What to wear (and what NOT to wear) during your stay in Paris
Okay, Americans*, I'm gonna give it to you straight: the clothes you are wearing in Paris make you really stand out as a tourist, and you look sloppy and underdressed and disrespectful almost everywhere you go. You stand out like a sore thumb; the Parisians can spot an American a kilometer away. This isn't necessarily a terrible thing in itself, but wouldn't it be better to be a little discreet and blend in a little?
Parisians do not wear shorts, flip-flops, white sneakers, baseball caps, fanny packs, backpacks, oversized t-shirts, oversized jeans, oversized hoodies, etc. If you're a person who cares at all about your personal appearance in general and the impression you make on the people around you, then you really don't want to wear all that stuff while you're in Paris. Trust me.
Try wearing comfortable shoes that are not sneakers. Men, wear a polo shirt or button-down shirt rather than a graphic tee. Leave the baseball cap at home. Jeans are fine! Try to make sure they're in very good condition and not super loose, and don't wear them to a nice restaurant. Even better, try some actual grown-up pants that are made of something other than denim and leave the jeans at home.
Ladies, your baggy shorts and flip-flops make you look really underdressed, even if you're just out walking around; you may as well be in your pajamas (by the way, please do not be in your pajamas). I've heard this story a million times: American women come to Paris dressed comfortably and then immediately feel super uneasy and underdressed when they see how elegantly average women dress in Paris, and they need to run out and buy all new stuff for their stay in France just so they can blend in a little more and feel comfortable. Guys don't care as much, of course, which is true everywhere, but you'll see that the guys in Paris pay a lot more attention to their appearance than American guys do. Parisians do wear jeans and t-shirts, but only in appropriate situations, and you'll notice their jeans and t-shirts are a lot more design-y and cut a lot slimmer.
When you're going out to eat in a restaurant, think of how you'd dress for that same level of restaurant back home, and then dress nicer than that. Guys: button down shirts, please. Once again I must stress, no shorts and sneakers/sandals! Have some class. Now, no need to go overboard; you almost never need a jacket and/or tie in Paris. But it'll make you feel really classy to wear them, so go for it! Then you can join me in sneering at all the badly dressed Americans. You really will get treated better the more nicely you're dressed.
Ladies, I trust you to dress up more than I trust the guys, but once again, you really shouldn't wear shorts and flip flops to a restaurant. You shouldn't be wearing them at all! But you get my point.
Guys, if you insist on wearing a hat, don't forget to take it off every time you're entering a church or restaurant! Do I really have to mention this? (Yes, I really have to mention this.)
During your long overnight flight, do not wear pajamas/sweatpants/slippers/etc. This is the stuff that makes French people think Americans are pampered babies.
I'm really not trying to be a jerk about this stuff here; I'm trying to save you, my fellow Americans, a little bit of embarrassment, and help you avoid being a little disrespectful (unintentionally, of course!). You really will feel better if you look good and blend in a little. Dress well enough and you might even get asked for directions in French! How cool would that be?
*Of course this advice applies to non-Americans as well, but the vast majority of my website's traffic comes from the US, and we Americans are absolutely the worst fashion offenders when traveling abroad. Let's do better!