Yes, there is such a thing as Parisienne gray in my book. Basically, it is every shade of gray Emmanuelle Alt, The Queen of Chic, wears. Okay, Emmanuelle is also the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Paris, but the two are synonymous, so it doesn’t matter which intro came first. You can also find this hue on the likes of Garance and Kate (Lanphear), all members of ChicVille (I just made that up too).
Just like Accra is all color, Paris is all gray, and I’ve been blessed to live in both cities for long periods of time, embracing each of their unique cultures and styles. They’ve both made huge impacts on my sense of fashion, but adjusting from one to another was quite the task. Accra is more vibrant, scattered prints, a little careless, full of rich colors tossed here and there, and then there’s Paris, the gray, black, beige and leather, absolute, solid, bold and decisive. It’s ironic that the two have no gray area between them.
Before I ever stepped foot in Paris, we discussed it in French class. It was believed to be as gray and melancholic as its skies. The black and white photos we passed around in class were maybe a little biased in their portrayal of the colors of Paris, but they remained true to the air of melancholy. It was as if they always had the blues but then never had the color to show for it (Okay, maybe that was a bad joke). We learned it rained almost all the time, something both my damaged shoes and I came to be sure witnesses of. Lastly, I was informed that the people themselves were very no-nonsense and unfriendly, and they wore a lot of gray and neutrals to reflect the moody weather they lived in.
When I arrived in France, I found the latter to be false, the people were just very sensible and full of humor as long as you were open-minded. But the part about their fashion was true; they wore lots of black and gray, essentially anything that was muted, but even more importantly everything that was effortless. Parisians seemed to wear what they felt. It never looked like their style was governed by rules or an obsession with what the latest trend was, instead; it seemed to come from a more true place, a loyalty to self, so to speak. Perhaps this is the most enviable thing about the Parisians and their style. That and their perfect imperfect hair.
Alain, a friend from Paris, always joked about how easy it was to spot me in the crowds of Paris. Whenever we had to meet in front of the metro at Châtelet (which is a very busy subway station in Paris) (okay it’s also the largest in the world, and I’m not sure why we chose to meet there. (Oh right, the mall ) he’d ask in advance, as if to make his job easier, “would you be wearing your red coat or the black?” Red coat was always good news! And I wore my bright red coat every where I went, against all the gray weather and similarly gray loving Parisians.
I was still very color crazy and unchanged by the fashion in Paris, or at least that is what it felt like, until I arrived in the U.S, grabbed a box, and packed half of my clothes for charity.
Surprisingly, what ended up in the box for charity was not every colorful item in my closet. It was every item I bought blindly, the clothes and styles I had outgrown, including things that fit poorly, everything that was purposeless, items that may have followed trends but looked horrible on me, and all that did nothing for my true self. What stayed behind was me—taking cognizance of myself. A mindful fashion. A platform for my personal fashion voice, one that was unapologetic and centered on making me and me alone feel good. I found confidence and respect for myself (in every sense of the word: my body type, my personality, “flaws,” and vulnerabilities). I had become more in touch with myself. And all that could have come from just maturing as a person, but within the gray colors left behind in my closet, I found what was the gray area between the contrast in Accra and Paris: You don’t fuss about it, wear what you feel like wearing!
Voilà! Perhaps the same rules can be applied to achieving French hair.