I’ll tell what you can do some time. Go to an airport arrivals terminal and as the passengers come through the doors try to guess where they’re coming from by looking at the fashion. I can tell the Irish instantly.
I’ve been at enough airports to last a lifetime and a while back I used to go to the terminal several hours before it was necessary just to sit with an overpriced coffee and people watch. I could start a secondary blog about what I’ve witnessed in airports.
Anyway between welcoming Irish and French family overseas to waiting in queues so long there is nothing to do but observe to spending a great percentage of my twenties in France or on trains in and out of the capital, I have a few thoughts on Parisian fashion.
I’ll stop before I continue to say that my preferred aesthetic is jeans and an oversized hoodie or in the summer comfy shorts and an oversized t-shirt. My boyfriend says he has done nothing to it but a luminous and comfortable yellow running t-shirt I wore without regret to the beach two years ago has since disappeared. (I have just remembered that).
I dress up when there is a danger of meeting someone from my past in this small village and there is always a danger of that unless you stay indoors ad infinitum. The ordeal is exhausting.
Of late though I have been making more of an effort. I think not teaching has helped because as any teacher knows, you basically have no life and zero interest in anything else but sleep for nine months of the year.
So it came as somewhat of a surprise when my boyfriend and his mum produced some clothes for me one Saturday morning in the kitchen. I told myself not to take it personally. I had actually received some compliments on my recent ascent from comfortable to fashion – attempt in Ireland. But Irish fashion and Parisian fashion are two very, very different beasts.
Even my boyfriend, who is so chilled out he is horizontal (why are we together you might ask?) and very widely travelled cannot seem to remove that very Parisian stereotype: an appreciation for what looks good. He even revealed a couple of months back that he worked during Paris fashion week once when he was in early twenties.
Spend some time in Paris like I do and you’ll get into the way they dress. There is something that I don’t think I can ever pull off and that is their seemingly effortless cool. Parisians even make complaining part of a cool aesthetic, so much so that if I could have bought bottled dissatisfaction upon first arriving in the city I would have.
Think dark or block coloured clothes and the occasional ripped something. Even their oversized coats somehow cling to their cool. There is usually an oversized bag in there too.
I have a sports backpack because it is practical.
When I think of Parisian fashion I see dark jeans ripped at the knees or on the thighs, dark, loose yet fitted sweaters tucked artfully to show off a belt, a large dark jacket, a fashion forward hat, bag, earrings or accessory of some sort. It can seem played down by some trainers but you know when you look at them that what they’ve chosen hasn’t been a last minute decision. There is work that goes into this.
I have tried to emulate it before but I saw my opportunity when these clothes – bought by someone in Paris for someone in Paris – were handed over to me.
When I wore the top they gave me and teamed it with what I thought was a Parisian look I was met with approval on my arrival back down to the kitchen. I went for black ripped jeans, black boots, a kind of dark cream (if that makes sense) fitted polo neck (tucked into my waistband at what I thought was an artful angle) and a long coat with the sleeves rolled up to just above my wrists to expose the sleeves of the polo neck.
Did I look Parisian? I ventured onto the metro feeling confident and I wonder if, in fact, that’s really the secret of all fashion anyway. Perhaps the Parisians I have seen just like what they wear and it is their confidence that strikes me rather than their clothes. Either way, I felt I blended in – or at least stood out less – and certainly I felt as if people didn’t just take one look at me and begin to speak in English. That felt like the true test.
If I had to come up with a word that maybe describes what it is that I like about Parisian fashion it is that it feels “classic” and therefore doesn’t, at least to me, feel liable to change each season. If you can crack Parisian style I feel, you can at least be considered well-dressed in one place in the world at any given time.
With my French improving rapidly and my sights set on buying my first home in Corsica and armed with my polo necks and artful sweater tucking, one might wonder if my only remaining Irish trait will be my self-deprecating tendencies.