5 Phenomena on the Streets of Paris This Summer

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“We’ll always have Paris,” Rick said, but Paris changes. Wandering the streets and parks of the capital year in year out—alone, accompanied, in love, in friendship, at work, at play, on foot, on bike—will make anyone a trend spotter.

Here are five phenomena to watch for on the streets of Paris this summer.

1. Hot dogs
All you need to know to follow food trends in Paris is that banks will lend money to potential purveyors of food and drink whose business plans show that they’ll purchase relatively inexpensive products that are easy to decorate (high mark-up), easy to serve (low staff), easy to eat or drink (high traffic), offered in small settings with little, no or uncomfortable seating so that people won’t linger (low rent, high turnover).

FR Gabe hot dogThe restaurant consulting firm Gira Conseil came out with a study in early 2014 finding that hamburgers have gone from representing one in ten sandwiches sold in France in 2000 to one in two sandwiches sold in 2013. Le burger is therefore old news.

It’s now le hot dog (pronounced ut dug), le chien chaud, that’s been gaining street cred. The Marais is the quarter that’s currently barking the loudest with stands such as Mosaique, 56 rue du roi de Sicile, and Kraft Hot Dog, 15 rue des Archives, a stone’s throw from Gucci et al., but if looking to nip at a dog with the word “French” in it, cross the rue from the Marais to Gabe, offering “French quality hot dog,” at 83 rue Turbigo (metro Temple; closed Sun.). French quality, perhaps, but Gabe’s garnished saucisses (pork, beef or chicken, service on decent rolls), sandwiches and salads are all named for parts of New York, along with a Jersey salad that would, however, never make it at the shore.

2. Beer
FR Beer picnicThe word on the street is: guzzle. Even eating a hot dog can be too complicated when you just want to sit out with a tall can of beer and a bag of chips. While craft beer made its mark on the alcoholscape of Paris several years ago, industrial beer has conquered the street. Beer drinking while standing outside bars became common earlier in the century, but beer drinking is now so prevalent outside of cafés and bars and at picnic areas, street benches and sittable ledges that one wonders if wine is now taboo for anyone under 40. (Beyond that one enters the confusing nether-age of life in Paris.) At some picnic areas the only people seen with a bottle of wine are the tourists and the classier drunks. There’s so much drinking outdoors these days that picnickers are no longer asked to drink responsibly but to pee responsibly.

3. Shorts
For a short while Parisian men, unsure about the fashion value of shorts, wore capris in the city. Flashing ankle and a bit of calf, they took their first timid steps toward what Americans and Brits have long thought of as summerwear. Les parisiennes were only slightly more favorable to shorts in the city in the past, though they always had skirts to lift to tan their legs on a sunny café terrace. Then, a couple of years ago, shorts started to come out of the closet, as reported here.

FR Shorts and hot dogsNow, en masse, Parisians, men and women, have understood that summer doesn’t stop at the edge of the city and that tourists, as shabbily dressed as they are (I know you’re proud of graduating from Georgia Tech in 1986 but you couldn’t find anything else to pack?), may have had a point about wearing shorts all along. Shorts may not have conquered every quarter of Paris, but this is the summer that they became common streetwear for men. Women, perhaps sensing competition from the men in the shapely leg department, are now marching by in short shorts. Anything goes as far as footwear: sandals, espadrilles and especially flat white-soled sneakers, whether sockless or with peds socks and footie liners. But no need to tell you how to dress in summer, you’ve known all along. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.

4. Pregnant women

In 25 years in Paris I’ve never had so many visibly pregnant women on the street. Why am I so susceptible to pregnancy sightings? Three possibilities:
1. The warm, dry weather in Paris since late May lends itself to wearing light fabrics that reveal baby bumps.
2. I’m going through something hormonal that I’d rather not analyze.
3. There was an actual spike in the number of winter 2014-2105 conceptions in Paris.

FR Pregnant ParisianI’m betting on #3. Something societal is afoot. Did the terrorist attacks of January bring couples closer together and amplify their sense of the importance of family? Did constant news last winter of economic “crisis” make couples want to stay at home more? Are City Hall’s family-friendly policies intended seeking to keep breeders in Paris actually bearing fruit? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that September-December 2015 will break recent records for the number of births in Paris.

5. Parisians
One might think that the increasing net worth of Parisians would lead them to disappear longer, but paradoxically Parisians are more visible in their city this summer. Or perhaps not so paradoxical for those who can now afford to come and go between trips to Sicily and to friends in the southwest, between a week with parents in Normandy and a week on the coast of Croatia, between two weeks in the American west and another week on the coast of Brittany. Furthermore, increasing net worth can mean increased work obligations. When you’re working on opening a new hot dog stand in September you’ve got to be in Paris in August to oversee the renovation of the old flower shop. And who wants to travel when in August you’re expecting in September? Or when your mate is expecting? Put your feet up, cherie, I’ll go out to get you some ice cream, he says as he heads out in shorts to treat himself to a hot dog and beer.

© 2015, Gary Lee Kraut

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