Pour L’Homme

Pour L’Homme

Whether it’s the crisp white shirts of media-hyped philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, the impeccably tailored suits of dapper Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë or the rumpled chic of French songwriter icon Benjamin Biolay, there’s no denying that French men have an inimitable sense of style. Visitors too can take a leaf out of the French lookbook pour hommes and restock their wardrobes Parisian-style.

Sharp Suits

Forget cutting-edge concept stores like Colette—the first stop for any fashion-conscious male shopping in Paris should be Arnys (14 rue de Sèvres, 7th), one of the first luxury men’s stores to arrive on the Rive Gauche. The venerable wood-paneled boutique, opened in 1933 by custom tailors the Grimbert brothers, started out catering to Left Bank intellectuals such as Jean Cocteau and André Gide. But when international style-setters such as Orson Welles started wearing the Grimberts’ custom-made suits, hand-stitched in sumptuous fabrics, Arnys began to take off worldwide. One great investment here might be a contemporary version of Arnys’ iconic La Forestière coat, originally made for celebrated French architect Le Corbusier in 1945. Or one of the limited edition, serial-numbered silk ties-only 40 of which are ever produced in each pattern and color.

Michael Tapia, a Californian-born designer who launched his own signature label in Paris in 1997, has attracted a cult following with cool but classic suits inspired by sharply dressed music icons such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. (8 rue de Picardie, 3rd. By appointment only, Paul Smith, the quirky British designer renowned for his ironic take on aristocratic tradition, also does a great line in modish suits for modern dandies. The designer, who described his most recent collection as “Mick Jagger goes to a cricket match”, has two Paris stores at 22 blvd Raspail, 7th, and 3 rue du Faubourg St Honoré, 8th.

Get Shirty

Charvet (28 pl Vendôme, 1st), whose clients have included Marcel Proust, the Duke of Windsor, Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy, specializes in custom-made shirts in every imaginable fabric and color-the store reputedly has 400 different shades of white alone). Those with neither a platinum credit card nor the patience to wait four weeks for one of Charvet’s hand-tailored shirts should check out the city’s impressive array of ready-to-wear options. Fans of bold stripes, polka dots, loud prints and eye-catching patterns should also visit Coton Doux, a purveyor of men’s cotton shirts, boxer shorts, nightshirts and pajamas at very reasonable prices. There are several outlets around the city including 24 rue de la Verrerie, 4th.


BHV, a department store best known for its extensive DIY hardware basement, recently opened a 100% “male fashion temple” (36 rue de la Verrerie, 4th, Map) just behind the main store on rue de Rivoli last year. With a hanging-garden facade by greenery guru Patrick Blanc, BHV Homme has four floors stocked with more than 150 brands ranging from Kenzo, agnès b. and Lagerfeld to hip urban wear “label of the moment” Diesel. Since the male of the species, French or otherwise, is not renowned for his in-store stamina, everything has been done to facilitate the male shopping experience. Try-on rooms are located right next to sales counters and floors, with dumbed-down titles such as “Moi et mon jean”, have uncluttered, easy-to-navigate layouts.  A hit parade of the store’s Top 10 best sellers is prominently displayed for hurried shoppers in search of gift ideas.

For more cutting-edge designer brands, head for Printemps de l’Homme to check out the latest men’s collections from Ann Demeulemeester, Dior and Alexander McQueen. The store at 61 rue de Caumartin, 9th also offers clients a close shave, a backrub or a facial at its Institut Nickel. Madelios is another one-stop, slightly conservative, multi-brand shop for men located at 23 blvd de la Madeleine, 1st.

Shoes, Accessories & Gifts

There have been reports that Olga Berluti, one of the only female figures in the ultra-masculine world of custom-made shoes, exposes her leathers to the magic of moonlight to obtain their inimitable patina glaze. Berluti’s ready-to-wear shoes and Graduate bags (emblazoned with the century-old house’s signature “B”) do not require the same nine-month production time, but are no less magical. (26 rue Marbeuf, 8th; 171 blvd St. Germain, 6th). Pierre Corthay, who designed for Berluti’s ready-to-wear line before striking out on his own, believes “a shoe has to look beautiful from every angle, like a sports car or a piece of sculpture”. Corthay currently produces custom-made shoes for a largely French clientele, but he launched his own ready-to-wear line in 2001 based on the same long, clean lines and the same finely chiseled toes. (1 rue Volney, 2nd). At the Perrin family’s 60-year-old Atelier du Bracelet Parisien (28 pl du Marché St Honoré, 1st) you can customize your watchband from a choice of standard or exotic leathers including alligator, ostrich and stingray. If your gift budget does not run to a galuchat watchband or a custom-made humidor from Serge Amoruso (13 rue Abel, 12th), treat the man in your life to one of the male cosmetics on offer at the Comptoir de l’Homme (5-7 rue de Tournon, 6th). Or give him the brand-new eau de toilette Guerlain Homme (68 ave des Champs-Elysées, 8th)—inspired by the mojito—or the latest male fragrance from Frédéric Malle (37 rue de Grenelle, 7th)-French Lover, for instance, a heady mix of moss, musk, pimento, vetiver and tobacco undertones, is designed to smell “sensual, seductive and virile”.

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