As part of my preparation for this trip, I did a little research on clothing. Of course I wanted to be comfortable, but also? I didn’t want to look too much like an American.
Now I realize a few things right away: Any French person would peg me as a Yank at 20 paces, the same way I learned to spot French people when they all swarmed Detroit in the last decade, click-click-clicking their cameras at the ruin porn. But I thought that maybe, if I didn’t cross certain lines, I could at least not stick out like some dipshit. No baseball caps, no fanny packs, you know the drill. So I hit the web, googling “how do French people dress” and packed accordingly.
I had sneakers, not big chunky gym sneakers, but cute, close-cut Italian sneakers, much more fashionable than something you’d wear to work out in. I brought only one set of leggings, which I wear exclusively indoors. Because everything I read indicated that French women would never wear Nikes, and leggings on the street? Non!
I don’t need to tell you how much of this advice was utter bullshit, do I? Everybody — and I mean all ages, both genders, tiny tots to grandparents, are wearing American-style athletic shoes on the street. My Italian sneaks not only aren’t working, but with so much walking, my feet swell as the day progresses, and they’re virtually crippling. I haven’t worn them since day three, when I limped into a Nike store and paid too much for a pair of running shoes, which I wore out of the store. My feet had expanded a half size in mid-afternoon, so there’s the literal rub. The waitress at the restaurant we lunched at today was wearing a leather miniskirt, white cotton sweater, patterned tights and black Adidas.
And leggings are everywhere. Hey, these girls have cute little fannies, and why not wear something that shows them off?
Not that they don’t have that je ne sais quoi. There’s something about the way they can throw together a pair of jeans and a plain white T-shirt and just look fabulous, in a way that no non-fashion model American can pull off. (The men look great, too. I see way more suits here than in Detroit, although hardly any neckties.) It has to do with the accessories, but also the scarves.
Man, the scarves. It’s funny, because the scarves are how I learned to spot the French in Detroit. It could be 80-plus degrees, killer humidity, but you’d see these folks hanging around town taking pictures, in Euro-style eyeglass frames and always, always a scarf. Maybe draped a little loosely, but still — on the neck when someone with my body composition and internal thermostat would have instantly drenched it with sweat. How. Do they DO IT.
The weather has been fine so far, 70s dipping into the 50s at night, but the first day the high was just below 70, people were out in lightweight puffer jackets and scarves. The humidity is pretty high, and when I walk, even casually stroll, in weather like that, I need a jacket and scarf like I need a pair of stilettos. I don’t even wear my good scarves until it gets pretty chilly, because the last thing you want to do with silk is sweat all over it. But here there seems to be no such rule. Today was fine and sunny, in the mid-60s, and we were strolling on the Viaduc du Something-or-Other, i.e. the Paris Highline, I in a very light sweater I didn’t really need, and Alan in long sleeves. A teenage boy quickstepped past us, dressed how I would expect — jeans, a T-shirt with some band name on it, and a red knit scarf wrapped tightly around his neck.
It must be a national garment or something, like the way Eastern European grandmas swaddle babies in enough wool to cook them like pigs in a blanket, and in July no less.
I packed four scarves, tried wearing one on a couple of days, but always took it off after an hour outdoors. I wore one the night we went to the string quartet, and had to keep pulling it away from my neck for fear of ruining it. I think my bloodline is way too German for this place.
Next, I think I’d like to write a little about the pass sanitaire. Which we should have in the U.S., but don’t, because freedom. Au revoir!