How do I (male, 30s) mimic this type of French fashion?
September 24, 2023 7:26 AM   Subscribe

La Piscine had a very casual-yet Southern France look (casual button down, same outfit, better view). Serge Gainsbourg has a similar look. Sting had a similar, albeit with an 80s twist, during Live Aid 1985. My question, or goal is two-fold, the "effortless" way these shirts hang off, and to build a wardrobe of basically the same clothes as possible. Something comfortable enough to wear around.

This may seem like an easy question but finding that "look" is hard to do. I notice my colleagues in Paris have a similar look. What brand or brands have this look? I don't plan on buttoning my shirt all the way down like in Piscine and some of the accessories are dated but there's a common thread.

The pants also fit like casual pants and not dress pants, and I realize in some of the photos they are tightfitting jeans but I mean these or something like Sting's pants without the giant 80s pants looks. I've looked at these new "stretch-fit" pants but can't tell if it is what I'm looking for.

Assume the price is not an issue. Also, Serge Gainsbourg has a bit of a myth he only wore one outfit all the time but that's clearly not the case. Here's an article about exactly what Gainsbourg wore including brands or at least a good guess. That's the upper range of my price.

I tried vineyard vines but it seemed too preppy. For shoes I'll probably wear driving shoes or something similar as I just like those kinds of shoes I'm not too worried about it, I'm not too worried about shoes.

Yes, some examples I linked to were somewhat dated in they're 60s, 80s, or in the slim fit thing seem sort of like a jocky outfit an ESPN Sportcenter reporter would wear. I'm not asking in specific men's fashion threads because they often mention high-end brands. I'm going to NYC then Chicago so I'm guessing I'll have my pick to get this look down if I can't do it locally.

Basically, there's a very casual look to these outfits, is it just the fabric? Linen? I'm guessing tailoring is a factor too but that's fine. Given the people I work with our Paris have this look (not close enough for it to be weird), and they make good money but not $600 on from an obscure brand you never heard of.

I'd ask in a men's fashion subreddit but I find they're kind of like asking in any obsessive community and you'll get some very either condescending or focus in on things people not really into fashion care about.

While this is a style I've always enjoyed it is practical to looking casual but professional on calls and be able to go out to pretty anywhere and be dressed up enough to go to somewhere nice without looking like a lawyer (sorry lawyers).

FYI I'm ~5'10" maybe 165 lbs but with a slim build if that helps.
posted by geoff. to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add and I'll be quiet, I want to look less like "Andy Bernard" from The Office. And yes I know Le Piscine is famous for its high-end designer outfits, and Serge Gainsbourg is famous for his look too but the fact I still see it around tells me it is not unique and it doesn't feel like I'm trying to impress or be preppy.
posted by geoff. at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2023

I think a search term you might want to look for for shirts would be "drop shoulder". That's going to give you that relaxed look that you can see in the La Piscine pictures you posted, as well as the Sting picture (but not the Serge Gainsbourg). If you look at the shoulder seams on top, you'll see that for La Piscine and Sting, they both hit below the shoulder, rather than on top (as in the Gainsbourg).
posted by damayanti at 7:40 AM on September 24, 2023 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: This is surprisingly hard to google as "drop shoulder" is pretty heavily associated with women's button-downs and for men it just comes up with t-shirts. Sting's shirt is way too baggy but I see what you mean about where the fit is on the shoulder,

Is there a particular brand associated with this look? So far I've seen Banana Republic and a $740 shirt from Alexander McQueen which has some high end designer stuff going on with the sleeves even if I wanted to spend $740 on a shirt.

Are the Le Piscine shirts linen? I am bad at telling this sort of thing, just trying to maybe tailor my search a bit better since "drop shoulder" isn't a marketing term used much for men's shirts, so they must say something different. I see how Serge's shirt is much more formal than I'd like but it doesn't have that sort of messy ruffled look.

I'm looking through Neiman Marcus and Eton and I'm not seeing anything explicitly drop shoulder that's a button down. Really just looking for a basic blue, white, or even denim. My goal is to stay under $250, with the idea is that I buy a few basics and wear the same "going out somewhere nice maybe or for a phone call I need to look good." Real bonus points if it is a consistent brand with somewhat quality as if I spend this much I'd expect it to last quite a while or until I can find a brand that's less expensive. Really have a brand that I like and fits and can go back to because they're consistent is a secondary motivation.

(BTW I'm not looking at just high-end brands, I assumed starting from the top and working my way down would be easier, plus I hope the look is "classic" enough that it will last me quite some time).
posted by geoff. at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2023

I would look at appropriate articles on Put This On. They have a rep for being about tailoring or business, but they're really often about retro looks and the type of work-wear inflected look you're describing. This Fall piece from a couple of years ago doesn't really give you a lot of French style, but it is a starting point for some beautiful sweaters. I really would click around on that blog - he always has a ton of images at the bottom of his posts, often vintage ones.

I can tell you right now that you are not looking for stretch athletic fit dress pants. You're looking for higher-waisted, conventionally or fully cut pants in a fabric with some texture, and right now you are probably going to have to poke around for smaller brands. J Crew has a new suit-fit (my internet connection is poor so for some reason it's not loading well) the Kenmore, which is a little fuller. Some of their suiting looks fairly good this fall. Here is a fuller, waist-emphasizing pair of pants from Banana Republic (!) that gets at this a bit in a mass market way - I feel like the waist should be a bit higher and the leg a tiny bit fuller but you get the idea.

What I notice about those French looks is that they balance the fullness of the pants with a spareness - they emphasize the waist, they emphasize the body, but using natural fabric and drape rather than bare skin and cling. The waist of the pants is higher so that you can wear a trim but not tight shirt and a belt to emphasize your waist - note that while this looks best on wiry French guys, I am kind of fat and it can still look sharp on me.

Mass market and American tailoring tends toward "tight" rather than "spare". A trim, spare fit isn't tight, it's just cut close to the body. That is what you're looking for.

You're going to need to try a lot of stuff on and spend some money here unless you're really lucky. My thought is that you should look, really look, at Put This On and Die Workwear for brand ideas, then if you're in NYC go and try stuff on with no real purchase goal. That will help you get a sense of what you're looking for. Once you have that sense, you will find it easier to spot more mass-market stuff that will work - it's not like everything needs to cost ten million dollars. You will need alterations. Even nice stuff usually won't have its optimal fit off the rack, and cheaper stuff definitely won't - Gainsbourg's stuff fits so nicely because it starts out with a good cut and is then adjusted.

My general sense is that you're looking for workwear shirts and jackets plus slightly seventies tailoring - the workwear seems to be either US Western-inflected or French fisherman stuff, not construction worker or retro peasant. You can get absolutely classic French-made fisherman sweaters and coats by googling around, that's a starting point. All-cotton traditional Western workwear (ie, not full-on cowboy) shirts are another point.

Modern American "slim fit" is not the same here, especially in tailoring. Shirts, maybe, depending on the shirt. Look for textured fabrics with presence, linen, hopsack, chambray, heavy twill. You want slightly bigger, fuller-cut collars rather than the "slim fit" tiny collars that have been a 2010s staple.

You'll need to look a lot, but it could be fun.
posted by Frowner at 8:47 AM on September 24, 2023 [10 favorites]

Also, for the most part those aren't loose looks - the armholes are tailored high and close-fitting, which gives you a lot of movement in the shoulder and flatters the arm. Even if the body is larger or looser, the armholes are a good fit. These are all looks that are about the body, where most men's tailoring in the US is really about concealing the body without drawing attention (unlike a baggy concealing look that draws attention by drape and movement). Like, they are looks for sexual allure.

The Post-Romantic has some of this look - this is just their instagram, their website is down. Which I hope is not a bad sign, those are some nice shirts.
posted by Frowner at 8:55 AM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

Brands to check out: Lemaire (and Uniqlo U, essentially Lemaire's diffusion line), Margaret Howell. Wait until Spring/Summer collections are released for linen.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

I think this shirt at Zara looks just like Sting's in that photo.
posted by xo at 9:44 AM on September 24, 2023

I'm not an expert in men's fashion, but those don't look like drop shoulder to me--they look like set-ins with a slightly fuller cut. ("Set in" unfortunately won't help as a search term as it's a very common style.) The fabrics look like linen or chambray.

(If you look like Alain Delon, you should have a very fun trip to NYC!)
posted by praemunire at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

Those all look to me like nice, comfortable, full-cut, cotton chambray shirts.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:12 AM on September 24, 2023

The Le Piscine shirts look either chambray (it's usually a denim-looking blue but lightweight), or a different kind of lightweight cotton like cotton lawn. Generally, shops will just call it "100% cotton" and not give specifics. Sting's shirt looks like it could be linen. Things to know about linen is that it's breathable natural fabric but it wrinkles incredibly and is also typically more expensive than other materials like cotton.

These example are summer shirts. We are into the fall fashion cycle in stores so unless you find something on summer clearance it is possible you will have to wait until next late winter/early spring. Men's clothing before very recently had no stretch so to get this look, look for clothing that does NOT have elastane or other words that mean stretchy. Try things on but like the previous poster said, don't expect to find anything. If you go in looking for a very specific thing you will probably leave very frustrated. A chain store to pop in while you're in NYC and Chicago that is probably not local to you is COS. I would also look at Banana Republic in person to get a feel for fabrics and how their cuts fall on you. Their Heritage collections are more expensive but have more of what you're looking for.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:28 AM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

The French brand Sezane seems to be more womenswear-focused, but they have a small menswear collection that might be of interest to you. I don't see the exact items you're looking for right now, but the aesthetic you're describing definitely matches the aesthetic of this brand, and I suspect they'll have some stuff for you in their spring/summer collection.
posted by Mender at 12:20 PM on September 24, 2023 [2 favorites]

A lot of higher-end department stores offer personal shopping, which often includes style advice. Could you make use of that sort of service - show them the photos that inspire you, a budget and see what they come up with?
posted by mooders at 12:35 PM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I get it. There's not much of a look in your linked photos except for casual.

Nice linen shirts (though all your linked-to ones look cotton) and non-denim pants.

The commonality between your linked photos reminds me of something milliner Nick Fouquet once answered when asked what the best way was to wear a hat: "Confidently". That's what you're seeing here more than the clothes, imo.
posted by dobbs at 1:25 PM on September 24, 2023 [5 favorites]

Check out Everlane - my husband has a few shirts from them and I think they’d fit the bill.

Start with this linen shirt. Their relaxed oxford may also work well.

Good luck, love this vibe!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 1:59 PM on September 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

If you want to keep it rather cheap, you could try Celio. Search for "lin".
posted by nicolin at 4:02 AM on September 25, 2023

This look is very A.P.C. to me.
posted by guessthis at 5:00 AM on September 25, 2023

Die, Workwear! had a bit in a post earlier this year about casual shirts. The ones pictured probably aren't right - too denim, with snap pockets - but he talks about different fabrics and lists a load of brands.
posted by fabius at 5:18 AM on September 25, 2023

Agnes B

Those are all summer fabrics so you may have a better luck shopping come springtime, especially if you're shopping in NY. NY retail spaces are small so generally only carry seasonal stuff in-store.
posted by greta simone at 6:30 AM on September 25, 2023

Oh sorry, I thought you said in your post that assume money is no object but then later that you want to keep it under $250, so my suggestions may not be helpful then.
posted by greta simone at 6:31 AM on September 25, 2023

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