Ready To Wear: Natives of every country have a signature sense of style

Susannah Frankel
Sunday 08 April 2012 15:35

Ah, Paris in the spring.

I find myself strolling down Rue de Rivoli taking in IM Pei's glass pyramid in the sunshine, past tourists peering into Angelina – where, whatever the weather, little white china cups full of thick, sweet, hot chocolate are served – and on to Place de la Concorde, where traffic never sleeps.

I would be more footloose and fancy-free were I not carrying the tools of my trade – laptop, notebooks, travel documents and, inevitably, a glossy coffee-table tome the size of a coffee table. Still, I have half an hour to kill before a lunch appointment so I wander into Tuileries Garden, where shoes are invariably wrecked. Only look at the street-style pictures snapped during the ready-to-wear shows and note the film of stone-coloured grit embedded into even the most upscale footwear and you'll see what I mean.

If ever proof were needed that the natives of each country have a signature style, then it may be seen here. Despite temperatures in the 20s, the Italians are wearing heavy leather biker jackets, snake-hipped, dark denim jeans, leather shoulder bags and boots, immaculately applied make-up and, of course, big, dark glasses. For these fashion-loving souls, taking one's clothes off any time before August is uncouth. Then come the Americans, in plaid shirts, more denim – not snake-hipped, not dark – and oversized flyweight jackets covered in pockets. It's so much more practical to fill these with personal belongings, after all, although the odd rucksack is also on display.

The French, meanwhile, apparently oblivious to the descent of many, many visitors, eat their lunches on benches strategically placed all around and smoke. They're in the kind of "normal" denim – straight-cut, snug, but never too snug, and vaguely ethnic shirts (current Isabel Marant-style) that they sport so effortlessly. Let anyone else try this at their peril. It represents the type of vaguely louche, but somehow still smart, appearance that is difficult to pull off.

And, finally, there's me. Having left the house at 6am mindful of the chill London air I'm wearing a black wool coat, cashmere sweater, skinnies and sneakers; I am hiding in the shade and feel like... a nosferatu – le style anglais indeed.

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