In the heart of Paris lies le Jardin des Tuileries: the centre of Parisian street-style. There is nothing more fascinating than immersing yourself in a different city and culture and observing the fashion of your peers.
In Paris, it is clear that there is a general sense of conscious effort. Men’s style is certainly stronger than in the UK. French men are able to assert the typical ‘chic’ with a roll-neck, for example, layered with a heritage trench coat yet topped off with the ruggedness of battered biker boots. French women take the most simple of pieces, white shirt and blue jeans, and add their own personal spin to complete the outfit simply by adding a fun pair of Sophia Webster ‘Dove’ butterfly heels or a signature quilted Chanel Boy Bag.
British style, I am afraid to say, does not follow in the footsteps of French style. The majority of Brits conform to an almost stereotypical way of dressing, by following trends and buying ‘off the mannequin’. We show very little imagination for putting clothes together. Some clothing that I personally associate with Brits are bleach-washed denim, crop tops and emblazoned logo t-shirts. All of these have become so popular that they have crawled into our wardrobe essentials. I am thoroughly against this.
The French colour palette is also far more subdued. Monochrome looks are prominently featured with various shades of neutrals, from camel to moss green, perhaps juxtaposed with an audacious primary or a psychedelic print. However, in Britain we stick to the ‘brighter is better’ ethos. We seem to adore the garish neon tones that drench a meagre top or that infamous bleach-washed denim, which changes the colour blue for the worse.
‘Chav’, as we all know, is a British stereotype and a derogatory term associated typically with a young, brash lower-class person who wears real or imitated designer clothes. The ‘Chav look’, comprising a hoodie, tracksuit and sports shoes unfortunately still takes precedence over many Brits’ fashion sensibilities. My point is that it is almost too easy to identify someone from that look. If we go back to France, it is far more difficult to differentiate between who is a ‘chav’ and who isn’t.
Take a typical Sunday morning stroll through the bustling Place Vendome in central Paris. Women are distinctive in appearance. You will see a lady with the most elegant gait, strutting down the street in head to toe Vintage Chanel, diamond earrings and nails matching her post-box red velveteen coat. Without a doubt she will be accompanied by a loyal companion most likely dressed better than a typical British equivalent. These dogs are more accessories than a mere pet, often tucked under designer sleeves, enjoying the scenery.
On this topic of accessories, I would like to touch upon jewellery. Jewellery is a great way to spruce up or put a classy spin on a basic outfit. Take pearls for example. They are inevitable and timeless pieces, often related with elegant, vintage style and beauty.
For going out, we Brits have designated outfits for a specific occasion. However in France, it just does not happen. Take the YSL smoking jacket: typically a black, satin blazer – the epitome of French chic. French women are able to dress it up or down, essentially only needing one formal piece to re-master and make it their own at any event.
Quality is far more important than quantity in France. Parisians would rather invest in unique, designer pieces than conform to the British attitude of splashing out in high street stores such as Primark or Topshop on bargains that you can only wear once.
Statistics show that 72 percent of Brits have admitted to injuring themselves for the sake of fashion. The list varies from wearing excruciatingly high heels to skin-tight fabrics. They go by the mantra of ‘no pain, no gain’. However, a quote from Coco Chanel says it all: 'Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance'. The French win again!