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Vintage Boys’ Names: 9 choices ready for a comeback

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?

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26 Responses to “Vintage Boys’ Names: 9 choices ready for a comeback”

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SunKissedChild Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 12:55 am

Walter is currently one of our favourite boy names! I’d love to have a little Walt.

Xenobia Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 1:02 am

here in The Netherlands there aren’t many newborn Michaels! Matter of fact, I know none nor did I see the name in the birth announcement segment in the papers.

lesliemarion Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 1:20 am

Ray is a great choice. I love it and Raymond and Dougray, I think of brilliant writer Raymond Chandler and amazing actor Raymond Burr.

I love Laurence, Laurent, Laramie, Laurie (like in Little Women).

I second Philip, as well as Marlowe, Chandler’s great detective.

Walter (I love Wally too) and Martin are great and Stanley is versatile (Stan, Constant, Constantine, Dunstan, Stanislas, Stanislav, Stanford, Stanton, etc.)

To your list I would add Perry (as in Mason), Douglas, Norman, Edmund, Ned, Willian’s nickname Wilkie, Gordon, Robert, and so many C names like Chester, Clarence, Clyde, Clifford, Clement, etc.

Boy names excite me a lot more than girl names these days.

DearestJules Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 1:23 am

I think most or all of these names have already begun to revive themselves or I might even call already revived.

BlueEyes26 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 8:25 am

How about Ike or Percy

katybug Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 9:28 am

I love Laurence and nickname Larkin, and Pipkin as a nickname makes me love Philip too! I’d add Stuart, Lewis, Clark and Dean. I saw a baby Dudley lately–it’s so clunky it’s cool!

niteowl13 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 9:31 am

Ren as a nickname for Lawrence was something that I discovered due to my love of Ren. Now it won’t be a secret anymore! Great name list!

TheFutureMrsB Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 10:08 am

My grandfather, uncle and cousin are all Walters. Its a great name however only my grandfather went by Walter and even then he was still Wally most of the time.

My OH is a 20 yr old Martin. He got a lot of looks when he introduced himself to people when we first met in school. Even a teacher asked if he went by his middle name. He loves his name though and over time its grown on me.

Great list.

Chloe14 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I think Walter, Philip and Stanley deserve a comeback! Walter is a very handsome little boys name, I love it.

mill1020 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I can totally picture a baby Wally.

augusta_lee Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Isley Ray is absolutely smashing. I really like Walter, though prefer Wallace. My two favorite boys names — Simon and Roscoe — are firmly in the clunky-vintage category.

BritishAmerican Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I know brothers named Patrick & Phillip. They are in 3rd and 1st grade.

Walter was on my own list, years back. Though I remember googling it and finding a kids book named “Walter the Farting Dog”, which was off putting. (Years later someone actually gave us the book!) I remember it being a name on Lost, which caught my attention.

Stanley is much more popular in the UK. My husband had it on his list, 3-4 years ago. It wasn’t my favourite, but I see the charm, since it’s a well established name that isn’t popular.

Pansy Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Not sure why Patrick would need a “comeback”. Until 2000, it was in the top 100 and even now, it’s still ranks at 154. It might not be as popular as it was a decade ago, but it certainly hasn’t fallen out of use or anything.

benjamelissa Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

James, Walter, Lawrence, Edward, William, and Charles are popular in our ancestry. Richard would be another good comeback kid, with nicknames Ricky, Rick and Rich.

JH Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I really like Philip and Patrick. I detest Pat as a nickname for a man (or really any nickname for Patrick), which has stopped me from seriously considering it.

I think Frederick is a wonderful classic that should come back, that’s why we’re giving it to our son due in January! It’s also on the list of names that people think William and Catherine may choose. I’m sure if they do choose it, its popularity will skyrocket.

I agree with @benjamelissa that Richard is another classic that could be revived, even though I don’t care for the nicknames as much.

Erin91 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 5:54 pm

According to wikipedia, Leelee’s father-in-law’s name is Martin. I bet they named their son Martin to honor him. 🙂

onlythingbetterthanhairspray Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 6:09 pm

My brother’s best friend is named Harris (with a twin brother named Grant) and they’re in 7th grade.

I love Patrick (with no nickname) and Phillip (nn Pip!) for a little boy.

Orchid_Lover Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I like Lawrence but not Larry. But I don’t think it’s been out of fashion long enough to mount a comeback yet. I love Lewis for a baby now, though.

DrHenry Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

These are all solid names to me! We have Philip and Stanley on our list if we have another boy. I really like Ray and haven’t given that one much thought before. We also really like Martin but dislike how people with our accent tend to pronounce it.

miloowen Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Love Martin, Laurence, Philip, Patrick, and even Stanley. Also Bertram or Albert, Simon or Simeon, Edmund, Edgar, Ralph, Roger, Richard, Frederick, George, and Harvey.

mom3 Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I would love to see Howard make a comeback, nn Howie fits in with the Archie, Alfie, Charlie, Freddie’s, but equally fits into the no nicknames needed era….Edmund/Edmond also feels very distinguished, leaning towards multiple nn options Ed, Ned, Ted, Eddy. Perhaps also Richard, Christopher, Timothy, Paul….

I love Walter, Patrick, Arthur, Philip, Simon.

Maura Says:

November 17th, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I like the list for the most part. But I personally like Clyde, Edwin, Amos and Solomon a lot.

Saffron_Rice Says:

December 4th, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Thumps up to
Laurence
Philip
Raymond
and to Paul

frustratedauthor Says:

January 19th, 2015 at 2:41 pm

I love Ray and Martin. I don’t know if I can get behind Stanley.

Toronto87 Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 8:24 am

Love Walter and Lawrence in particular. I really think that almost any name can be totally handsome on a boy if it has history and the name suits the particular person. I don’t feel the same about girl’s names! Another classic name that I want to come back is Ambrose. It has never been used all that much but I’d like to see it become more popular. I also think my grandfather’s name, Harold, is due for a comeback.

Everything Old is New Again, Vol. II | The Art of Literary Nomenclature Says:

August 30th, 2015 at 2:53 am

[…] “Vintage Boy Names: 9 Retro Choices Ready for a Rebound“ […]

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