How influential are blogs? Influential enough to make at least one guy from the nation that invented chic to start taking his cues from America.
French guys aren’t exactly short on style. Nor on having an air of innate superiority — possibly deserved — simply for being French. But Francis Cazal — an advertising copywriter who divides his time between Paris and Frankfurt — has spent the past year giving himself a Preppy-Ivy-Trad-Americana makeover after discovering trad blogs.
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IS: How did you discover American style?
FC: I was searching the Internet and eventually found the trad blogs. Ivy-Style and Heavy Tweed Jacket were the first ones, then The Ivy league Look and The Trad, and then I discovered the TV show “Mad Men.” I started buying American-style clothes when I saw “Bullit.” The combination of turtleneck, tweed jacket and desert boots is worn so well by Steve McQueen. My first eBay item was a Harris Tweed sportcoat, since I already had chinos, desert boots and a turtleneck. So it started like that.
IS: What is the appeal of American style?
FC: It’s simple, and what I especially like is that it’s an exceptional outfit for everyday life. I like how students in the ’50s decided to wear tweed jackets with their army chinos, because it tells you they wanted to wear high-quality, long-lasting and good-looking clothes in a practical way. In France we don’t have brands like Brooks Brothers that have made clothes since the beginning of the 19th century.
As I write this, I’m wearing a Gant Rugger cable-knit sweater with vintage Levis 505 tapered jeans and tricolor Top-Siders, and I know that no one here wears things like that. My idea was how to look good throughout life in an affordable way, and American style gave me the answer: You buy inexpensive traditional clothes from American brands on eBay, because they are well made and 30 years later still look good.
IS: How did you go about rebuilding your wardrobe?
FC: Ebay was my official sponsor! But I love authenticity and history, so it took a lot of time to find the clothes I was searching for. I first bought two tweed jackets, some ties and waiscoats. At the beginning, it was a mix of American and English. But by looking pictures of “Take Ivy,” “The Official Preppy Handbook,” blogs and archives, the look became more precise in my head. I discovered brands like Alan Paine knitwear and Puritan polo shirts. I bought some oxford shirts, a vintage madras jacket, and some Ralph Lauren madras pants.
I buy approximately one item per week: Levis 505 jeans, chinos from the Vietnam War era, an embroidered polo, and cotton sweaters. And of course a navy blazer when I understood it was essential to have one. Shoes were the last. After searching for several months, I bought a pair of Weejun penny loafers and then a pair of Sperry Top-Siders. I’m not really a purist, because I like Uniqlo’s oxford shirts, for example. One year later, my wardrobe is comprised of clothes I can wear for a traditional American or Ivy outfit.
IS: How do other Europeans react to your style?
FC: That’s a hard question, because one day I will wear a preppy outfit with corduroy pants, polo shirt and sweater from the 1980s, and the next day a ’60s Ivy outfit or navy blazer with chinos. Preppy is becoming more popular here, but it’s the colorful preppy style from “Making The Grade,” not the kind with LL Bean boots, Irish sweater and layered oxford and polo.
Certainly French people react to it, and I’m not sure it’s always a positive reaction, especially if you keep in mind that you look overdressed to many French people if you are just wear a navy blazer with gold buttons or, a tie with tennis rackets. And I’m 25, so it can be surprising for my age.
But I’ve seen a real difference between France and Germany. Germans seem to be unsurprised by what I wear. There are a lot of banks in Frankfurt and you see well dressed men in suits everywhere in the streets. Older people seem to be more interested in what I’m wearing, but I don’t understand why when you take into account that American trad style is not a question of age.
After a real preppy/trad period, I think I’m evolving to a more casual and Ivy style, just like I recently saw in the movies “Tea and Sympathy” [Editor’s note: Francis’s great look in the top photo is straight from “Tea and Sympathy;” our post on it is here], and “The Graduate.” That’s what I really love about American style: You can wear today what boys wore 50 years ago.
Finally, many more Americans than French are interested by my blog.