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Vintage Boys’ Names: 9 choices ready for a comeback

November 16, 2014 Abby Sandel
baby boy names

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Let’s say you’re naming a son.

You’re a buttoned-up kind of family, and the classics seem like the right route.

The only problem?

Your nephew is James, your favorite cousin is expecting a Henry, and William is your BFF’s #1 choice.  Charles was a frontrunner, except there’s already a little Charlie two doors down – and she’s a girl.

What’s a parent to do?  Go further back, of course.

Not so long ago, Arthur felt impossibly fusty.  Now it’s fashion-forward.  Every classic name that makes a comeback starts out old school.

Only a handful of names are perpetually in favor.  James, Joseph, and William have never left the US Top 20, and David and John have never left the Top 50.

Many a solid, reliable boy’s name has hibernated.  Alexander, Henry, Benjamin, Matthew, and Adam were all once relatively underused.

This week’s high-profile birth announcements and baby name chatter was all about comeback baby names for boys.

Nine baby boy names set for a revival are:

Ray It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton and wife Jill Latiano have welcomed a second son, Isley Ray, a little brother for Miles Robert.  Isley – as in Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Isley Brothers – is a modern moniker, along the lines of Lennon or Marley.  But how about Ray?  A Top 100 favorite through the 1940s, Ray is as short as Luke or Max, with the same bright ‘a’ sound as Jacob and Mason.  Bonus?  It’s been well over three decades since Ray cracked the US Top 200.

Gus August is on the rise, but Gus – just Gus – hasn’t been in the US Top 1000 since the 1970s.  Actress Poppy Montgomery has talked about how much time she spent searching for the right name for each of her children – Jackson Phillip, Violet Grace, and now Gus Monroe Devereaux.  Dad is Poppy’s husband, Shawn Sanford.  Devereaux is one of Poppy’s given names.  If you’re crushed that Jude is so popular, Gus might be one to consider.

Lawrence Larry is your great uncle, or maybe your boss.  But Lawrence?  Lawrence could be your baby!  Josette Plank has Lawrence on her list of names ready for revival. This one brings to mind Little Women’s boy-next-door Laurie.  And if you’d prefer another nickname?  There’s Ren, as in Kevin Bacon’s Footloose character.  I’ve met a little Lawrence – no nickname, thanks – and was surprised at how nicely his name fit.  And yet, this classic may have longer to hibernate.  Lawrence was still falling in use as of 2013.

Walter – Another name from Josette’s column, one that is actually moving up.  Famous Walters are plentiful, from Raleigh to Disney.  While I can’t imagine a baby Wally, Walter fits with surname-names like Parker and Cooper, as well as traditionals like Arthur and Peter. Walt seems like a strong, confident name for a grown-up.  Walter ranked in the US Top 20 through the 1930s, and remained in the Top 100 until 1972.

Philip Josette mentioned Philip, too.  The name jumped out from Elea’s study of Restoration-era Norfolk names.  In terms of popularity, Philip fell somewhere between Samuel and Nathaniel.  If those names are currently Top 100 choices in the US, doesn’t Philip feel ready for revival?  As of 2013, this name had risen to #386 in the US.  Credit Jim & Pam’s baby Philip on The Office, maybe?  Skip the nickname Phil, and suddenly Philip feels much fresher.

Patrick Patrick is another name that works well in our no-nicknames-please era.  Larry and Pat are in the same bowling league, but Patrick is a brother for Daniel, and an Irish heritage choice somehow less expected than Aiden or Ryan.  Names for Real found a birth announcement for a Patrick Hollister.

Harris – Liann is the name consultant at Early Mama.  She was asked to help find a “classic, not common” name for Ivy’s little brother.  Plenty of the choices on her list are stylish, like Jasper and Silas.  But Harris struck me as truly inspired.  Harris was never common, but the name regularly appeared in the US Top 1000 name into the 1960s – and hasn’t been back in years.  This makes Harris an under-the-radar possibility that bridges classic Henry and surname names like Brooks.

Stanley – Here’s another name slowly making its way out of style limbo.  Cougar Town has a young kid called Stan, and a number of fictional boys have answered to Stanley, from the Disney Channel’s animated Stanley to the enduring children’s book series, Flat Stanley.  And, of course, there’s Spider-Man creator Stan Lee.  Doesn’t the name suddenly seem cooler?  Stanley climbed 55 spots to #678 in 2013, so this name could be on the comeback trail.

Martin – Let’s end with Leelee Sobieski’s baby boy.  Leelee and husband Adam Kimmel named their new arrival Martin.  Yes, Martin.  He joins big sister Louisanna.  No word on why the couple chose the name, but it’s a rock solid choice.  Martin Luther King, Jr. makes it a hero name.  Dean Martin lends the name a charismatic, Rat Pack kind of cool.  It’s easy to imagine Martin fitting in with Mason and Landon on the playground, while still standing out nicely.

Which traditional names for boys deserve a comeback?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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