French People Never Wear Berets

Many people wear bérets in France… But most of them are tourists. Especially in Paris! French people rarely wear bérets.

Let’s talk about some “French” fashion trends, and explain where the stereotypes fall short, and what we actually wear.

1 – Le béret

The tradition of le béret comes from South-Western France (and Northern Spain), from the area of le Béarn or le Pays Basque ; that’s why it’s also called le béret basque, especially when it’s black and functional.

The French béret is a flat, round felt hat, originally worn by shepherds and farmers to get some protection from the sun and rain. Over time, it became associated with French culture, as it was used by French military forces, artists, and intellectuals in the early 20th century.

Nowadays, nobody wears the béret as an everyday accessory in France – especially in cities.

In Paris and the main French traveling sites, people wearing béret will almost all be tourists. It’s a stereotype that’s not even that clever, like wearing a really wide hat in Mexico. It might be possible to pull it off, but it’s not easy.

There are some exceptions, of course. Mainly some old men in rural villages, some young people partying in Basque country, and some people in the South-West reclaiming the béret, wearing it as a sign of pride in their region.

And other French fashion clichés also have a kernel of truth in them!

Ressources about le béret on YouTube:

  • Douce France: l’histoire du béret
  • Ni vu ni connu – a lovely 1958 movie set in rural France, starring extremely famous comedian Louis de Funès, as a béret-wearing poacher-trickster figure, making fun of the pompous mayor and local policeman. His hat here helps ground him as a humble man from the land.

2 – La marinière

La marinière is a shirt with horizontal stripes, classically white and blue, originally for French sailors. They’re linked to the area of Western France by the sea, like la Normandie and la Bretagne. They’re indeed in many French people’s une garde-robe (= a wardrobe)… but we don’t wear it as often as you might think from seeing stereotypes of French people, or fashion from

Ressources about la marinière :

3 – Une écharpe

Une écharpe = a scarf (warm), reserved for winter and cold days
Un foulard = a scarf (for summer), often in la soie (= silk)

More ressources on French scarves:

  • Le carré Hermès = a “square” (carré) silk scarf, by luxury brand Hermès. It’s only one example of French summer scarves, but this one has its own Wikipedia page.
  • Un foulard is also used as the name of the headscarves worn by many Muslim women.

4 – Neutral colors and general fashion

French women tend to be cautious about flashier colors. We’d rather buy clothes with neutral colors – like white, beige, black or le bleu marine (= navy blue.) So you can mix and match more easily, even with some more colorful clothes when you feel like it.

French people also tend not to dress too formally, even for social events – but never dress too informally, even for getting groceries!

French fashion is often simple, elegant, and mostly functional. We’d rather invest in high-quality, versatile clothing that can be mixed and matched to create various looks.

Wear a shirt or a dress that fits well, with timeless, versatile cuts and colors, and keep accessories minimal. Opt for a few well-chosen accessories to complement your outfits, rather than overloading on statement pieces. And here you have it: the real Parisian chic.

More ressources :

Authentic French fashion can be far from the stereotypes often portrayed. And yet sometimes, you might want to buy a béret at the little souvenir shop. So you can wear it yourself because you like it – or buy it as a present for people back home!

Keep exploring real everyday French culture with me:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.

Click here to sign up for my FREE Everyday French Crash Course

Join the conversation!

  • I’ve never seen anyone wearing a béret in France. And then I watched “L’Art du Crime” and the main female character, Florence Chassagne, wore… a béret! So funny.

  • Tu hésiteras peut-être à en porter un, mais un béret peut faire partie d’un logo efficace et mémorable (en lui donnant une touche légère comme un clin d’œil) ! 😉

  • I just returned home from a week in France last night and I was telling my family how surprised I was to see SO MANY French people wearing marinières. I had thought it was a cliché but French people (not tourists!) of all ages were wearing them and they were on display in windows of small boutiques (not souvenir shops for tourists). I also saw older people, mostly men, wearing bérets.
    I might say “rarely” instead of “never”.

  • Mind you “proper” woollen berets cost a small fortune. 🙂
    Expensive cliché.
    As for marinière, wasn’t there a Mylène Farmer concert where a load of fans turned up in stripy shirts.

  • Get My Weekly Lessons

    In Your Inbox

    Join the 30,000+ French learners who get my premium spoken French lessons for free every week!

    Share this post!


    Download this lesson as a PDF!

    Please enter your name and email address to get the lesson as a free PDF!