Fashion, Lifestyle 62 comments

French Men Fashion: how to Dress Like a Parisian Man

Difficulty Easy

What men wear in Paris

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.

And do not forget to send the article on how to dress like a Parisian woman over 50 to your friends.

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)

100% Cotton Shirts

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!”

Shoes

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.

Collect Scarves

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

Layer Up

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.

layers

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.

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.

Putting it All Together: The Everyday Outfit Cheat Sheet

So you’ve got all the items sorted out, but how do you put it together? What’s a no-brainer, go-to outfit?

French-man-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.

62 Comments

  1. Great post! And a great breakdown on how to achieve a simplified, quality style. Is there by chance an actual list of the items from the cheat sheet? (I’m particularly interested in the blazer from the top row, second from the left.)

  2. Emily Grossman

    Hi Dan! So glad you liked it! That blazer is actually part of Everlane’s slim sweater blazer line (I’m a huge fan)! Here’s a link to their site: https://www.everlane.com/r/maa6p9

  3. Joseph Moraels

    Love the post, question, is the cheat sheet just the essential and then we can expand on colours and items? Thank you.

  4. Joseph Moraels

    Love the post, question, is the cheat sheet just the essential and then we can expand on colours and items? Thank you.

  5. Emily Grossman

    You got it, Joseph! The cheat sheet is an idea of what an every day basic outfit would look like. You can play with adding or altering items based on your own style or other tips in the guide, but it’s a good idea to get at least one of each of the items on the cheat sheet to start your Parisian wardrobe. You definitely can’t go wrong with these classics!

    Feel free to ask any questions here in the comments if you’ve got a piece you’re on the fence about!

  6. Where are the pants from in the cheat sheet? They look great.

  7. Great display of the variations one can try. Question: I’m a husky fellow, any reco on pants that would work with the rest of the ensemble?

  8. The bf pointed to this blog post when shopping for his new work wardrobe :) We’re both pretty much clueless at this stuff. I’ve heard of Everlane from a few people already but haven’t taken the plunge. What do you love about it? By the way, would you recommend Vain Pursuits? We’re both pretty much clueless about skin care as well :)

  9. Emily Grossman

    Hi Larry!

    This is a great question! I can tell from your comment that you’re looking for a way to hide your figure a bit, but I’d actually still recommend going with a tailored pant or trouser! You don’t have to go quite as slim on your cut if this makes you uncomfortable, but baggy pants will only add bulk to your figure while a good tailored cut will be much more slimming.
    If you’re concerned about things holding up in the waist area, I’d recommend going with a cool vintage suspender over a belt, as this can look really fashionable while being a little more functional for your needs.

    I hope this helps – let me know if you have any more questions!

  10. Emily Grossman

    Desmond, I haven’t been able to find my original source for those pants, however most contemporary department stores should carry a slim fitting pair of slacks like these. When in doubt, ask your tailor!

  11. Emily Grossman

    I’m so happy to hear this post is getting popular with the gents! And I LOVE Everlane, Cecily! The quality of the clothes is excellent (even the delicate silk blouses are standing the test of time – no buttons lost or seams ripped yet!) and the prices are extremely hard to beat. At this point, I think about 60% of my wardrobe came from Everlane, and I religiously carry the Petra bag, too. The fabrics are like butter to the touch and the colors are perfect, versatile basics.

    I haven’t had a chance to try Vain Pursuits yet, but maybe I will now that you’ve reminded me! Have you had any experience there?

  12. I checked out the Petra bag and that is one absolutely gorgeous design ! My bf loves the men’s slim sweater blazer so that makes getting his birthday present so much easier this year

  13. Emily Grossman

    Hi Eugène! I’m so glad you had such a great (and fashionable!) time in Paris. I love it, too!

    You are so right about the importance of showing some effort to speak French first. This is something that also came up in a previous post we wrote (http://goutaste.com/are-the-french-rude-5-reasons-americans-might-think-so/) and is so so so key to having a great experience. It really makes sense once you think about it, but many people don’t often start conversations this way! Great point!

  14. Bonjour! I found your article and read it with excitement. I was in Paris this Summer and I was pleased to read that I nailed it in my fashion sense. Paris and I have a special relationship – we get along so nicely – I love it there!

    I would like to add that a clincher to getting along in Paris is being decisive, even when you need to ask questions, be confident but not cocky. If you speak French, you’re all set! If not, at least learn to ask if the person you are addressing speaks English. Don’t just start off an exchange with speaking English unless you know the person you are speaking to. Pleasantly ask: Pardon, est-ce que vous comprenez anglais? Score major points this way!

  15. This is a really great post!

  16. Wonderful post! My husband totally needed something this simplified to help him know how to dress in France when we go in Spring 2015. Can’t wait to pull these items together for him!

  17. This is such a great post! I’ve been looking for ideas on how French men dress since I’ve just fallen in love with their culture and country entirely, and I’m hoping to go to Paris within 2015/16. I’ll definitely be looking into everlane. I’m a younger Canadian guy and have no idea on where to get anything nearly this stylish or comfortable without being online so I hope this’ll be a start. Any other sites or ideas would be great! Thanks!

  18. Hi ! I’m 30 years old. I’m a French man who lives in Paris.
    For summer, you could wear jeans or shorts pants with leather flip-flops or leather strap sandals but not beach flip-flops.
    If you don’t want to be noticed as a tourist, you should always wear leather sandals !
    Most of parisian men don’t like to wear beach shoes

  19. Great tips, thanks for putting this together. Headed to Paris in the still cold early March timeframe. What do you think about some dark colored courdoury pants in the mix?

  20. Love your web page! The men’s leather (saddle?) bag is wonderful. Where can I find that one or something very similar? Thanks.

  21. Would H&M be a good store to purchase clothing? Do you recommend it?

  22. Emily Grossman

    Hi Michael! Thank you! Try onabags! http://www.onabags.com

  23. Emily Grossman

    I think H&M pieces are great for mixing in with your more luxury items, but because they are generally cheaper and lower quality, they tend to be made from materials or with speedy craftsmanship that won’t last as long. That said, it is great for trying out a new seasonal trend that you aren’t sure will be around or fashionable next year!

  24. Emily Grossman

    I think that’s a great idea, Bob! Did you end up wearing them? What did you think?

  25. Emily Grossman

    Thanks, Nick! That’s a great point! Shoes are certainly an important touch.

  26. Emily Grossman

    Hi Greg! I hope you do make it to Paris this year or next!

    Definitely start looking at brands like Everlane, Zara, JCrew, Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, Paul Smith, and YSL.

    Online, I like: Everlane.com, MrPorter.com, oki-ni.com, and coggles.com.

  27. Where is the brown leather jacket from? It’s perfect.

    Thank you for putting this together. Have been looking for adding some French touches to my wardrobe. What retailers do you generally recommend?

  28. Hello. What would someone that is in their fifties, and is short and stocky wear, the same things.

  29. Thank you so much for this article. I have been a fascinated reader of your blog for some time, and really love it. Before my premier voyage to France I wanted to ensure that I looked the part, yet everywhere I turned no website had any tips for me(as a male) other than dress like a tourist if you are one. That alone disgusted me. Perhaps not disgust but rather distressed me, if I as an internet savvy tourist could not find an hospitable webpage for tips how did the Americans abroad dress? Well I stumbled upon your blog and ate it up being that I am a Francophile, Europhile, and Fashion Lover(of the late 19th century and early 20th) among other things!

    When I did end up visiting I enjoyed it so much more knowing that I looked the part. During my sojourn an actual Parisienne in Paris asked me what arrondissement I lived in at that time, which was both a compliment to my French and my fantastic taste(with your aid!), I was incredibly proud. Additionally in when I was in Valenciennes a man who was very much a lost American Tourist asked me for directions to Lille, after our conversation he inquired where in The UK I was from!

    So long of the short of it, I really loved your article and felt it brought a lot of colour(not literally) into my wardrobe and I love your cooking articles! Thanks a bunch!

  30. “to peak out just a bit” – ah, Spellcheck, don’t you just hate it? I don’t mind letting something peek out a bit, however.

  31. Emily Grossman

    You got it! But be careful not to expand too much on colors – the Parisian man is not very colorful in his clothing.

  32. Emily Grossman

    Thanks, Simon! I appreciate the heads up, especially because spell check doesn’t catch little homonym typos like that! The post is edited now, so there will be more peeking and less peaking

  33. What about summer looks? I’ll be there in July and not sure lots of layers is the thing to do in the hot months?

  34. Thank you for this write-up. I’ll be in Paris for the first time in late November. I’m going to lose a few pounds between now and then, and put some outfits together. This site will help a lot. Bookmarked.

    I don’t have any scarfs yet, but I’ll enjoy finding some.

    Thanks again.

  35. Hello, great article with great information. I’m heading to Paris for my first time, going with my family, my wife & two amazing daughters almost 4, & almost 2 years old. Lights of my life.

    So…I’m a bigger guy, built like a brick house, or Mac Truck, thick all the way through. You know what I’m saying. I’m 6’3 250+, so my question is do these tips still apply for me too? I think I can pull it off without over stepping my boundaries. And I’d rather look like a dumb American, than a French douche bag. I’m just saying. Thanks in advance.

  36. I’ve got the Cleveland Travel Bag from http://www.ryokobags.com/collections/travel-bags

  37. What kind of headwear? We will be visiting in July.