Paris is known to be a, if not the, fashion capital of the world. The French, everyone knows, are extremely sophisticated, classy and well-dressed at all times. They invented the word chic. Even their food is considered à la mode. Some of the greatest fashion designers of all time made it big in France. The French would not be caught dead looking out of style.
Wow, I have a lot to live up to, I thought while packing my single, small suitcase for a three month stay in France.
We have all heard it before, but stereotypes, though based on reason and some portion of truth, must never be taken for solid fact. Even, I have found, when speaking about the well-known stereotype that everyone in France is fashionable. As an avid Vogue reader and someone who loves fashion, I clearly believed this stereotype. It did not take long before the truth came out.
Of course there were some poorly or tackily dressed people from time to time, and I rarely saw anyone who stood out as a superbly fashionable individual. But I figured that was normal. However, as the spring pressed on, I was seeing more and more girls wearing harem pants.
Harem pants: n. Pants made of flimsy cotton fabric that appear to be a cross between genie pants, clown pants, and peasant attire; should truly be worn nowhere other than the bedroom as pajamas.
I almost fell victim to the desire to try on a pair of harem pants on multiple shopping excursions. For me, it proved that the more I see a trend, the more likely I am to believe it is fashionable, or at least acceptable. Luckily, my better judgment never even allowed me to grab a pair off the rack. Everywhere I went, I was making double-takes at girls slouching around in what looked like pajamas. The sight of the harem pants growing in popularity continued to haunt me throughout my stay in France.
Honestly, I believe it comes down to the youth. Just about anywhere in the world, the younger generation can be spotted following some new trend or another. In the sixties, the hippie trend became popular, but was almost entirely a youth phenomenon. When sagging pants first became a boy’s thing-to-do, only the youth followed the trend, because adults continued as they always had. Youth are the most susceptible in our society to find, follow, and cling to trends—thus creating the harem pants problem, even in France. Plus, a major problem of stereotypes is that they generalize an entire group of people. Even in the most style-conscious country, some people will always just do their own thing.
So here’s the truth. The French, generally, are well dressed. For the most part, they would not wear sweatpants and running shoes in public. And the French youth, like everywhere else in the world, will continue to fall victim to (cough, bad) trends. I just hope these femmes find a new one… soon!