“The French order these things better”, Lawrence Sterne – the author of Tristram Shandy – observed many years ago, and that still holds true when it comes to clothes.
The French are still dressing better than the Brits – you only have to stroll down a Parisian street, or sit people watching at a café to work that out. And they make it look so effortless, having mastered a minimalist, understated style with a touch of flamboyance when it comes to eclectic accessorising.
The secret of dressing like the French is no mystery – there are some fairly basic rules to follow. You’ll want some basics in your wardrobe, and invest in quality ones, nothing cheap and nasty – cotton T-shirts, jeans, a linen shirt and a cashmere top will do you fine.
You’ll need a pair – or two – of quality leather shoes, either in black or brown. These will look great on all occasions, whether informal with a pair of jeans, or more formally with tailored trousers.
Trousers, as with all garments, should be slim fit, baggy being a vulgar American look. Slim fit here means slim, not skinny – clothes should fit you like a glove, and not be squeezed into. Your new best friend is a tailor, perfect for alterations, whether of vintage or new clothing.
Layering is another key to the French look; the way a shirt peeks out from underneath a sweater, just visible under that long coat (under, of course, a scarf during Autumn and Winter). Layering works through balancing textures and your colour palette; different shades of grey, blues, blacks and navy – there is a difference – are for playing with. This makes a splash of red on a sweater or scarf stand out all the more dramatically. Obviously, garish colours and logos are out.
An all-black outfit is a very popular one which will accentuate a splash of colour from a scarf or handkerchief, and can easily flit from formally casual, with a black tailored jacket, to rock star chic with a black bomber jacket. You can slip a blue in here too, if you want to subtly mix it up.
When we think of the French, the first thing we might think of is a classic Breton T-shirt, and why not? They’re absolutely timeless classics, and look great peeking out from under a cardigan, which is why many French men still have them in their wardrobes, if not berets.
In the end, dressing like a Frenchman isn’t really all that difficult – just think less is more, and emphasise quality over quantity. You can find fashion inspiration here.