How to Dress Like a Parisian Man
Whether you’re going abroad for a while or just looking to bring a bit of French style into your own wardrobe, everyone wants to know how to dress like a Parisian.
But men have it particularly hard.
While there’s an entire library of advice for women, the few male fashion guides out there make things even MORE vague (what exactly does “dressing nicer” mean?). If you’re just looking for a straightforward introduction to men’s fashion in Paris, this is the guide for you.
And if you need an even more simplistic approach to dressing like a Parisian (we get it – words are hard – ain’t nobody got time for that), make sure you check out our visual everyday outfit cheat sheet at the end of the post.
Make Some Key Investments
Like your Parisian female counterpart, you’ll want to embrace the notion of a Luxury Basic – that is, you’ll want to start buying clothes at a higher quality and lower quantity – particularly when it comes to your everyday wear.
A Parisian man is willing to spend a little bit more to get more durable denims and more comfortable cottons for his staple jeans and shirts. If you haven’t checked your tags in a while, go do a fabric audit of your closet.
Keep: leather, wool, denim, cotton, linens, cashmere (blends of these fabrics are also okay)
Reevaluate: most synthetics (even when blended with one of the above)
If you find yourself throwing out a lot of synthetic T-shirts or sweaters and needing some quality replacements without taking out a new line of credit, I highly recommend online retailer, Everlane*, who sells 100% Combed Cotton t-shirts for only $15 and Cotton/ Cashmere sweaters for $55.
Choose the Right Shoes
Goutaste reader and French resident Mat Schraeder says looking the part is all in the shoes.
The Parisian man does not wear sneakers unless they’re vintage Chuck Taylors or designer, but even then, buyer beware – although it may seem more comfortable to Americans, in Paris designer sneaks are statement shoes. If you’re not comfortable styling an outfit yet, stay away from things with fat laces. A great alternative is a Chukka boot, which will still give you a rugged look – just with a little more Parisian style.
“My partner, ‘La Petite Française,’ strongly indicated that I should quickly remedy my shoe ‘problem’ when we first met. It’s so easy to forget what’s on your feet, but women notice… and so does the average French man. I’ve felt the stares and unsaid words and all eyes fell to the floor to inspect and comment on what adorned whose foot… Those were my early days here.” -Mat Schraeder, Goutaste reader
For the most typical Parisian footwear, grab leather pointed shoes in neutral blacks and browns (both lace-ups and single or double monk straps will work). You can wear these shoes with anything from jeans to slacks so they will definitely start you out on the right pied.
As with all of your quality fashion, make sure you take care of your shoes. As Mat says, “Regardless of what [shoes] you wear, keep ‘em in good condition. Maintain them, wash them, polish them, see your local cobbler and get to know him! These things can be expensive, so make ‘em last! That’s what we do here!”
Enhance Your Fit
The Parisian man’s clothes fit a little slimmer everywhere than what Americans are used to. Especially when it comes to suits or coats, the tailoring has to be inch-perfect. You’ll never catch a Parisian man “sagging” in the crotch, armpits, or cuffs.
“French tailoring has a specific “stamp” in terms of detailing, gradual waist suppression, the signature skirt flair [on suit jackets], a more narrow trouser leg, and the universally recognizable regal posture created by the high armhole cut and la cigarette shoulder.”
On the one hand, this seems like a total drag – “now I have to go to the tailor?!”
On the other hand, now you don’t have to worry so much about your clothes fitting perfectly off the rack. Just take a shirt you like in theory to your tailor who knows how you want it and voilà – French-guy fit.
Walking the streets of Paris without a scarf between September and May is like walking around naked – and yes, men, that includes you!
The European-looped scarf is a signature accessory that will never look out of place in Paris – no matter the weather. French men own scarves in a variety of fabrics, lengths, and styles so they can switch things up when necessary.
“You can also lend it to her (if she isn’t wearing her own) when the evening chill comes as you’re sitting at a cafe table outside… that’s a total class act!” – Mat Schraeder, Goutaste reader
The Parisian male loves to layer. Shirt under sweater under coat. Maybe even toss in a scarf.
This look contributes to the general Parisian fashion preference for looking as if you’re too cool to fuss over an outfit. You’ve got more important things to do, so you just threw on your clean (or unclean) laundry and somehow it magically worked out.
Of course, it’s not that simple, but it’s not that complicated either. The key to this look is remembering that each layer should allow the layer under it to peek out just a bit. If you wear a crew-neck sweater over a v-neck shirt, it kind of defeats the purpose.
Load Up on Black and Neutrals
You get the most value and versatility from your clothes by sticking with blacks and neutrals, so the Parisian man adores this. More fashion forward men can get away with some trendy colors and accessories when the season is right, but your safest bet is to stick with variations on black, white, gray, brown, and navy.
Again, Everlane* is a great place to stock up on basic colors in high quality fabrics without breaking the bank.
Mix Classy With Casual
The whole “blazer with dark-wash jeans” thing was invented in Paris. Like his female counterpart, the Parisian man likes to look like he threw together items effortlessly. The pairing makes it seem like a perfectly tailored blazer is just as natural for you as well-worn jeans or that un-ironed shirt.
Image via GQ
The same strategy also applies to the reverse pairing; a worn leather jacket with a crisp tailored shirt or slacks will also do the trick.
So you’ve got all the items sorted out, but how do you put it together? What’s a no-brainer, go-to outfit?
Start with an un-ironed neutral shirt (a button-down or a cotton Tee will both do) and a sweater (v-neck or button-down). Pair it with a suit jacket (perfectly tailored) or a brown leather jacket that fits like a glove. Add a great-fitting pair of slacks or dark-wash jeans with a classic brown or black belt. Finish the look with leather pointed shoes and a European-looped scarf for a ultra-Parisian look.
What do you think about Parisian men’s style? Could you see wearing this yourself? Still struggling to put it all together? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
*Everlane has NOT compensated me for the recommendations this post. I simply like their transparent business model and quality fabrics at a low price point.