Are Sneakers a Fashion No-No in Paris?

Are American sneakers a fashion don’t in Paris? The Senior Editor of online magazine Paris Eiffel Tower News addresses the issue from a bilateral viewpoint.

I can’t count the number of times travelers who asked me: ‘Should I wear sneakers in Paris?’ and other variations of the same question. American tourists especially are concerned about ‘not fitting in’ with inappropriate shoes.

That attitude is remarkable indeed. Dressing so as not to shock the sensitivity of the locals: how much more considerate can you get? I can only give kudos to all of you who ever asked the question or thought about it!

Paris, French fashion, sneakers

Paris-bound tourists are often of the opinion that French women are die-hard fashion victims. This claim is definitely exaggerated, though access to stylish clothing is heavily facilitated in Paris where women magazines such as ‘Elle’ and ‘Figaro Madame’ dictate what’s fashionable and what’s not.

In my humble opinion, perennial tastes look very much alike in Paris and New York City. Globalization tends to homogenize fashion, making work-a-day wear similar in large cities.

No matter, the sneaker concern remains valid. Sneakers are now such a commodity in the US, how is it in Paris?

The generally accepted business dress code in France usually bars sneakers from entering the corporate environment, except for low-level positions. Thus the Parisian woman wears good-looking city shoes to go to work, unless the business which employs her cultivates a sporty image in which sneakers find a natural home.

Yet sneakers have become design icons in their own right. Adidas, Puma and Nike each have their own Parisian stores, and crank out more models a convincing fashion-victim could easily shake credit cards at. Adidas recently teamed with iconic fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto to create Y-3, a new line of dress-up sneakers. Stella McCartney also has her own Adidas line.

What major difference in shoe-attitude could we identify between American and French she-consumers? The latter will wear sneakers as design items, not as workaday shoes. Sneakers won’t be bought for comfort, but will find an easy way into a tight purse when they compliment dress-down pants and make their owner look good. The She-Parisian loves sneakers which make her feet look thin, small, and classy.

A mere glance at the types of sneakers most commonly seen on women’s feet in Paris is telling: you won’t see any wide, cushy, comfy-looking, plain vanilla sneakers. You will see small, thin-looking, flat-sole, designer sneakers.

For the same reasons, a pair of Stephane Kelian or Robert Clergerie shoes will almost always be favored over a pair of good-looking Pumas. Shoes are a fashion statement, and the more understated it is, the better.

That’s another major difference between French and American women. Understatement is a cardinal rule in French fashion. Anything that is too visible is considered garish. This is why the little black dress is such a fashion icon, and why Audrey Hepburn will always be remembered as The Quintessential Fashionable American Woman.

Tourists and sneakers

Does all this mean you can’t wear sneakers when you travel to Paris? Of course not!

First of all, sneakers can be comfortable walking shoes. And walk you will, in Paris. The very best way to discover the city is to walk along its streets. Wearing shoes in which you feel comfortable walking 10 miles a day at a leisurely pace is a majorly important decision for the general mood of your stay in the French capital.

Do not back off from wearing sneakers if these are your best walking shoes. And if you have even better walking shoes, pack them, even if they make you look like you are on a trekking trip!

Frankly, you should not ask yourself this question. Who cares about how you look in the street? Don’t be self-conscious, just be comfortable in your shoes. You are a visitor, these are your vacations, this is your very own time! Jeans and sneakers are international. People won’t be offended by your looks. Unless you dress in pink tops and electric blue pants, with golden sneakers and Jackie-O shades, nobody around will have any second thoughts about your attire.

And if they ever notice your jeans, LL Bean trekking shoes, and Patagonia jacket, well, push come to shove, they might think you’re American. And so what? In all likelihood they will appreciate your visiting Paris.

Dining out in sneakers

Does it mean you can wear sneakers everywhere, on any and every occasion? Not so.

For instance, can you have dinner in a restaurant shoed with your brand-new white sneakers?

For the sake of it, let’s imagine you are strolling along in your Levi’s jeans and Lands End boots. It’s now dinner time, you are hungry, and scanning the landscape looking for a promising restaurant. There is it! The menu displayed outside is appetizing, prices are within your comfort zone, the place is not so crowded… Ah, but guests are dressed smartly. Will they let you in? Will you fit in?

I have yet to see a door sign indicating ‘No Sneakers Allowed’ in Paris. Some high-brow places may expertly leave you at bay: “Do you have a reservation? Sorry, we are full tonight”. But beside those rare snobbish places, no restaurant will refuse to seat you because you wear casual sneakers.

Therefore the right question is not ‘Will I be allowed in?’, but ‘Will I feel comfortable entering a dressy place in sneakers?’ I venture that you probably would not. And the problem is that being self-conscious is a surefire way to kill your meal. Your attention should be in your plate and on your food, not on your shoes and garb.

My practical rule is ‘Dress according to the lieu’. If you intend to dine out at expensive, dressy restaurants when you are in Paris, just bring your Pradas. Better yet: pay a visit to Stephane Kelian’s and Robert Clergerie’s boutiques in Paris, and buy yourself gorgeous-looking footwear by these Parisian designers.

Other places and sneakers

There are other places where sneakers just won’t cut it.

The Opera House is definitely one of them. But who would be so foolish as not to dress up for opera night? The sneaker point is moot.

What about a cabaret? I would say it is much better to dress up when you have dinner at a cabaret like ‘Moulin Rouge’, ‘Lido’, and ‘Paradis Latin’. Though only the stage is well lit in these places, the fact is people around you will usually be dressed up. You will feel much more comfortable in some more formal wear.

How about the boats on the Seine? If you are boarding a boat for a dinner cruise, don’t wear sneakers. This is a romantic experience, you will want to make the most of it. An evening dress is ‘de rigueur’. On the other hand, if you simply want to cruise up and down the stream, sneakers are fine.

Museums? Forget style, wear very comfortable shoes. Nobody will look at your shoes, art is on the walls. But walking down the Louvre galleries is a tiring experience: so much too see, so many galleries, so slow the pace. The good doctor’s advice: go with cushion and comfort.

Art gallery ‘vernissages’? Style is your cue. Art galleries are small, vernissage evenings are short. Evening dress, black preferably, nothing flashy, and good-looking design shoes. No sneakers.

Wrapping up

Dress for the place you go to. If you are unsure about the dress code, you may call in advance to get appraised of it. Pack a dressy pair of shoes, or buy one when you are in Paris. Bring a discreet, understated evening dress.

But don’t back away from sneakers for other not-so-formal occasions. Wear them shamelessly in the street. You will blend just fine if you harbor a pair of jeans and a pair of sneakers. Nike is an American brand, and it is very popular in France. Levi’s, Diesel, and Calvin Klein are American brands, and they rule the French jeans scene too. In fact, I can’t quite think of any domain in France where American culture did not leave a mark — except maybe cuisine.

So be comfortable in your sneakers, and enjoy the view.

Pretty in Paris

Fashion and Paris go hand in hand and shopping is an inseparable part of Parisian life. Paris is renowned as one of the world’s premier shopping cities and whatever you are looking for, from haute couture to flea markets and designer superstores to individual boutiques, you are sure to find it here.

If designer clothes are what you’re looking for then head to Avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement where the boutiques of the major designers are mainly located. Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Dior and Versace are just a few names to grace the streets. Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is another prime location to visit for the fashion forward.

Top quality shoes, bags, and leather goods are found in Rue du Cherche-Midi and Rue de Grenelle in the 6th arrondissement.

For the younger shopper’s fashion fix visit the Halles neighbourhood, la Place des Victoires and the boutiques of the Marais where you will be truly spoilt for choice.

Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayettes, Samaritaine, Printemps, and Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (BHV) are just a few of the great department stores that form part of the history of Paris and offer a mind boggling array of items for sale. Shopping helpers, translators, currency exchanges, and tax-free shopping are all useful benefits for the shopping tourist. One of the most renowned places to find treasures in Paris is at the flea market. Paris has three main flea markets of ancient descent, situated around the old gates of the city.

Paris’flea markets are extensive in terms of both size and variety of curiosities on offer. The sprawling Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt is the jewel in the crown of Parisian flea markets and has an unrivaled abundance of bric-a-brac and genuine design classics.

The other major markets are found at the tree lined Porte de Vanves in the 14th arrondissement and Porte de Montreuil which lies in the 20th arrondissement.

Shops are generally open from 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday, with specialist boutiques closing for an hour at lunch. Some stores may be closed on Monday mornings. Sunday opening is found in the Marais, on the Champs-Elysées, at Bercy Village and in the Carrousel du Louvre. Many shops on the Champs-Elysées stay open until midnight, and Thursday is late closing at department stores. Small corner grocery stores open late for essentials.

If you’re planning to hit the chic streets and boutiques of the French capital then you need a suitably stylish hotel to stay in. Some Paris hotels are as elegant as the city streets so you shouldn’t encounter any problems finding yourself a chic place to catch your beauty sleep each night.

Hotels ranging from simple and smart to downright luxurious can be found throughout the city and a spot of online research can stand you in good stead. You can even book your hotel online before you depart which always leaves more time to enjoy the finer sides of Parisian life upon arrival.

Victoria Cochrane writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.

How to Shop Smartly for Fashion in Paris

Going to Paris for a shopping spree needs not put your household finances down for the next two years. It simply requires a little planning, and being let in on little-known shops offering bargain basement deals.

Paris is a shopping mosaic

Those of you who visited Paris already know that from a shopper’s perspective, the city is divided in broad sections where stores of the same trade tend to congregate. A mosaic of many colors, tastes, and price ranges.

Take Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for instance. The highest part of the famed area, situated closest to Boulevard St Germain, is home to designer clothing stores, sidewalk cafés and restaurants. Dive in, and your footsteps will lead you to Rue de Seine where the art galleries have drawn together.

From Saint-Germain, walk up the Rue de Rennes, towards the Montparnasse area. You’ll be crossing the Rue Du Four where even more expensive clothiers line up the facades. But continue on to the Saint Sulpice metro station, around which many clothing stores offer cheaper garments and accessories.

Sales season in Paris

In another area of the city, not too far from the old Opera house, the Boulevard Haussmann became the homestead of the department stores over a century ago. The Printemps store was built there in 1865, followed closely by the Galeries Lafayette, in 1893. Department stores are not unlike Ali Baba’s treasure cave: clothes, shoes, jewelry, watches, accessories, perfumes spread on a five-story high, gigantic floor space.

Their selection is great, but you have to visit Paris during the official sale seasons to find true bargains there. And there are only two sales seasons in France: winter, and summer. Their respective starting dates in a given year are set by administrative decree, and they each last 6 weeks. In Paris the winter sale season usually starts in the second week of January. The summer sales season starts toward end-June.

Designer depot bargains

For off-season bargains look somewhere else. The gems are often to be found in small shops in God-forsaken streets, or in hard-to-find first-floor apartments. This is especially the case of designer depots.

Though it has become a brand name in North America, a designer depot is in fact a form of commerce. People like you and me bring in clothes we don’t want to wear anymore, and get a little money from the shop owner who will resell our garments for a little more money to other people.

I can hear your blasé comments: “Tcha! Consignment stores! Thrift shops!…” Well, in Paris, designer depots aren’t exactly your regular Salvation Army-type stores. Not at all.

Though not all equal before God, Parisian designer depots are often owned and managed by women with a background in the fashion industry. Women with flair and a sharp eye for what to wear and how. Women who can readily tell you why you would look better in this dress than in that one.

In ‘designer depot”, there is the magic word ‘designer’. Parisian designer depots offer designer and couture clothes at deep, deep, deep discounts. And mind you, clothes in quasi perfect condition. Clothes worn only once. Well, maybe twice.

If you come to them with your regular hoodies, or your last season tennis shoes, or your mall-shopped polo shirt for that matter, do not expect to be welcomed. Expect rejection with a disapproving stare instead.

So, where do they hide?

Then again, not all designer depots were created equal, and where you go shopping for practically-perfect-in-every-way designer clothes is the true measure of your inside knowledge of the city.

I would like to recommend you three ‘petites adresses’ [the French for ‘best-kept-secret places’] I selected amongst a host of others.

For those of you, ladies, who like the classic look, ‘Priscilla’ is the shop for you. Priscilla is lady who owns the place. She reveres such signature names as Yves Saint Laurent, Max Mara, Kenzo, Chistian Dior, and Sonya Rykiel. Her prices range from EUR60 for a skirt, to EUR75 for a jacket, to EUR130 for a lady’s suit. Priscilla advises you to rummage around, and come to her place with an open mind. The shop is located at 4 rue Mouton- Duvernet, in the 14 th district. The nearest metro station is Mouton-Duvernet. Its opening hours are between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Monday, and between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday with a one-hour break at 1:30 pm.

My next address, ‘Le Jupon Rouge’, is situated at 9 rue de Rochechouart in the 9th district. The owner, Tania, describes here designer depot as “colorful, ethnic but not hippie, and certainly not classical in style”. Tania offers a selection of up and coming French designers such as Bali Barret (a fencing-style vest for EUR45, cashmere blend cardigans for EUR45 to EUR100) and Vanessa Bruno (wool jackets, EUR90). She also carries more established signatures such as Agnès B (her signature black jacket is offered at EUR50), and vintage Ungaro blouses for EUR45. Ladies looking for shoes can fall for pairs of Stephane Kelian low-cut cuban boots (EUR100), Repetto ballerina shoes (EUR40), or vintage low-heel horseriding boots (EUR40-70). Tania opens her doors from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm with a one-hour lunch break at 1:30 pm.

In a totally different style, Griff-Troc is the designer depot you need to lose yourself into when you want to go chic-chic-chic. The owner, Beatrice, chose to specialize in perennial, classic basics in perfect condition. Chic has a heftier price tag, of course, but on the upside Griff-Troc offers brand names for 15-30% of boutique prices. On the shelves at the time I wrote this article, Beatrice had a Chanel suit for EUR1000 (vs. EUR5000 at Chanel’s), a brand-new Chloe bag for EUR800 (instead of EUR1200), several astounding evening dresses priced between EUR1200 and EUR1500 (Chloe, Dior, D&G, Valentino), and Hermès silk scarfs on offer for only EUR150. She maintains a full selection of bags, jewels, and fragrances. Chic classic never dies, who cares about whether your Chanel suit is this season’s or not? The busy boutique is located in the posh section of the 17 th district, at 119 Boulevard Malesherbes. The nearest metro stations are Villiers and Monceau. Its opening hours are between 10:30 am and 7:00 pm, from Monday to Saturday.

More shopping tips to come

These are just three of my selection of designer depots and small boutiques.In subsequent articles I will recommend more of those ‘petites adresses’, including some specializing in men’s wear. Meanwhile, I hope you have had the opportunity to meet Tania, Beatrice, and Priscilla in person, and find a couple of eye-pleasing items for yourself. Ta-ta!

Paris Street Fashion

People have many stereotypes. Especially towards the other nations. Some of them are not merely stereotypes but the very truth, while the other are a complete falsehood.

Before going to Paris and meeting the Parisians I used to think the capital citizens are all dressed-up, as if they have just went down the catwalk. And I was surprised when I saw the Parisians with my own eyes. They turned out to be dressed like millions of Europeans – each in his or her way. I mean there are people who keep up with the latest fashion trends and wear only Gucci or Prada. But there are many of them who wear inexpensive brands and don’t care about the caprices of vogue.

So I got interested in the subject. I decided to ask people in the Paris streets what they are in and why.

The first mademoiselle I stopped was Linda. She is a designer and names Pierre Cardin her favourite fashion designer. She answered positively when I asked her if she wore her own clothes. She also buys them in different shops. For instance she likes Morgan and drops in at H&M. She said she doesn’t keep up with the latest trends and creates her own style.
Antuan was my next interviewer. He is an extremely interesting personality I should say. Very elegant and stylish in spite of his age (he’s about 70). He said he is cut out to be a man of fashion. He buys clothes in luxurious designer boutiques but doesn’t follow the fashion laws. He said he would never put on a thing at the season he bought it. No sooner than in a couple of years, he added.

A young couple I talked to turned out to be Scandinavians. They stand out against the background of the other people by an impressive appearance: the girl wears leggings and a shirt with a belt over it. The guys buy clothes at second-hand shops and never read fashion magazines.

Fabrice was the next. He is an expatriate Brazilian. The young man is a dancer and works for Jeune Ballet de Paris. He complained that it’s difficult to live in Paris if you wear clothes that are bright and out of style. But he got used to eccentric items and doesn’t care about the opinion of the society. He prefers to buy clothes at open-air bazaars choosing things he likes. He said he doesn’t keep to any style because he’s an actor and he is fond of transformations.
In northeastern regions of the city live expatriates from Arab and African countries people dress quite differently. They prefer to buy clothes in small stores run by their compatriots. The goods at such stores are of a simple cut, gleam with silver and gold and are decorated with different ethnic elements. Golden rings and big bracelets are all the fashion here. Girls wear jeans with strass and flaring tops, guys sport peaked caps and golden bangles, corpulent women prefer to wear African turbans.

I found out that overwhelming majority of the youngsters do the shopping at Etam and Zara. Those who like something more original drop in at H&M. Lots of them like vintage stores. Sometimes the prices there are so high that the youngsters can afford to pay a visit there only on special occasions. Lots of young people favour second-hand shops. All in all I can say that most Parisians combine things: they wear some brand items with interesting accessories, things brought from abroad trips or articles found in the Grandmother’s wardrobe.

One shouldn’t be afraid of experiments, they say. That is the key to the unique style.