I’ve recently received a couple of emails from American men who planning a move to Paris as soon as conditions permit.
Both asked about how to purchase/pack/plan for the weather and the culture with regards to wardrobe, so I thought a post about my experiences in this regard might prove timely, and helpful. Hindsight is 20/20, and these thoughts will hopefully reflect what I’ve experienced here in the last four years–and would have done differently given the chance.
First, I would have brought less with me. An itemized list of the New To Paris wardrobe would read something like this:
Three or four white long sleeve dress shirts, not button-downs; a black wool sweater and a grey wool sweater; black t-shirts to wear underneath the dress shirts; two pair of black jeans; white Adidas sneakers, for walking the streets; all weather ankle boots, for rain; black lace up dress shoes; and The North Face 3/4 length waterproof parka in black, with hood.
I’d also set aside about 800 to 1500 euros to purchase a black suit (or two) which you’ll wear for evening events of all kinds. You’ll purchase the suit once you arrive in Paris, with a black necktie, and if you want the shirts, too. You can also purchase tons of scarves at the street markets here, for not much money, to add variety and a dash of color.
Noticeably, I wouldn’t suggest a blue blazer, button down, khakis, and penny loafers for Paris. You’ll be obvious enough as a foreigner without advertising your status. Not that the Old Money wardrobe will hinder you here; you just want to blend in as much as possible at the start.
You also want to keep your wardrobe super simple because you’ll probably be living in a smaller apartment than you did in the states and have less space for clothes. You’ll want to look elegant, and not signal how much money you do or don’t have. Black is an easy, elegant way to strike that balance and keep things economical and efficient, especially when you’re packing to grab a train to London or Berlin.
I know this is antithetical to what I’ve advocated for clothing in the past, but this is Paris. Wearing a black suit, white shirt, with black lace-ups is a go-to look that will serve you well here for any number of occasions.
Furthermore, this is a cold, wet, and walking city, north of Boston if you care to compare its latitudinal position on a map. You’ll be walking the streets, taking the metro, and sitting outside much more than you’d think. You’ll also be mixing with all sectors of society all the time, and your day may start off casual and end up elegant, so you need to dress to be able to accommodate that, without running home for to change.
So clothing that always looks upscale, doesn’t show dirt, or attract unwarranted attention is a smart, economical choice.
Paris is about restrained elegance and durable, functional clothing. So pack the black, mes amis.
More coming soon…