French men are as addicted to fashion as their female counterparts.
Check out all the fantastic male designers that France has produced over the years: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin, to name a few.
Even imports such as Karl Lagerfeld have made their mark on the scene.
Men in France take the way they look very seriously. They have an eye for quality, longevity and minimal fuss.
Here are a few things you might find interesting about relationship French men have with fashion.
1. The Man Skirt
Image courtesy of Roger Mbee
“I don’t believe that fabrics have a gender, any more than certain garments do,” said Jean Paul Gaultier, the enfant terrible of French fashion designers. With that kind of mindset, it shouldn’t be surprising that he created a man skirt in the 1980s and caused an uproar similar to women asking for the vote back in the day.
To quote the New York Times, “Mr. Gaultier has contributed a great deal not only to democratizing fashion but to promoting ideas of beauty, gender, race and class that challenged mainstream mores.” Gaultier broke barriers with his signature vision, influenced by popular culture and daring to be different.
His collection of pieces from that period, including clothing he designed for Madonna, have been exhibited around the world.
2. No white sneakers (white socks, baseball caps, and cargo shorts).
Men: if you want to stick out in Paris, wear white sneakers.
It will draw attention to you as a foreigner without fashion sense.
In an effort not to insult the local gods of fashion, check out the feet and ankles of the French men around you and copy their style.
A nice pair of shoes, comfortable loafers or leather sandals—of good quality—are much more acceptable than white sneakers. The way you dress, from head to toe, shows respect to the establishments you visit and the people with whom you’re mingling in the city, especially when going out at night.
3. The cut of clothing
Baggy clothes are a no-no for men and women in France.
With that in mind, consider that the fit you find at a clothing store in Paris might be a bit more tailored than you’re used to.
French men cultivate a tailored, svelte look that is at once effortless and flattering.
4. French men are as fashion-conscious as the women.
A little sophistication goes a long way. A nice blazer or jacket, well-cut pants, and well-made shoes mark the style of the French man. It’s about quality over quantity. Tousled, bedhead hair and mixed-in casual pieces can add a seemingly effortless appearance, and the pieces don’t even have to match. They simply need to reveal a bit of style and flair. The key to an outfit is how you wear it.
5. Manly boutiques are everywhere in Paris.
The modern French man likes to have choices.
There are chic boutiques in Paris that serve his diverse needs, from traditional to club wear. French Trotters, Christophe Lemaire, Comedie Humaine, and Balibaris are among the many shops that cater to discerning male tastes.
6. French men love scarves.
You will more than likely encounter a French man in a scarf–from autumn through spring.
It’s the perfect accessory, adding a touch of elegance and panache that makes him unique.
It can be trendy or understated, laid back or dressy.
Whether tucked inside a jacket, tied into an intricate knot or thrown over the shoulder, it’s just...cool.
7. Louis XIV invented fashion seasons.
Louis XIV, wikipedia
The seventeenth century was a time of opulence and grandeur, led by none other than King Louis XIV himself. His heightened sense of fashion was emulated by men and women alike. No expense was spared to have the best fabrics and most fashionable designs at his disposal, which then trickled down to the royal court, the nobility and foreigners alike. The idea of a new style for every season came out of this era, a strategy that is still seen today in many of the prominent fashion houses. The first French fashion press was also developed during this time and was used to advertise the styles being worn by members of the royal court. So the next time you see your favorite male model strutting down the runway, think of Louis XIV, patron of fashion.
8. The three-piece suit came out of the seventeenth century.
The precursor to the three-piece suit is thought to have come from the 1600s as well. Men in the king’s court preferred long, intricate waistcoats, a fitted coat and breeches. Sound familiar? Imagine Daniel Craig’s James Bond in a three-piece suit and you’ll get the idea.
9. Facial stubble is practically de rigeur.
Vincent Cassel with François Cluzet on C à vous
Have you seen French actors Vincent Cassel and Jean Reno? Don’t they rock the scruffy look? It’s sexy and says, “I still look good, even though I haven’t shaved in days.” Perhaps they look better because of it. Who knows? French men approach hair and hygiene the same way women do; they strive to appear artful, elegant, and effortless.
10. A bit of imperfection goes a long way.
It’s not about matching colors or the perfect suit. It’s: “I woke up late this morning, and I’m really in a hurry. Hey, this smells clean. I’ll throw this on.” That’s the vibe you get when you look at a French man on his way to work or a hot date. The clothing may have cost the earth—or not—but the way he puts it together emits casual elegance–like he just fell into the outfit, without even trying. It says, “Forgive me for being scruffy, but I can still charm the pants off you.” How does the French man do it? Well, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and often pokes fun at his own foibles.
He knows he has everything he needs in his closet and can simply throw something on and run–with or without a shower. Windblown hair is the finishing touch. That’s what you should aim for. Think you can handle it?
It may seem a bit complicated, but it’s all in the approach. Learn the basics of the French man’s wardrobe: a few jackets and blazers, scarves, tailored pants and jeans, shirts that fit well, T-shirts that are trendy and fashionable, a messenger bag, well-made leather belts and a few good pairs of shoes. You’ll be good to go. If you can afford it, buy clothing you like and then take them to a tailor to be fitted for your frame. France has some of the best tailors in the world.
If you’re still not sure what to do or how to get started, scope out the shops. Watch what men buy and follow their lead. Remember, it’s quality over quantity. Buy things that last, things that can be mixed-and-matched with other items in your wardrobe. Think in layers and you’ll be just fine.
Back to you.
Now, what do you think? Was this helpful? Do you have a different view? What’s your opinion of men’s fashion in Paris? Please leave your comments in the section below.
Image sources: Pixabay, Youtube, Wikipedia, Roger Mbee
Do you want to receive some awesome articles about the joys, challenges, and lessons learned from expatriation adventures in Paris every week?
Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at anytime.
Latest from Michael Bahati
- Paris-based Expat Influencers Reveal The Podcasts That Make Them Smarter
- Champs-Élysées Film Festival: 6 of the greatest cinematic works
- 30 Life Lessons Expats Learn But Keep Forgetting
- When renting an apartment in Paris becomes affordable and easier
- Foreign student accommodation: Here’s how you can afford a 1000 Euros furnished apartment rent in Paris.