It’s not about WHAT you wear, it’s about HOW you wear it !

Capturer_clothes.JPGI am sure the students at Sciences Po have seen many students show up at school wearing clothes like this, but then you see the students slowly evolve and wear clothing more like themselves. Why do we do it and why do we change? Read more…

I am from Atlanta, in the United States : the land of T-shirts, shorts and sandals. The stereotype I had before coming to Paris was that Frenchies knew all about fashion. I was under the impression that everyone would always be suited up and ready to party. Many might agree with me when I say the hardest part of preparing for Sciences Po rested in the packing of our suitcases. I figured none of my clothes would be enough and that I would never fit in at Sciences Po. I can say first hand that when us colonials showed up with our bagfuls of Abercrombie and Fitch that we thought we were going to be the cool kids on the block. This assumption slapped all of us right in the face.

The “American style”, if we can call it that, is one based purely on relaxation and comfort. Yes we wear shorts, yes we wear sandals and YES we wear baseball hats. Does any of it actually look good or sexy? No. On the other hand, we are very comfortable AND it is easy. You do not have to match colors, materials, or even socks! I have friends who get excited when they match their undershirt with the color of the eagle on their Hollister (clothing brand) polo shirt. I am certain that at Sciences Po, the students would draw quite a laugh from this style, I know I do. Regardless, I brought these clothes anyway.

The first month I lived in Paris was for the Welcome Program, which for the record was a complete waste of time and money. I did not really get to meet many French people, but instead just a bunch of other Europeans. Now, believe me the Germans and British do not dress like the French either. Germans are basically an extreme version of the colorful mismatched American style and the Brits a more moderate twin of the American style. Anyway, the first month gave me a sense of hope that I might actually be able to fit in. Man,was I setting myself up.

When the dreaded Monday arrived and I headed off into the next year of my life I felt a bit confident in my jeans and sexy T-shirt which was accompanied by my brand new Asics running shoes. Hahaha… It seemed that in fact I had made a slight error in my choice of outfit. When you break through the doors of Sciences Po, and I truly mean break through those damn heavy doors, you are amazed. Every American surely stands there dumbfounded by how stupid they must look.

I am going to start with something as simple as scarves. Yep, scarves. They exist in the United States but nobody actually wears them. At Sciences Po, everyone does, all day, all year long. Not the same scarf, either because they all have many, many scarves to choose from. Some thick, some colorful, some just plain ugly. Nevertheless, everyone is wearing scarves. The next thing you notice is hair and glasses. Rule number one at Sciences Po: Do not cut your hair. Also, if a male, try to push all of your hair to the front and make it look as messy as possible. Unfortunately I could never accomplish this as my hair is become quite… thin? Anyway, so glasses. I am not sure if contacts do not exist here, but everyone sports the glasses or the shades. I like it. Glasses = sexy + sophisticated. Well done Sciences Po people!

As for the actual outfits, this is where things get impressive. For the girls: shirt, sweater, and coat, all of which are probably from stores like Armani and Zara, followed up by a sexy skirt and those long black tights. What it comes down to is the boots. Oh the French in their boots! Oh how us Americans love your boots! It ceases to amaze me how most of these clothes are white, black, or shades of grey. The French do not need color to express themselves, but believe me when I say they express themselves. For the guys: undershirt, dress shirt, sports coat and sometimes even a large trench coat. It makes for a hell-of-a warm outfit but has classy written all over it. The guys usually wear a nice pair of jeans or slacks with, naturally, dress shoes. I brought brand spanking new dress shoes with the idea that I might need them for special occasions. Unfortunately, my shoes are a bit past broken in at this point. Another problem was that I assumed three pairs of dress socks would be enough. Negative, you need at least 10 pairs!

Well, it was time to go shopping after we realized we obviously did not fit in, and by we I mean anyone that is NOT French. Off to Zara and Celio we went to completely change our wardrobe. It is safe to say that many people spent well over 200 euros just to have enough clothes to camouflage themselves into the crowds at 27 rue Saint-Guillaume. Why do we do it? I think most Americans would be hesitant to admit it, but we freaking love your style. It is sexy, mature, sophisticated, and it just looks so damn good. The worst part of all is all of my new clothes are worthless in one month. You don’t even want to know what people at a USA school would say to someone that wore these clothes everyday… So to your Frenchies out there who know how to dress, “Mad Props”.


  • Paul Paulsen

    Haha great article man! I love internationals, their view on french people, and the view of french people on that view (jc). Loving it.

  • French man

    I love this article! Funny, sublte and so true!
    However, you know, french people like the way american people wear too! It makes you seem casual and likeable.

  • jc réitère

    à l’inverse, nous, les Sciences Po en échange aux États-Unis, sommes presque d’emblée classés dans la catégorie « homos », car on s’habille à la française. est-ce qu’on s’en plaint ? non, on sait qu’on est mieux habillés qu’eux alors on ne change rien – et ça marche.

  • Thomas

    Hahaha, this is hilarious!
    Well I spent 9 months in California -coming back soon to hit Sciences Po again, and I hope the US style will follow me a little -coz I do not plan not to wear my new clothes! Coz I love the colors you wear, coz I love your baseball hats and Abercrombie and Fitch: lets change the outfit of the 27! ^^

  • marie

    faut vraiment être débile pour lancer des coms comme Jc et Patate.. Triste que mon école accueille des gens de ce genre

  • jc

    ah, ces internationaux, ils s’habillent mal et ils n’écrivent même pas français… mais on les aime bien quand même – enfin on a tous un ami international, comme dirait l’autre.

  • Felipe

    Hey William! Excellent article. However, I have to say that it is not the majority of foreign students who wants to fit in the « Sciences Po/french style ». I think Im an example of that, as I didn’t spend a single euro coin in buying clothes to fit in here. On the contrary, I wanted to remain with the style of my country, which is close to the US, to remain different (in purpose) and the aim is also to remember where I come from. I know that this action was not well seen by many people, as I think here we are judged a lot by the way we dress, thus, our appearence (at last, more than in my country). Nevertheless, I dont regret it and, more important, I totally respect your and others decisions as I thought about in the past too! lol! 🙂
    just to show here a different perspective…
    over and out dude!

  • Fanny

    Ahaha thank you William! I was in ATL last year for my year abroad at Emory…and sometimes I also felt I was not fit in with my « french style »!
    But at least you guys have sun… 😉 !