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Thursday, June 18, 2015

People Watching in Paris: Frugal Hermes?

I've been reading over my little travel notebook. It's just one of those little 19 cent spiral jobs. I don't  do much shopping in Paris (I know: a crime against nature) but I do like to window shop and people watch. Sometimes I make note of what people are wearing. I like to observe how people communicate style and status. 

One fellow caught my attention not just last summer, but also the summer before. He is the proprietor of a shop that sells vintage midcentury modern furniture: you can spy various Eames pieces and the famous Egg chair through his window. He happened to step out for a cigarette as we were looking in the window. Both times he was wearing the exact same thing: a wrinkled black button down shirt and baggy faded jeans. His gray hair was unkempt. He did not have the narrow physique of the stereotypical Parisian in a fancy neighborhood. Rather, he was stocky, with a big belly. He looked like the stereotypical guy at the market, dramatically wielding a knife and a piece of meat.

He was also wearing a prominent status item: a belt with a big H announcing its maker as Hermes. It occurred to me that the belt was actually a frugal purchase. He could wear it every day with his faded/wrinkled clothes and look upscale. His customers would, no doubt, recognize the belt and realize that his is a high end store. His "cost per wear" was probably less than one euro.

Such a belt would be wasted on me. My students would say "I thought your initial was E???!!!" 

But for Monsieur, the belt was a communicative part of his uniform. 

I'll be looking for Monsieur again this summer. His shop is somewhere near rue de Verneuil, where there are a lot of art galleries. Many people make a pilgrimage there to see the house owned by the family of the iconic Serge Gainsborough.

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