without urgent purpose, scanning window displays of independent boutiques and booksellers. They have a Pilates class scheduled for later that afternoon, which is permitted by a work-at-home, part-time, flex-time employment arrangement, thanks to an ever-vibrating Blackberry and widespread, wireless Internet connections. After which, a Bobo will park his or her Lexus RX Hybrid in a parking spot several other car lengths from the door of an organic grocery store, carrying a tote bag for the black truffle oil (that will enhance any dish, particularly red meat, potatoes, pasta and rice).
Inspired by The Food Network, a Bobo pays for everything with a debit card, rarely armed with cash of any kind, except for a dollar or two for dropping into the tip jar at a locally owned coffee house.
Once home, a Bobo will turn on the 42-inch plasma television (mounted above a stone fireplace where a painting once hung) for a recap of the day’s campaign news, argued by other Bobos who were in their political science classes at an esteemed, private university “up north.”
Following a meal drizzled with the $12 black truffle oil, a Bobo will take off for a long hike in the wooded area behind his or her sprawling home, kept company by an iPod playlisted according to mood.
Frequently, a loyal sidekick is by a Bobo’s side in the form of a champion-bred retriever, most often named Marley, but he prefers the comforts of his L.L. Bean pillow (made in Maine, and preferred by dogs everywhere). This is all in a day’s work.
Short for “bourgeois bohemians”, being referred to as a Bobo is not necessarily an insult, or a way to poke fun at a group of well-educated, environmentally-friendly, professional service workers who have a craving for the good life (as their Life is Good tee shirt explains).
Instead, the new elite are actively involved in improving their communities, and they are so talented in their various efforts that there is plenty of downtime to relax and enjoy their passions.
According to social scientists, Bobos define an age of the intelligent and ambitious. They are the primary class of the iGeneration; a vital player in economic and social development.
This money-making brainpower isn’t necessarily saved for themselves, either. The maternal and paternal sides of Bobos seek to share their wealth of knowledge and opportunities with their many children, some of whom were adopted from poverty-stricken countries.
Bobo babies are treated to private schools and academies, little league sports, and junior book clubs. Cultural consequence is the theme of their value-driven education, as Bobo parents insist that their young ones understand what it means to be upper middle class, and what it takes to stay there.
Online retailers offer a long list of books that go into greater detail about these “Volvo Democrats” and “Luxury Campers.” Bargain-priced and published in recycled paperback, books stem from the satirical to the scientific, analyzing social class systems and the rise and fall of Bobo ancestors (The Hippies, The Preppies, and The Yuppies). While there are many reference guides on store shelves that explain how Bobos live, what they believe in, and how it may be possible to become one, there are no handbooks available on the topic of generational etiquette.
So, what might be the universal rule for labeling and referring to the newly affluent? While there is no concrete answer, there is an educated guess:
It’s not necessarily a no-no to call someone a bobo.
Brown is the managing member of The Write Word, LLC, and professional writing and editing agency in Charleston.