Frenchmen or French Men – Is there a difference?

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Frenchmen or French Men – Is there a difference?
PARIS – Who are these Frenchmen who brush by on a busy Paris street or leisurely head to a patisserie on the Cannes promenade? They’re French men with a style and a panache that’s curiously theirs. French women do not have the exclusive on that sense of chic envied globally. Today’s bad boys of France have their own niche that spells hot in forward motion. They are markedly different from predecessors, including the late Maurice Chevalier who sang, danced and acted his way through life with a glint in his eye and a too-heavy accent that made for fabulous entertainment and helped define stereotypical Frenchmen. Today’s French men are polished, just as Maurice, but they have an elegantly rough edge. Hair is in place, while just tousled enough to be alluring. Whether clean shaven (which often includes the pate), or sporting the trendy five o’clock shadow, these guys have it together. And why not? They’re the products of a country where eau de toilette dispensers customarily can be found in well-appointed highway rest rooms for men, as well as for women. To clarify, after hand washing comes the little spritz of fragrance from a device attached to the wall adjacent to the hand dryer. The message is clear and encouraging: All five senses matter. You are unlikely to encounter l’homme de France (the man of France) who is anything but well constructed and gloriously understated in his choice of scent – just enough to bring you within a comfortable conversational orbit. The clothes are cool. Not glitzy, nor glamorous. Not necessarily designer originals. And not necessarily expensive. Just cool.  Tight fitting, a lot of black, and, then of course there is the ubiquitous scarf to contend with. The scarf knot can be one of the great mysteries of France. The echarpe (scarf) is somehow wrapped around the neck and tied in such a way that it frames, rather than strangles. The bad boys move effortlessly without swaggering and have bodies that are taut, contrasting dramatically with their counterparts across the pond. These men are in a class all their own. No sweatshirts, beer guts, baseball caps. Not these guys.  No baggy jeans, either. Or flashy running shoes signed by NBA superstars. Soft leather, s’il vous plait. Soft wools, linens, cottons, organics. To be fair, France has its share of unkempt and overweight males, while the United States can boast about some pretty good looking male specimens. But in the broader palette of the fashionista, you’d be hard pressed to find a larger and more consistently groomed population of posh men than here in France. The environment and the culture seem to engender this marvelous Yin-Yang a la France. The French diet, though changing with the growing presence of fast food, does not put on the calories. A light breakfast of café au lait with a croissant is a far cry from a buffet of eggs, sausages, French toast (ahem) and pancakes. You get my drift. In Paris, the bad boys are a monochromatic essence of French – accent, looks, a sense of easy self-confidence. They give the impression that the last thing they do before leaving home is glance in the mirror, not because of ego, but because they’re – well, they’re French. That’s just the way it is. C’est la vie. The male je ne sais quoi in France charms, beguiles and is contagious. It’s unlikely that a U.S. man who spends a bit of time in Paris will not find his way to a scarf shop, put away the baseball cap and trade in the sneakers for a pair of soft leather loafers.  Especially in the winter, when there are so few Americans in Paris anyway. The American will also probably put away his iPhone. That’s another habit the French don’t have. They’re not glued to the hand-held devices, though an Apple staffer in Paris told me the reason is fear of theft. Whatever the reason, the French men stride along avenues free of such bourgeois encumbrances and eliciting admiration and approval of a fine figure of a French man. Indeed, the French can be persuasive in their own way. Sofia Mannos is an award-winning journalist and a Euro-American, being multilingual and having been schooled partially in Paris.  Mannos’ credits include work for United Press International, The Associated Press and CNN. Her work crosses the platforms. Her writing has been read globally and her news broadcasts heard all over the world. While her background is Greek, Sofia Mannos is a second generation Francophile. Her father spoke French and her mother loved it. photo 1 Agence de presse Meurisse‏ , via Wikimedia Commons photo by Renaud Camus , via Flickr photo by kimdokhac , via Flickr  
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