When we look out from our balcony we generally see this:
Which is nice. But if we look down, we see this:
Breakfast in America. They are lining up for an 11 Euro, American-style breakfast (about $17.00 for eggs and toast). Why would you do that when you could have this:
Because it’s American, that’s why. The French love/hate relationship with the Americans is at least as strong as ours in Canada, but what makes it fun is that it manifests itself in different ways. And, it can take quite a long time for American trends to get here. For example, in all of the Marais, I was able to find only two of these:
La Parisienne has yet to make the weekly commitment required to achieve a perfect professional manicure, as most New Yorkers, and many Montrealers have. When I looked at the price list of this nail salon, I could see why.
In fact, I haven’t seen nail polish on any of my friends here, or on their friends. Young women wear it, done at home I would imagine. But I bet that the trend is coming.
Let’s move on to something else: our shoes and theirs. Men at home, look at your feet. Women, consider the feet of the men you know. Are these feet 7 or 8 times longer than they are wide? Would they, for example, fit into these shoes?
These are typical French shoes for men and they are still very much present in the vitrines of Paris. I’m convinced that only the French can wear such long, stylish and elegant footwear and it must be an aspect of their genetics that they have such a narrow last. When we came to Paris in 2009, all the men were wearing them, even the young men. Adolescents and guys in their twenties were not wearing unlaced high tops and jeans so loose they were at risk of falling off altogether. And we liked that. Instead we were seeing young guys in tailored, ironed jeans, button down shirts with foulards and blazers or suit jackets on top. And they all sported expensive leather shoes. But, a change was coming, and my daughter Charlotte tells me it was, in fact, starting back in 2009 with the rising French interest in hip-hop. Hip-hop guys do not wear pointy leather shoes. It was the beginning of running shoe culture – okay, sorry, the rise of the American sneaker.
Now they are everywhere. Everyone is wearing what here are termed “baskets”. You seldom see a young man in the style that was de rigeur just six short years ago.
But I have a theory about what happens when the French adopt an American trend and we can see an example of what I mean in the way they do graffiti. While it’s true that graffiti goes back to ancient Rome, and earlier, if the youth-culture-tagging with-spray-paint-thing has a homeland, it would be south of the 45th parallel. Here in Paris we do see a fair amount of deplorable tagging.
But what we see even more is something like this:
This is street art and it’s really cool and it’s everywhere. I sometimes see murals and such in Montreal, but usually someone was hired to do them. So, the French have taken the night-bandit spray painting trend and transformed it into something French. Bravo.
Let’s get back to the shoes. “Baskets” are the shoe of the moment in Paris. But take a look at these: