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January Flashback: Originally published on FC, September 2014
As a celebrity and fashion hairstylist, I often find myself living out of a suitcase. The majority of my time is spent in the USA, splitting my home between New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Today, I’m landing in Paris, where I was born and raised, for some rest and well-deserved time with family.
I dropped my luggage at the hotel and headed out to stroll through the City of Lights. I wandered through the small streets of Saint Michel, along the Seine, where countless couples have experienced their first kiss. Romance is everywhere in Paris. I took a seat at Café de Le Flore, one of the most famous cafés on Blvd. Saint Germain, and savored the moment. Café de Le Flore has been a second home to scads of famous writers, poets, and journalists, who wrote while sitting at these tables.
I love to people watch, “woman watch” actually, and this café in Paris is my favorite place to observe French women’s fashion, style, grace, and intimacy. Paris is not my only people watching locale. Every city I have visited, I watch, seeking to understand the marriage of the culture, colors, and styles of each city. As I sat there on a Friday afternoon with a double espresso, soaking in the Parisian air, I noted some of my observations to share with you now:
I can spot a French woman a mile away—her je ne sais quoi. BUT, through my years of observing, I have noticed a shift in style and fashion. International influences are far reaching, especially the American influence—The Gap, Banana Republic, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs. These styles are more form fitting, with plunging necklines—more skin—more daring that the French norm. French women are known for their elegance and grace, and their uncanny ability to accessorize—a scarf tightened sideways around the neck, or something at a purse handle—are usually dressed more upscale. But it seems, a more casual vibe is replacing this upscale look, with a feel-good fit, even with the casual vibe, French women still evoke a relaxed elegance. I also see a South American influence, where French women adorn themselves with brighter colors, replacing much of the black clothing and accessories that one might normally see on a French woman.
Beauty and Aging
And what about beauty and aging? Once upon a time, you could never have approached a French woman with a needle. Selling youth in a syringe, facial fillers, and Botox are not a French lady’s norm. I see that changing as well. In the upper echelons of society, their cheeks are getting fuller, their lips are getting plumper, eye wrinkles are disappearing, gel manicures and eyelash extensions are the new norm. The birth of a new beauty era is upon the French. However, French women approach even this with their well-known discriminating taste. They avoid any exaggeration of their features, which is the antithesis of what is commonly seen in the United States.
And what about French relationships? Yes, they are also changing. It used to be that most couples were similar in age. Today, the age gap is expanding. Larger age gaps between a man and a woman are more and more common, as well as more acceptable today, in France, than it has ever been, thanks to globalization.
Now let’s talk about my craft, my love, my passion—hair. Even with the international influences, French hair styles have remained the same. The French woman still desires a classic, polished, look, not edgy or crazy—even among the younger generation. Hair in France remains the symbol of who you are and what you represent towards society. It symbolizes a lifestyle. Where the citizens of London may have no trouble jumping in on the latest hair craze, hair for a French woman remains classic. Their hair is stylish and age-appropriate. Older women never have long hair; they believe in age boundaries. Hair color is approached with skin tone in mind. In France, the science of hair color is well-respected. Blondes are soft and natural, Brunettes are warm and shiny, the highlights are soft and hand-painted, for natural light accents. The older generation still has their standing weekly hair appointment.
They admire TV and movie idols, yet they retain their personalities when it comes to their haircuts. Watching the Cannes Film Festival, the French actresses and starlets all walk down that red carpet with loose, hair that flows. Personally, I miss the “American” touch on their hair. I wish they would curl it! It is the same with make-up, they barely wear any makeup at all, even for such a special event. Their emphasis is “I want to feel like me”. NO alter ego, just their true selves, presented to the public.
Sometimes, I think many American women would be well-served to take a page or two out of the “French woman’s guide to beauty.” My motto toward female beauty is:
Less is more. Chic always. Tone it down. Keep it fresh. Simply Elegant.