Long ago, before the terrible times of drop-crotch jeans and slogan t-shirts, lived a roguish but utterly charming breed that survived on the streets of Paris. Born without the luxury of a silver spoon, these gents always managed to traverse the wrong side of the tracks as they wooed women, ran from the authorities and smoked lots and lots (and lots) of roll-up cigarettes.
Whilst such unsavoury activity may cause many a scowl, their dress sense certainly didn’t – and you can inject a similar thuggish aura into your own wardrobe. Welcome to the France of the 1960s, where the working classes wore the very finest practical garb with a certain je ne sais quoi (thank you very much, GCSE French).
60s Parisian Style
Think rugged, think workwear, think understated – and you’re almost halfway there. Nailing the Parisian laid back look requires plenty of simplicity, which is probably why I’m drawn to it so much. For me, in that age old much-discussed brawl, timeless classics always come out on top.
Stellar outfits are relevant and desirable whatever the era, and the French really are the champions of this. Take some inspiration from the style masters themselves in Nouvelle Vague era films Jules Et Jim and A Bout de Souffle; nobody can deny that these gents really are the coolest of the cool (with minimal effort required).
Whilst the majority of us non-French are born without inheriting natural chouette, that doesn’t mean we can’t give it our best shot. Leave suits, trends and gimmicks at the door, because we’re drunkenly scaling the Champs Elysees in the very best of French 60s workwear.
Here are some recent campaigns that have a similar aesthetic to what we are trying to achieve today. Modernised for the current season, you can take inspiration and ideas from both old and new when creating your own take on the look. Also remember that just because the roots of this style are in work wear, it doesn’t mean you can’t smarten the look up with a well considered blazer or a pair of trousers:
Contrary to my usual advice, tailored, fitted and smart is off the agenda. Try a loose fit and be unafraid of a little unbuttoning – 60s Paris was all about student riots and political bust-ups. One cannot be afraid of a little wear and tear when the next revolution is around the corner, right?
Despite living far less impassioned lives, incorporating masculinity through ‘deliberate laziness’ is always a great move. Keep colours and fabrics very basic; neutral tones, off-whites and light blues are solid choices, whilst busy prints and patterns will only deviate from a sense of timelessness. If you are a fan of colour, bring the look bang up to date for the new season with autumnal hues of green, khaki/camel and burgundy.
Simplicity really takes the driving seat here, but take note of little details that really do make a difference: wooden buttons and pockets are practical touches that ooze industrial appeal. Granddad collars, layering shirts upon vests and thick, rough-looking jackets are all workwear territory – keep basic and you can’t really go wrong here.
When approaching vintage, always remember that vintage pieces work the best. Second-hand rails are your friend!
- Selected Marble Stripe Oxford Shirt
- Diesel Shrobina Cotton Worker Shirt
- Wolsey Striped Fenton Grandad Shirt
- Ymc Green Button Down Work Shirt
- Jil Sander Mens Parfume Poplin Shirt
- Undercover Mens Contrast Collar Shirt
- Hartford Grandad-collar Linen Shirt
- Topman Dark Green Denim Overshirt
- Nudie Jeans Organic Chambray Saw Tooth Gusten Shirt
- Reiss Smithy Ls Bold Stripe Grandad Collar Shirt
- Allsaints Sorley Shirt
- Red Garment Dyed Oxford
Like your upper half, select pieces with an industrial mind. Trousers are ideally straight-legged but not overtly fitted, and certainly not drainpipes. Try rolling up the hem once or twice to show a flash of dark sock colour, and match these with an overall beige or brown colour.
Denim is okay, but a little obvious, so feel free to experiment with rough-looking canvas, cotton or corduroy.
Hanging in a backstreet bar should look like a usual hobby, so avoid embellishment and novelty trends like the plague. Nothing will ruin this outfit more than unnecessary zips, design-intentional rips and, dare I say it, twisted seams.
Whilst a slumping posture and perpetual hands-in-pockets are optional, a Parisian approach is most certainly compulsory. Find your own balance between rugged and chic. After all, the French are still noted for their style, regardless of social class.
- Cheap Monday Tight Blue Jeans
- Selected Tapered Trousers
- Lacoste Live Chino Selvedge
- Dolce & Gabbana Wool-blend Tweed Trousers
- Reiss Sparrow Mini Herringbone Trousers
- Reiss Chaplin Classic Chinos
- Topman Neppy Denim Vintage Slim Jeans
- Oliver Spencer Tennyson Navy Cotton Worker Tapered Chinos
- Barbour Red Washed Cord Claremount Trousers
Your life as a Parisian rogue requires footwear that is hard-wearing, boisterous and perfect for running on cobbles. It’d be a real shame to destroy your perfect working-class apparel with a pair of cheap espadrilles, so invest, invest, invest. A good pair of classic leather shoes will last you a lifetime, so a little saving up will pay dividends in the long-run.
If you want to stick within the realm of the 60s, go for a clunky, unpolished pair of brogues. If you’ve got money to burn, then scuff those badboys at every opportunity.
Driving moccasins are a lighter option and perfect for warmer (albeit rare) summer evenings, and wouldn’t be out of place in any Jean-Luc Goddard film. As for colours, there’s a general pattern appearing here – muted, non-offensive tones. It’s style and finishing touches that are the driving force, and colour is the easy part. If you’re stuck for inspiration, you’ll find a comrade in Kurt Geiger and Tod’s: classic footwear for all.
- Grenson Sid Longwing Leather Brogues
- Topman Benjamin Brogues
- Sanders Tan Brown Leather Crepe Brogues
- Allsaints Gauntlet Boot
- Allsaints Buckley Chelsea Boot
- Topman Nevada Leather Desert Boots
- Asos Suede Driving Shoes
- Hugo Boss Relto Driver Shoes
- Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Leather Driving Shoes
The finishing touches are often the most fun part, and any self-respecting Nouvelle Vague vagrant wouldn’t be seen without them. The most iconic piece is the fedora, worn on the back of the head and an emblem of cool when combined with less formal pieces. However, do exercise caution – it’s an extremely difficult look to really pull off.
If, like me, you suffer from ‘Square Head Syndrome’ and look ridiculous in hats, stick to brown leather belts, untidy-looking pocket squares and the occasional collar pin.
If bags are necessary, opt for scruffy knapsacks and beaten satchels, nothing too classy. We’re toying with the right side of hobo here, so don’t try outclass your criminal brethren with a sore thumb briefcase.
If accessories are really your thing, plain or subtly patterned scarfs should be tied short and around the neck, and watches should be bold, tired-looking and endlessly simple.
Keep your hair messy, close-cut and very rough around the edges; no street rat would be seen dead with an elegantly coiffed quiff or perfect side-parting. Add a necessary roughness to every component, and that includes your barnet.
- Lock & Co Hatters Rabbit-felt Fedora Hat
- Topman Black Wide Brim Fedora
- Grey Birdseye Flat Cap
- Pantone Burgundy Boot Socks
- Reiss River Jeans Belt With Antique Gold Buckle
- Paul Smith Printed Cotton Handkerchief
- Paul Smith Accessories Navy All Over Polka Silk Dress Scarf
- Allsaints Freeman Messanger Bag
- Gold Plated Cravat Pin – Masonic
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about adding a stylish edge to your Parisian alleycat look. There are plenty of modern interpretations of 60s staple pieces that retain a classic feel, and you don’t need a Rosetta Stone CD to make you feel/look/embody the Parisian working class hero.
I can’t guarantee cheap bottles of red wine, an immediate adeptness at rolling cigarettes or a double crossing femme fatale, but there’s no harm in dressing like these are everyday parts of your colourful life. In fact, quite the opposite; the bad man of the silver screen has always been the cool man.