A few days ago, I returned from work and looked in the mirror and realised that I had not done anything to my eyebrows. I had spent the whole day with natural brows, how daring yet carelessly chic of me, I thought.
“Oh, my goodness”, I inwardly exclaimed, “I must now be French!!”
Perhaps not quite yet, but I have decided that this neglecting my eyebrows demonstrates some of the integral values of French style and beauty that have started to creep into my everyday life.
The following day, I found myself staring at my eyebrow pencil. I should emphasise that this is not a stage in my morning routine where I tend to hesitate: the sisters, as they are definitively not twins, without a doubt need a helping hand. But I had started to question whether it really mattered, my eyebrows are probably fine the way they are, the way God supposedly intended.
I set down the eyebrow pencil and looked into the mirror, and realised I no longer cared.
I sit on the metro or the RER and look at the French women that board the carriage. French style, idolised and iconised by many, constituting an entire bookcase in many bookshops, is entirely the opposite of dramatic and flamboyant. Most of the women who board the train are wearing trainers, or at most a smart pair of pumps. They all look remarkably comfortable and incredibly casual. The word “effortless” is overused, but it is really the only way in which I can describe the fashion in Paris.
Trying-hard here just isn’t a thing, and is perhaps even frowned upon. The effortless nature the French seem to emulate is not for lack of caring, as can be seen in their beautifully assembled garments and wild shades of red lipstick, but rather in the minamalising of noise within their look. It is simple, and through this, it is timeless.
What is more, it is also, generally speaking, overtly modest. I can’t remember the last time I saw even a hint of cleavage, or heard the utterance of the satanic “bodycon”. They wear simple outfits and little makeup, yet look beautiful in the most understated and intelligent way I could imagine. It is through its unassertive, inoffensive nature, that the French style has come to be worshipped by so many. To me, the absence of fuss breeds the beauty that I witness, day-in, day-out, on the streets of Paris.
The makeup is very much in the same vain and this, I suppose, is what prompted my renouncing of the eyebrow pencil. Of course, I do not have the same striking looks of the Parisian twenty-somethings I dream of emulating. But they have somewhat inspired me to think that yes, of course, less really is more. I realise that my effort to be effortless was utterly ironic. I have learnt a valuable lesson, to work with what you’ve got, not what you wish you had.
It’s all about looking put together, not like you’re trying too hard. Everyone will know that you spent ages on those slugs on your forehead, and everyone will know that you really can’t breathe whilst you’re firmly strapped into that top. These messages are what French style seems to preach.
It is not the clothes or the makeup that make these women look French or Parisian, but rather the nonchalant way in which they carry themselves, they dictate how the world sees them, they care not how others choose to perceive them.
All these thoughts I had when looking at my eyebrow pencil and then into the mirror, at the hairs set above my eyes.
However, I do not believe that one should strive to replicate the French style, for this would entirely defeat its core aims. A copycat might never be comfortable with his own spots or stripes. But there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the streets of Paris and the women who tread there.
1. Comfort is key: for the every-day, wear the trainers, not the stilettos. Unless you’re a catwalk model, you’re not going to carry those nasty things off for long.
2. Strip back your makeup and let yourself through. My auntie once told me at breakfast that she liked me better without makeup because she could see my face, I think I now know what she meant.
3. Basic is best: No, I don’t mean unicorns and pumpkin spice lattes. Invest in a good pair of jeans, some good t-shirts and some beautiful flat shoes that will leave the people at passport control questioning your nationality.
4. Only wear it, if you feel good in it. An age-old piece of fashion advice, no matter which country you live in; don’t wear trends or items of clothing or even makeup if you feel unsure and uncomfortable about it.
The Parisian style is not risqué in any way, but it is beautiful and covetable and most importantly, it is achievable. Although the French women and men all seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi about them that I cannot put my finger on, their clothing and makeup is something that we could all emulate, if that is what we desire. We could all take a leaf out of their book, or rather a basic Breton tee out of their wardrobe, and learn something from the effortless chic of the Frenchies.