In France, your politics is what you wear

In France, your politics is what you wear

/ 05:32 AM June 23, 2024

In France, your politics is what you wear

WHEN MIDDLING FITS There’s a go-to look for centrists and social democrats in France, like President Emmanuel Macron, so they “can’t be accused of elegance,’’ as one fashion writer puts it. —Agence France-Presse

PARIS, France — France is in the midst of two of its favorite pastimes: political turmoil and fashion week.

Fashion writer Marc Beauge, who has advised at least one president, walked Agence France-Presse (AFP) through the evolving style rules for French politicians.


For male politicians, he said, a simple uniform has become dominant: a navy blue suit—fitted and generally a little too slim—with a white shirt and thin tie.


“It signals respectability, authority and above all a lack of ostentation. It’s middling quality and can’t be accused of elegance,” said Beauge.

READ: Macron urges French to make ‘right choice’ in snap polls

This is particularly popular among centrists and social democrats, and is the go-to look for President Emmanuel Macron, even though practically no one in France wears such outfits in the street or office anymore—least of all the startup crowd Macron favors.

But since calling the snap election last week, the president has changed styles—to funereal black suits.

“There’s no more blue and grey,” said Beauge. “It’s a way of showing the gravity of the moment.”

Style advice

Women politicians have largely abandoned the neat designer outfits of the past in a bid to look less elitist.


“It’s always the same trouser-and-jacket combos that ensure no sexist commentary, but which risk making them invisible,” said Beauge.

Socialist Segolene Royale, once known for her preppy Chanel tweeds, headbands and knee-length skirts, went decidedly more demure by the time she was running for president in 2017.

When Beauge was summoned to the Elysee Palace by then President Francois Hollande for style advice in 2014, his instruction was “neither too chic nor too redneck.”

Rolex watches, once popular with presidents, have been dumped.

All remember the spectacular gaffe by a close adviser to then President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, who said in the midst of an economic crisis: “If you don’t have a Rolex by the time you’re 50, you’ve clearly failed in life.”

While the centrists seek neutrality, the political extremes are always making clear statements, said Beauge.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally (RN) has been surging in polls, ordered her deputies to wear sharp suits and ties after the last legislative elections in 2022.

It was part of a strategy to make the party seem a natural part of French institutions rather than a radical fringe.

“The idea is that RN deputies must be better dressed than the average French person,” Beauge said.

Meanwhile, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon rarely strays from his short-collared worker’s jacket—a classic communist symbol—even if his voters are primarily wealthy, fashion-conscious urbanites rather than real working-class people.

Many left-wing deputies seek to signal they are not part of the political elite with jeans, jackets and few ties, said Beauge.

This led one right-wing leader, Renaud Muselier, to accuse them of being “dirty and disheveled.”

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When left-wing bosses tried to impose ties, it triggered an ironic protest in which women deputies showed up wearing them over dresses and jeans.

TAGS: election campaign, France

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