How Men Dress In France

One of my best friends from college is a guy named Phil. He’s a really great, funny guy who always fancied himself a fashion dude despite not looking dirœectly like a “fashion dude.” This is because he wears a lot of button-ups or perfectly fitted white t-shirts that are half tucked into skinny—but not tight—jeans along with a sharp brown leather belt and matching loafers, both enviably worn in by him or the manufacturer. The look is a neo-preppy, post-WASP something that could easily be confused with an urban American archetype of Kind Of Sloppy But Kind Of Nice Looking Man. Funny enough, this type isn’t American: it’s a classic Parisian uniform.

Phil is a partial Parisian, thanks to parents who work for the government, and his style has always been “that look.” I knew many many at my international college who had this style but that never really completely clicked until having an extended stay in France: it’s the look of the city. Everything is trim and fitted, on the body but never “tight.” Nothing is overstated or understated. The look is a mixing of California cool and DC formal-casual. A blazer is more of a jacket to them than it is a formality. Ties are not really a thing but unbuttoned shirts revealing chest hair are. Sneakers are never worn unless they are white low top Converses that are pristine white. The look is easy to activate with a bike or walk around from home to work to dinner. These men have mastered the utilitarian casual-formal thing. That is the French way.

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Another thing: the look is this bizarre adult/child thing. There is this youthfulness to otherwise stuffy forms and an olderness to very young forms. The men of Paris wear denim on denim with aplomb and do not fear looking a little boyish. Most of the men could be confused for college kids hanging out after class or professionals on a lunch break: they can and they do have it both ways.

I can tell you a lot of things that don’t happen in Paris, though: men don’t stand out. They don’t wear anything too garish or overly flashy. Their style and way of flamboyance is by way of niceties: whoever has the sharpest style or clearest fancy item are those that are standing out. You aren’t wearing neons or trend pieces. In fact, no one is trending—and those who do seem desperate. They’re anomalies and illustrate just how annoying fashion subcultures like Normcore and Health Goth really are. They look ridiculous.

Men really don’t wear shorts, either. I did see a few men in short pants and they fell into three categories: Gay Man In Short-Shorts, which ranged from the overly high cut and sex searching to the actually tailored and cool; European Long Shorted Men, the stereotypical older traveling dad type who pass off capri pants as “shorts”; and the Hot Man, who simply is trying to escape the heat by wearing a short pant that is a nice above-the-knee cut and a logical reinterpretation o their casual formal wear.

That last bit is where I find myself wanting to be: in bold colors and trim shorts. Tailoring is the key. I’ve claimed this for years but a man in tailored shorts that are not too tight nor too short are just as smart on a man as pants. These can never be in jean but instead should be a five inch inseam that hits at the mid-thigh. If you go too short, you risk being risque. If you go too long, you fall into the sloppy. Parisian men know this, which is why they rarely wear shorts. That, and the city is not perpetually warmed like Los Angeles. You will get looks too as a man in shorts is a rarity, even in the Summer. I got a ton of confused and appalled and excited looks by my look. I kind of enjoyed that.

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Wearing shorts is a bit more challenging there too, I’ll be honest. In the heat of Summer, there really wasn’t any heat: it was cool breezes and stiff nights. I was well over-packed and prepared for hot and humid; yet, the Parisian climate is so high and low that wearing shorts is stamina challenge. You have to be prepared to be cold. You always have to carry a big sweater and something that could maybe cover your legs as you will likely be seated outdoors with people in pants, who won’t be bothered by extreme crisp.

So could you be a man in shorts in Paris? Yes. It’s different, though. It’s culturally, delightfully more dressed up and, yes, shorts figure into there more. It requires a lot of work though, I assure you.

The style of men in Paris is something to definitely lust toward. It’s confident and relaxed yet dressed up and polished—while being both and none at the same time. Like the city itself, there is this lovely tension between the very old and the very new, the classic and the contemporary. While women surely rule the roost of style and have more fun experimenting and playing around, men hold the line of being now-and-then in their looks. It’s great. We can learn a lot from how men dress in Paris—and I definitely will be attempting to fuse my style with their style. They make clothing look so effortless, so nice, and so irresistible.

(And, since I cannot live in Paris right now, I can dress as if I do. Why the fuck not?)

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