Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cracking the Code

When I was unpacking some books I brought back from Paris yesterday, I did a final flip-through of the Fodor’s guidebook I referred to last week and noticed a little travel advisory in its introductory pages:

When it comes to clothing, the standard French look is dressier than the American equivalent. Athletic clothes are reserved for sports. Sneakers are not usually worn by adults but if you pack yours, keep them for daytime only. Neat jeans are acceptable everywhere except at higher-end restaurants; check to see whether there’s a dress code.

I violated all of this, and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

That utilitarian-chic fashionista scene, 24 hours a day – wow. The women in particular looked like they were wearing uniforms. The black coats with the furry (unused) hoods and the low-heeled black boots over black or red leggings. Gotta be looking good in those cafés and fromageries.

I went everywhere in my fleece, jeans, and pink-and-gray New Balance running shoes. In spite of all the café crèmes, croissants, white bread, Bordeaux, and madeleines, with approximately 8 hours a day of walking and stair-climbing it didn’t take long for those jeans to become almost one size too big on me – and this didn’t go unnoticed. Every time I sat down in a Metro station and crossed my legs, the people sitting in my row of plastic chairs all turned to curiously and critically study my sneakered feet, as if they were an audacious new exhibit at one of their contemporary art museums.

I don’t get dolled up just to roam around, on vacation or otherwise. My comfort is important to me, as is my ability to sprint away from would-be pickpockets – a situation I found myself in on the last full day of the trip. There’s no way I would have been able to make that quick of a getaway had I been wearing my pretty black boots.

So many somber, self-contained personalities – lighten up! Smile! Everything’s gonna be OK. The happiest-looking people were the smattering of others who were dressed for a rousing afternoon at the batting cages.


  1. Kadzi--Paris! How exciting! I was there for one week in the early 1980s. Wish I could go back! I'm surprised to hear that Parisians pay attention to sneakers on Americans anymore. I thought they were long over all that. Guess not. Glad you were wearing the sneakers to escape the would-be pick-pocket. Other than the rude sneaker-starers, I hope you had a wonderful time and saw many beautiful things. Ya gotta hand it to those Parisians. They may be arrogant, but they sure do know how to EAT! I'm salivating as I'm typing this.

  2. So glad your New Balances served you well and you proudly displayed your sporty-chic American self. The pretentiousness of these people get to me. No wonder I didn't choose to teach French!

  3. Now you see why we Brits regard the Froggies as rude? You would have to be dressed very bizarrely to get stared at in London. We are much more forgiving over here!

  4. I like dressing up occasionally but every single day? Nah. It's just too much *WORK*. Like I don't have enough to do already. How do they breathe...

  5. My experience in Paris was just wonderful. I dressed every single day and love it!! French have a great sense of humor and I just encountered very helpful people. It was my dream of 46 years and was very well worth the trip. Love my French classes with a very French young teacher. C'est la vie! Bienvenue back to the good U.S.A.

  6. All that wonderful food and not an ounce of weight gain. C'est la vie! I look forward to hearing more of your adventures...