I’m not cool enough to pull off “French”.
Just last week, on Trying to be Conscious (a GREAT blog that you should check out), Cécile wrote about the elusive and ever-sexy French style. She explains what she thinks are the essentials and how it can be achieved. As I read over her post (http://tryingtobeconscious.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/how-to-look-french/), I found myself laughing because it was so spot-on.
The French have a seemingly effortless style that exudes “cool”. The women aren’t over-done; the skirts aren’t too short and the tops aren’t too tight, typically, they are not smeared in make-up. The men will look more put together than your typical American male and are probably a bit more interested in wearing what is currently trending (as opposed to the U.S. khaki pants and blue blazer ensemble). However, they will not be too over the top either and they would never look like they have tried too hard. And that, the whole “don’t-look-like-you’re-trying-thing”, is why I think this look can be so hard to achieve; with a casually draped scarf and hair thrown up in a messy bun they are able to exude the attitude of:
“Why would I dress up? I don’t need to impress anyone because I am so cool as I am, obviously. ( I mean, I am French, no?)”
As an American I find this hard to pull off.
First of all, I do want to impress you, it is inherently part of my culture; I’m aching for you to like me…immediately (https://breadispain.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/the-truth-about-cats-and-dogs/). I am desperately uncool because of this desire and have never been able to convincingly achieve blasé-ness (a quality that the French have, without a doubt, perfected). So even, if I were to leave the house with a “casual cool” look I would then ask you if you thought it was okay.
“What do you think? Is it too casual? Can I pull this off? Do I look stupid?”
I’m not even sure the French would understand the questions.
“Why do you want to know what I think? I don’t understand. Oh wait, is this what insecurity is? I have never witnessed it before. Interesting, I don’t like it, it is not attractive; this makes you seem desperate, no?”
Yes, yes it does; and this desperation completely destroys any aspect of a “casual” or “cool” look that I attempt.
Second of all, I was raised in the southern United States (any Southerner reading this need not bother with the following explanation but for the rest of you…). The southern U.S. is not a place that greatly values the natural look. When my grandmother was on oxygen in a nursing home she still had her hair and nails done every other week. In fact, the nursing home had a salon in-house for just such a purpose…every Southern lady goes to her grave with perfectly coiffed hair. The clothes and the make-up are another thing. I was taught from a very young age that a lady never leaves the house without make-up on, even if you are just popping out to the store; and I distinctly remember having to fight for faded jeans (let alone ripped) because they were “tacky”. Basically, southern women do not do “casual” well; we are either looking fabulous or in workout clothes…with make-up on. If I try to pull off a “relaxed” bed-head look I seriously just look like I rolled out of bed. I cannot figure out how to give it that perfectly unfussy appearance the way the French women can.
So, I am destined to live in France surrounded by “casual cool”, a look that I will never quite manage. In the meantime, I will happily forgo any further attempts at attractive messy hair, continue to wear workout clothes on the street, and over dress for parties.