Itemized: The Petit Bateau Mariniere shirt

October 27, 2009

Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Chioma Nnadi writes about the Petit Bateau Mariniere shirt.

The French and the British have a long history of picking on one another. They call us roast beef, we call them frogs etc etc. Like me, there are a lot of Brits who are really Francophiles on the low, who like to do day trips to Calais, stock up on French booze and cheese—or if we have a little dough, buy dilapidated stone cottages in the south of France, and spend summers getting sunburnt and pissing off provincial French neighbors with drunken garden parties.

People always assume that my love-hate thing with Frenchness started with fashion, but it actually kicked in when I met my mum's friend Solange. When I was about 10 years old, we went to stay with her on the Lake Geneva. She had kids too, but all I wanted to do was ride around in her vintage cherry red Mercedes all day, watch her smoke cigarettes and speak French (mind you, I didn't understand a word at that point). I was told she had an import business in cowboy boots, but she never seemed to have to go into an office or do any kind of work. If speaking French was the key to growing up and being Solange, then that's what I had to do.

Learning the language was the easy part, the sartorial subtleties have been a little more difficult to grasp. I remember going on a field trip to Paris and being really bummed that there weren't Chanel clones on every corner, or ladies lounging on the sidewalk in YSL safari suits. There are lots of French fashion cliches, but the simple ones are actually my favorite. French women know the value of a perfectly fitting striped shirt, and besides nautical onesies, Petit Bateau makes the iconic boat-neck one that is still a classic. I've been thinking a lot about what I should be for Halloween, and I think this year I might just have to go French.

Posted: October 27, 2009
Itemized: The Petit Bateau Mariniere shirt