I’m just back from Paris, where people are slim, stylish and beautiful (as long as they’re not tourists). Everywhere I looked some irritatingly fabulous woman was walking her pooch, elegantly smoking a fag, or riding a bike with the kind of devil-may-care sang froid Parisians are famous for. Parisians can turn wearing a pair of trousers into an art installation. They can make standing at a bus stop look like the opening credits of A Bout de Souffle. Give them a drink and they’ll nurse it for hours, because unlike the Brits, they’re not insane greedy alkies. They’re cool, they’re sharp, they’re young at heart. They have tons of sex (probably). And somehow, in a baffling scenario that makes me doubt the existence of God, they also consume tons of cheese and still manage to weigh less than a packet of Quavers. Insufferable fucking show-offs, the lot of them. Even the Eiffel Tower is thin and gorgeous, stalking the skyline like a supermodel in a glittering dress. In comparison, I felt like a massive meat and potato pie being slowly rolled down the banks of the Seine, accompanied by mournful tuba music.
It’s painfully true that French people seem to have a style gene where the Brits have a lard gene. They can pull off a crisp white Comptoir des Cottoniers shirt and a pair of APC trousers well into old age. The 60 year olds look as perennially stylish as the 20 year olds, like the old man I saw wearing a cravat and a vest like rock star/painter outlaw. The elderly women are as fresh as daisies, clattering about in killer heels. Les filles jeunes were just so stunning it was actually obscene – my husband had to change his shirt twice because of all the drooling, and I had to take a Rennie because I jealously bitched so much under my breath I gave myself indigestion. (Or it could have been those massive Croque Madames that I kept stress eating at 2 hour intervals).
But is French style really all that? Can we really give them credit for their moderate habits and their jaunty ways with a neckerchief? Or is it just an accident of birth? I have a theory that – apart from a few regrettable noses – all Parisian women are born with perfect proportions, and instinctively know how to carry a designer bag with poise. The men are similarly endowed with an open necked shirt, an unshaven jawline, and can order a coffee with the exact amount of Gallic insouciance. In Britain, we are born with fat reserves round the middle to last the winter, a thirst for blue WKD and beefy flavoured crisps, and a pair of egg-stained joggy bottoms and a Sky Plus remote as standard. We also have an uncanny ability to shout in the street and light our farts.
When I got back to the UK, however, I realised that even though French women are dazzlingly attractive, we’ve got the edge. Our ability to dress outrageously inappropriately and fall over drunk outside Kebabish makes those gorgeous Parisian girls look like tedious party poopers. Who needs to ride a pushbike to the boring bloody bibliotheque when you can get a pink hen night limo to the pub? French style is all tailoring and slender simplicity, tradition and elegance – whereas Brits do big hair, tons of slap and shoes that could have an eye out. And we SMILE more. We laugh, we shriek, we swear like sailors. We’re having more fun! Vive la difference, and pass the croissants! Bof!