I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for the support and kind words that you’ve shown and shared for Old Money Style – The Gentleman’s Edition. I really appreciate it.
We’re off to a great start in the effort to continuously educate and enlighten everyone, especially men, on how easy and economical it is to dress well, Old Money Style.
That said, I wanted to address a change in perspective that I’ve experienced since living here in Paris. It is regarding my opinion of The Black Suit for Men. Living in the states, I was never a fan. Perhaps this was because I was a resident of Los Angeles, City of Angles (not a typo), where every wannabe rock star and mogul-in-training wore a black ensemble with (inevitably) black cowboy boots. It was, to me, the default ensemble if you were genetically predisposed to being unimaginative or just plain lazy when it came to getting dressed.
It was so fatiguing. (The French use the words ‘fatigue’ which means tired, and ‘fatiguant’, with means tiresome. I love that combination and use it often if something or someone is both, simultaneously.) And, having been dyed in the proverbial Old Money Style wool, I favored navy suits, blue blazers, blue oxford button downs, and tan or grey slacks with brown loafers or lace ups.
Black was the sartorial smoke filled back room, filled with gangsters and undertakers. So, so cinematic, but not so practical or tasteful in daily life. A little harsh, if I’m candid.
Au contraire, mon frere, here in Paris. To be clear, Parisians basically live in black. They have, as I might have noted, small apartments, limited closet space, sometimes limited budgets, and a long history of black turtlenecks in which to promote an image of being avant garde, slightly dangerous, possibly intellectual, or simply preoccupied with something profound. So having a wardrobe composed of predominantly (and many times exclusively) black, makes sense. It often means nothing, but it can mean a lot of things.
They wear so much black here that grocery stores sell detergent specifically for formulated for black. Not ‘colors’. Black. Noir.
Coco Chanel invented the Little Black Dress, but that’s only part of it. For some reason, these people are really into black. The black suit, it follows, is the de facto uniform for so many Parisian working men. It is worn by the security guards at the high end boutiques on the rue Saint Honore and by the politicians at the Assemblee Nationale. It is universally worn with a white dress shirt, black tie, and black lace up shoes.
Men get married in the black suit. Men get buried in the black suit. Men accept awards in the black suit. Men accept life sentences in the black suit. Sometimes they shave. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes there’s a black necktie with the black suit. Sometimes the collar is worn open. But it is invariably a single breasted, two-button black suit with plain front pants. While the quality of the garments vary, the fit–always slim–does not.
If you are an American at a French dinner party, you may be the only person in attendance who is not dressed, head to toe, in black. Imagine the Addams Family, only more elegant, maybe just as pale, and on the crystal meth diet. That’s the cocktail party and dinner party I’ve walked into on more than ten occasions. My first thought was, Who died? Now my response is, Oh, you’re all Parisians.
That said, over the past three years, I have come to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the Black Suit, well done. I have been told by one Parisian, discreetly and kindly, that I would look good in a black suit, given the color of my hair. (My hair, what’s left of it, is white. Gee, thanks.) I have also been told recently, by a more serious person, that I’m going to need a black suit in 2020.
I initially thought this might be some coded message, the first hint at my pending induction into a French secret society. But no, it was a straightforward communication from an informed source about a simple reality: the black suit is the appropriate ensemble for so many events and occasions here. At a certain point, it is a necessity in order to socialize in certain circles.
So, perhaps 3 years of Parisian life has worn down my aversion to black. Perhaps I am simply being realistic, polite, and, when in Rome, doing as the Romans do.
Whatever the case, I’ll be back in black, sooner rather than later. We’ll see how it goes.