What Shoes Should You Wear In France?

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If your are like me, chances are you have a number of pair of shoes in your closet (see my article about French shoe vocabulary). It's not easy to pick the ones to travel with. Of course, part of the choice should be comfort. But French people love their shoes, and there is a certain shoe etiquette to follow if you want to fit in when traveling to France. Especially for men since French men are quite peculiar about their shoes...

Chaussures pour femmes

The problem with shoes is that they take a lot of room when you are packing... So which shoes to bring is definitely worth some of your consideration. Pack shoes that are versatile, and that you can wear in different situations.

For example, I always wear some kind of comfortable, smooth leather ballerinas, comfortable enough to walk for a while, and dressy enough to go out for dinner. 

French women wear high-heels, but we don't usually wear super high heels. Contrarily to what you may think, heel shoes French women actually wear are kind of conservative. The thing is in France, particularly in big cities, you can expect to walk. You won't find parking just in front of the restaurant. Valet is not always an option. And don't get me started on the typical paved Parisian streets... So if you don't want to break your ankle, you have to be somewhat conservative.

For everyday, older women will still wear heel shoes. It's a question of generation. If you're working in a bank or in a somewhat formal environment, "un tailleur" (women's suit) and some kind of heel shoes will be recommended. "Normal" French women would wear comfortable shoes, flats, such as "Bensimon", "Todds" or some kind of sandals or ballerinas. "Birkenstocks" and "Crocks" were fashionable for a short while, but they are not typical of what a French woman would wear.

And forget about going to work with sports shoes and a women's skirt suit and changing into your heels in the elevator! I've never seen a French woman do it. It might change with all the snow we are getting in Paris lately... And if you ask me, I think it makes total sense. But a French woman would still wear some kind of ballerinas with a suit, on her way from the métro to work, and then maybe change into heels at work. Yes, most French women are kind of fashion victims, and if comfort is important, style is usually even more important.

Go to Page 2 to read about men's shoes

Go to page 1 for tips about what kind of shoes women wear in France

Chaussures pour hommes

As a French woman I find that the biggest difference in shoe between France and the US was concerning man shoes. French men wear bulky sports shoes to practice sports. Not to go out. 

There is a "US" look in France - it can be trendy to wear a hoodie over loose jeans and the latest Athletic Nikes or Timberlands boots. It flies when you are in your twenties. But after, your sense of fashion has to grow up.

There's a kind of shoe that is typical for French (younger) men: they are tennis shoes, with laces, but smaller, more delicate than athletic... kind of old fashion tennis shoes - I think you call them "sneakers". French men (and women) wear them in different colors, but often kind of tuned-down, darker colors (as opposed to the often very flashy athletic shoes). They are made of cloth or leather, or suede. Famous brands include "Converse" or "Vans". I know skateboarding dudes wear them in the US, and it's the kind displayed in the main picture of this article. This is the typical shoe for a Frenchman in a casual setting, in all seasons.

In summer, French men (often a bit older or of higher social class, les bourgeois (= preppy crowd) wear what we call "des chaussures de bateau" (Here is a picture) which can be worn with our without socks, or leather loafers such as "Todds". 

For young adults, les tongs (flip-flops) are also very fashionable, especially with the summer being so hot lately. BUT, and this is essential, a Frenchmen would show his feet only if their feet and nails are impeccable. Otherwise they'll cover them up. Socks and sandals are a big fashion faux-pas in France.

For dressy wear or going out, leather shoes are a must, and every French man would have at least one pair of leather shoes - many would wear leather shoes everyday. "Les mocassins" (loafers) are still very much in fashion, but all kind of leather shoes exist. Ankle leather/suede boots are quite trendy as well.

Voilà, I hope you'll feel comfortable about what shoe to pack on your next trip to France. I also suggest you read my article on "What to Wear To Fit in France" as well as my complete "French Clothes Vocabulary list". 

I will soon add more articles on this topic, including a list for French shoes in French, an easy "learn French in Context story" about shoe shopping in France.So make sure you subscribe to my newsletter (it's easy, you just enter your email address - look for it on the French language homepage).

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