I have been travelling around the world for almost two years and one thing that people always mention to me when I meet them is how much they love French style.
So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what makes the French way of dressing so appealing to the outside world, how to easily emulate it and debunk some myths along the way. All from a Frenchman’s perspective.
Paris, to this day, is still considered to be the capital of fashion and when people refer to French style they usually mean Parisian chic. Not as eccentric as the Londoner, but not as preppy as the New Yorker, the Parisian man is sophisticated and well put together, but in an effortless way.
That’s where it becomes tricky. What people envy most about French style is that “je ne sais quoi”, meaning that we look great without looking like we tried to. Let me reassure you, that careless attitude is mostly a front. French people think about fashion and are very weary of how they look. That “effortlessness” is in fact quite studied, so do not fret if you spend a little too much time trying out combinations in your closet. The French do it too!
The golden rule to dressing like a true Frenchman is that you should never look like you tried too hard to look cool. It’s the biggest fashion faux-pas one could make. Even though fashion is part of our culture and heritage, it is paradoxically regarded as very frivolous. It is due to the fact that France has always been a country of “intellectuals” and fashion is somehow always looked down upon as something superficial that one should not overconcern themselves with. That being said you will be stared at if you walk down the street in sweatpants and flip flops.
Here are some ground rules to help you nail down French style:
1) Dress smart casual, always.
The key is to combine elements of casualwear with more dressy items, in order to achieve that “thrown together, but I look awesome” vibe. For instance, wear jeans with a nice shirt, or a tee shirt under a nice fitted blazer. It’s all about finding that right balance so you neither look sloppy nor overdressed.
2) Stick to a monochrome colour palette
Generally speaking, French people only ever wear 3 colours at a time, 4 if you’re adventurous. This guarantees that your outfit looks good without feeling overthought. Use navy, black, white and grey as much as you want. If you go outside those parameters, be careful to balance it out with the aforementioned shades.
3) Go for a nice shoe
France may have fallen pray to the trend of trainers as everyday footwear, like the rest of the world, but no true French outfit is complete without a nice pair of boots. They elevate any outfit and easily go from day to night. Essentials are a Chelsea black boot and a smart dark brown lace up.
4) Throw in a bit of Americana
Having grown up watching American movies and TV shows, every French person of my generation secretly wishes they were living in LA. Mix up your outfit with some American accents, like a denim shirt or a western inspired belt. That way you won’t end up looking like a head-to-toe cliché.
5) Go for rock’n’roll at night
If the French’s daytime outfits lean towards the conservative, we like to edge it up a bit when the sun goes down. A great outfit for the night would be a biker leather jacket worn with black skinny jeans and a black shirt.
6) Keep your accessories to a minimum
Once again, simplicity is key. French men are not too bothered with accessories. But if you’re going for a more bohemian yet elegant look, try a fedora hat or a brocade scarf to polish up your outfit. Just bear in mind, less is more.
Additional note : NEVER EVER (UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES) WEAR A BERET!
Finally, let’s wrap up with a quick and easy outfit :
Sandro Paris long wool coat – this is more of a wish list item, you can substitute it for a black overcoat from Topman.
Uniqlo Men Washed Striped Crewneck Long Sleeve Shirt – $19.90
Zara Etched Leather Belt – $35.50
Cheap Monday Narrow New Black Skinny Fit Jeans – $90.00
ASOS Black Chelsea Boot in Leather – $80.00
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