What does a Parisian look like?
That’s a good question. The Parisian woman is perhaps easier to imagine than her male counterpart: an elegant and independent character somewhere between Catherine Deneuve and Joan of Arc, perhaps running along the waterfront to join her lover, or to buy a bottle of wine just before the shop closes, leaving the subtle scent of Chanel No. 5 in her wake… against an essential backdrop of accordion music of course! She is one of those fleeting, subliminal, fantasized images just waiting to be drawn from our memory banks. In this sense, the Parisienne belongs to our collective consciousness, constantly reconstructed by each individual each time she is imagined.
But what about the Parisian man? What is he like, and where can we find him?
Perhaps in Beaubourg, near the Centre Pompidou, in the studios of fashion designer Barnabé Hardy*, who has devoted his last nine collections to designing, defining and re-inventing the spirit of the French male, through hallmark items such as the leather jacket.
Barnabé Hardy’s Parisian is primarily urban. A character who walks the city in his leather shell, protected (almost) from head to toe by his padded or lined jacket and his removable collar. This modern suit of armour can withstand anything… even other Parisians!
This Parisian also has a brain: he’s an intellectual, a thinker (sometimes he thinks too much). This is also a man with a sharp sense of detail when it comes to style, and the results aren’t half bad. Dressed in Barnabé Hardy, the geometric cuts and origami folds of his clothes become the discreet standard of his casual sophistication.
But this Parisian is above all a dreamer and an idealist. He has his head in the clouds. Anyone would think he’s timeless. And yet he is so contemporary.
To catch one of these singular creatures, all you have to do is sit in a café, take your time, and watch. Then, armed with the patience of a zoologist stalking the urban jungle, you just might catch sight of a unique silhouette hidden in the crowd, one that absorbs your gaze for a few moments. And then, without even knowing exactly why, you’ll say “that’s a Parisian”!
*how very French!
Get in touch with the author/illustrator at @David_Cessac and on Facebook, and check out his website. Check back soon for the next installation in the column A Few Parisians. This illustration is available as a print, iPhone case, t-shirt and more on The Untapped Shop.