Wondering what NOT to wear in France? The French have a reputation for being a fashionable bunch and many people worry about wearing the wrong thing while tourist this amazing country. In this guide we will round up the things that you should not pack for France and the best alternatives to take to help you not look like a tourist while touring France.
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Note: the following rules about what not to wear in France are more guidelines than rules to make you not look like a tourist in France rather than dress code rules.
If you are most comfortable in any of the below feel free to wear them just be aware you won’t look like a local.
What do the locals wear in France
When I think about the French dress sense I think there are three main words that can sum up French fashion sense
– Muted Color Palettes
If you bear these in mind when putting together your French Capsule wardrobe you shouldn’t go far wrong with fitting in with the locals.
However it is worth noting that there are some regional differences with dress sense, with Paris have more locations with stricter dress codes i.e. Moulin Rouge and Notre Dame Cathedral than out walking in the countryside for instance.
Why do you want to look like a local in France?
The main reason that you may want to look like a local in France is to make sure you aren’t marked as a tourist. Like any tourist place in any country around the world, there are pickpockets in France, especially in the cities. If you look like a tourist while touring France you may make yourself a target. Therefore it is better to at least not single yourself out as a tourist.
So without further ado here is our breakdown of what not to wear in France
What Not to Wear in France
Bright / Neon Colors
When I think about French dress sense I definitely think about a muted color scheme, which is particularly true in Paris.
Common colors in French wardrobes are black, white, beige, navy and other muted tones.
Bright and neon colors are definitely not part of the normal French day to day wear. Color schemes in French fashion does skew to more pastels and muted tones so I would personally avoid neons where possible.
The French tend to do understated style brilliantly. The do not tend to wear graphic tees like we would in the UK and USA.
I would personally avoid anything that has a large slogan or image on and instead opt for something that is plain and simple.
If you really are desperate to wear something with wording on I would personally pick something that is very discreet rather than taking most of the front of the T shirt
University / College Hoodies
Are you proud of your alma Mater? Like to wear your college hoodies wherever you go?
Well my advice is don’t do this in France. Europeans, particularly the French don’t tend to wear their College hoodies out and about and nothing says foreigner or foreign exchange student quicker than wearing your college hoodie in France.
The French do sexy really well. But it isn’t overly overt. It is understated and stylish. Therefore it is unlikely you will see very short short being worn by a Parisian or in French cities.
If you see short shorts on the streets of a French city then you are likely to be looking at a tourist rather than a local.
Instead of packing short shorts with you instead pick more stylish, tailored and longer length shorts.
Cargo Trousers / Cargo Shorts
Again, the French would never wear trousers or shorts of the cargo variety and these will mark you out as a tourist very quickly.
I know the pockets can be useful when traveling but you will look like a tourist.
Instead of wearing cargo trousers or shorts men you are better opting for a more stylish and tailored pair of shorts that are matched with a belt.
Bottoms and bum cracks are definitely not a look the French will be going for.
For Parisians sports wear and athleisure is for sports, not for wandering around sights in the city.
If you plan on doing some exercise in cities or if your hotel has a gym by all means pack your sports wear but I personally would not recommend wearing them at any tourist sites.
As with the above, sweat pants aren’t something the French would wear outside. Maybe in the suburbs on a Sunday you would see them but in the cities.
If you want sweat pants and loungewear for in the hotel by all means pack it for France but again if you don’t want to look like a tourist don’t wear these to any of the French tourist attractions.
I know that the beret is synonymous with France but the truth is you will not see the French wearing them and certainly not the bright red ones like you see in films and on TV.
Although the French do wear berets this tends to only be in Winter and in more muted color palettes.
Don’t be that tourist in the middle of summer in a bright red beret at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you will be pegged as a tourist immediately.
Although if you are visiting France in the Summer you will need a hat because of the heat especially on the beaches in Provence, Corsica and the south of France generally for added sun protection we would stay clear of baseball caps.
The French do not tend to wear baseball caps. These are reserved for the tourist.
Instead pick a more stylish hat to protect you from the sun and to help you look less like a tourist in France.
As with any European vacation it is likely you will be doing a lot of walking. Whether this be along the seafront at Cannes, through the countryside of Provence or in cities such as Paris and Lyon. Flip flops offer little to no arch support and your feet will be killing you by the end of the day.
Instead of a pair of flip flops in France pack a nice pair of sneakers instead.
White Socks and Shoes
The French are a stylish bunch, and the men are no exception. There is no way a French man would ever wear white socks and shoes and nothing will mark a male tourist in France out quicker than this look.
It would never happen and there is nothing that will make you look more like a tourist.
Instead switch out those white socks for sneaker socks or wear sandals without a socks.
An Open Bag / Fanny Bag
As with any tourist destination, pickpockets can be a problem and PAris is absolutely no exception to this rule.
There are two ways of mitigating your risk of being targeted by pickpockets when traveling through France and that is to not look like a tourist.
The other way is to have bags that protect your belongings.
Therefore we recommend not wearing a fanny pack in France. The French would never use this so you will be just highlighting yourself as a tourist. Instead use a cross body bag with plenty of zips to make a pickpockets job more difficult.
Our preferred bag for France is the following.
Note: For more information on what to wear in France in particular seasons or locations be sure to check out our seasonal and regional guides:
FAQs about what not to wear in France
What tourists should not wear in France?
To sum up what tourist should not wear in France
- Bright Colours
- Sports wear
- Shoes that will be uncomfortable for a day of walking.
Can I wear sneakers in France?
You can absolutely wear sneakers in France. In fact these may be the best shoes for long days of walking. However I would select the sneakers with more care when traveling to France.
I would advise not to wear overly garish, sporty or dirty shoes in France as the sneakers the French wear tend to be of a more stylish style.
Can you wear leggings in France?
Some travellers love to wear leggings whereever they are traveling. However leggings aren’t commonly seen on locals in France, particular in Paris.
So in answer to can you wear leggings in France the answer is that you can but you are more likely to look like a tourist rather than a local wearing leggings in Paris.
Is it OK to wear crop tops in France?
Crop tops are certainly fine on the beaches and islands of France but you won’t tend to see people wearing crop tops in French cities.
Is it OK to wear jeans in France?
Yes jeans are perfectly acceptable in France. However during Summer in the South of France I wouldn’t recommend them due to heat.
Also I would opt for more tailored jeans in a darker color especially in Paris to fit in more with the locals.
Do people wear a lot of black in France?
The answer is do people wear a lot of black in France is absolutely yes they do, particularly in Paris and the cities.
The French color palette is much more muted than American and British counterparts and I would say black is one of the more predominant colors you will see.
I love black and other dark colors in my wardrobe so this suits me perfectly but if you are usually brighter bear in mind that this is not the norm in France.
When I put together a capsule wardrobe for France the colors I stick with are:
What to wear to France for dinner
Although generally there isn’t a strict dress code on a day to day level there can be at night. If you plan to visit more fine dining establishments especially in Paris check out our what to wear to dinner in Paris guide.
Have you been to France? What would you add to this what not to wear in France list?