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Parker: Letter jackets & Beats by Dre

February 14, 2011

Look around in Paris and you will see AMERICA. Everywhere. Its not just evident in the usual things, like McDonald’s or other stores. It goes way past that, almost to the point of offensive.

If you examine the style of French teenagers, for example, you will notice that everything about it is an almost desperate attempt at appearing American. There are letter jackets, Chuck’s, Van’s, Levi’s, and more. The pieces we see as distinctly American, many of them not even in style in the U.S., are the best you can get here.

This trend amazes me, especially given the costs of these products. Every time I ride the metro, I am guaranteed to see people wearing Beats by Dre headphones. Now, I can’t say I have really investigated the prices here, but in the U.S. I know those run close to $100 a pair. Then there are the shoes; $50 Vans cost close to 80 euros in some store in Paris, and that is an average price for a pair of shoes, unless you are going for some really cheap knockoffs. The stores that sell “American” clothes sell their products for exorbitant amount.

Then there is Franklin & Marshall. No, its not the East Coast private university, although the people who started the company did purchase the naming rights from the University (most likely for a hefty sum of money). I was so confused my first week here when I saw people all over wearing Franklin & Marshall letter jackets, hoodies, t-shirts, and more. How could it possibly be that there were so many people from such a small school all in Paris at the same time?! Then, at orientation, we heard the story of the company and their success, due to the demand for clothing emblazoned with school names among French students. They don’t have tons of apparel sporting “La Sorbonne” or “L’Institut Catholique”, and this American style is “cool.” As you wander through stores, you will see all sorts of clothes with names of American places like Brooklyn, New York, or Los Angeles printed across the front.

Then, of course, there is the import of American brands. Some, like Carhartt, even have exclusive European branches that offer a different selection of products to European customers. But don’t expect American prices; these things are jacked up, I would assume partly due to import prices, and partly just because they can.

It is a unique opportunity for American companies to make a foray into new markets, but it definitely makes shopping for unique clothes a little more difficult. It’s not even worth it to shop at many of the stores, because I can either get the same thing at home, or I can find it for cheaper at a little market. But hey, those little flea markets and neighborhood sales are one of the best parts of Paris.

So if you’re coming to Paris sometime soon, be sure to pack your tight-fitting letter jacket, team/school t-shirts, Levi’s, Chuck’s, and Beats by Dre and you’ll be sure to fit in perfectly with all of the locals!

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