How do French Men Dress?

“How do women in Paris dress?” That’s the crucial question any woman worth her fashion salt might be nervously asking herself as she packs her suitcase for a visit to the world capital of fashion. There will be those nail-biting scenes, as she has to choose between a pair of sensible wedges and a pair of not-so-sensible vertiginous high-heels. After much hair pulling, repacking and booking her Private Personnal Shopping Tour in Paris, her attention might turn to her male equivalent: “But about what the men?” she asks. “Surely they must be asking the same question as they pack their holdall?” Yes and no. For the uninitiated male, Paris is a foreign country − and not just geographically. What they fail to realize is that French style has its codes, and like most things in French society, there is a set of rules to follow. They are simple, but ignore them at your peril — those who do might be unmercifully classified as a down-at-heal tourist, and in less than a Paris minute.

No flashy colours

Just to be clear on this point: Paris may be known as the “City of Light”, but this has nothing to do with what people are wearing; it refers, rather, to the Age of Enlightenment. That being said, “City of Monochrome” sums up how little colour actually features in the Parisian sartorial palette. Think of the iconic blank and white photos of young existentialists sitting at café terraces on the Left Bank, dressed in black roll-neck jumpers, or white and blue stripped Breton fishing jumpers. They are wearing the signature black beret and a Gauloises cigarette is being waved passionately in one hand, as they discuss philosophy and down their 5th coffee of the morning.

Fast-forward 60 years and things haven’t changed so much in terms of style as you can learn during our Paris History of Fashion Tour". The militant politics have gone out the window, along with the berets − but the terraces are still filled with disaffected youth, waiting on their next coffee hit to kick in. Monochrome and modest fifties-inspired looks are still favoured over anything else. V-neck cashmere jumpers in grey or black, button down oxford-shirts, blue-suede Derbys, or discreet white trainers such as converse – or, for the little flashier: Dior Homme. Essentially, having a few sober basics is what French dressing is all about.

Slim-Fit Jeans

Following on in the 50s spirit, the slim-fit jean is a ubiquitous sight on the Parisian street. It’s a modern update on the signature cigarette-leg trousers that featured in the TV show Mad Men. The by now legendary French brand A.P.C. is a good place to start, with a shop in the Marais you will be in the right place to catch the cool crowd as they take to the café terraces in the summer. It’s safe to say that it would be hard to persuade a Parisian hipster to part with his pair of razor-cut Japanese denim A.P.C. jeans.

A slim-fit blazer

Once you have a good pair of jeans the next essential, especially for night-time dining, is a great blazer. Worn with a shirt, or t-shirt, the blazer is a simple way to look elegant without overdoing it. This is something you don’t want to get wrong, so the best advice is to fork out a little bit more for something really special. COS or Sandro makes simple and chic men’s clothing at the more affordable side of the price spectrum.

Barbour Jacket

The sturdy hardwearing English brand, Barbour, once derided as a bit square, (owing to its popularity with the English royal family), is undergoing a sort of fashion revival, and Paris is no exception. The navy-quilted coats and wax jackets have become wardrobe staples, seen worn on the streets of the bourgeois 16th arrondissement or with a sense of ironic subversion by the Bobos (French hipsters) on the streets of the 11th arrondissement. So, for the cold wet winters and April showers, a Barbour will put you in good stead.

Preppy for Posh Restaurants

You’re going out for dinner in Paris? Jeans can be worn, but if you are going somewhere fancy, wear a pair of chinos and a button down oxford shirt. Ironically enough the American label Ralph Lauren is very popular in Paris. Famous for dressing the stars of some of Woody Allen's hit films, Ralph Lauren has a beautiful shop on the swanky Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris. The French are great admirers of the films of Woody Allen, so it's no surprise they have been won over by this iconic American label.

Tie

Unless you’re eating at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, attending a wedding, or on a business trip, don’t even dream of packing a tie.

A Scarf

A Parisian staple, the scarf will be worn practically during all seasons. For winter, a scarf in cashmere is a popular choice and affordable cashmere can be found at Uniqlo or the in house brands found at the big department stores.

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