Boulder, Colorado: Where Caring About Fashion is Unfashionable (and Unfathomable)

Boulder is ruining my Frenchman’s fashion sense.

Boulder is a place where anything goes. Seriously. I saw a 20-something woman walking along a main street downtown wearing nothing from the waist up. Nothing. Boobs, swinging in the wind. Dreadlocks tossed behind shoulders. People go shoeless as a fashion/political statement, not because they can’t afford shoes. Stilettos and Keens sit next to each other in restaurants. Long flowy hippie skirts or biking shorts; yoga pants or business suits or sundresses and Uggs – it’s all fair game.

Now, my husband was never on the cutting edge of fashion, and I’m a physical therapist – not a profession renowned for our fashion sense. But he’s French, so that meant button up shirts, a nice pair of slacks, maybe a polo on a more casual day. I admit there were a few items in his closet that succumbed to “Operation: Lost in the Move.” (Don’t even get me started on the pea soup-colored polo with the denim collar). But I never had to tell him: “Honey, we’re going out to dinner with my parents. Perhaps the Corona tank top isn’t the best choice….”He’s always dressed up for our dates. I’m one of those girls that is crazy about a sharply dressed man. Not too sharp – if he’s more into fashion than me, I grow suspicious. But my husband, like most Frenchmen, had just the right amount of sharpness.

So, the other day, he started out the door for work wearing a beat up pair of cargo shorts, a worn grey workout shirt, white socks (on a Frenchman!) and sneakers. Before I even stopped to think what I would sound like, I blurted, “Are you wearing that to work?”

He once-overed himself and then said, “Um, yeah?” in the form of a question.

“It’s just… really?”

“Carol, you should see what some of the guys wear to the office. This is dressing up.”

There is truth to that. A Google dress code doesn’t exist. Googlers take workplace casual to a level unheard of in most other corporations. Just drive by the office around lunchtime and watch the parade of engineers heading to the cafeteria dressed down – way down – and check out the hats a few of the more brilliant engineers wear. The other day, a guy crossed the street in front of me wearing a tophat made of white fur with a pig sticking out the top.

I get it, kind of. Google is a casual place stocked with geniuses where what’s between their ears matters a whole lot more than what’s on their backs.

But, still. I’ve always loved that even after years in the U.S., my husband’s wardrobe choices remained … French.

So, I said, “But, you’re French. French dudes don’t dress like that.”

He smirked. “French dudes, huh?”

“Yeah. That’s too much dude, not enough French. Seriously. Boulder is getting to you.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

I had to think about that. Truth is, I’m one of those people that believe the impression we make on others matters, and that what we wear has something to do with that. It’s not like I never grocery shop in my workout gear, or that I’m diligently following the latest trends, but I still think… work is a place where impressions matter. Dates with my husband are worth dressing up for. Putting on a dress and heels for a night on the town is fun.

A recent article in our local newspaper labeled Colorado as a state full of fashion offenders, and Boulder as the worst of the lot. Is that a bad thing? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the end, he changed his work clothes. No longer verging on slob genius, but instead coiffed genius, he left for work.

And I spent the day asking myself existential questions about the importance, or lack thereof, of fashion and what we wear, whether it should affect how others view us or how we feel about ourselves, are we or are we not expressing ourselves through our choice of clothing, and why can Google geniuses get away with anything.

How very French of me.

20 thoughts on “Boulder, Colorado: Where Caring About Fashion is Unfashionable (and Unfathomable)

  1. “I’m one of those people that believe the impression we make on others matters, and that what we wear has something to do with that.” — Could your husband’s fashion choices for the workplace have been precisely for this reason? Maybe he’s just trying to fit in better – When in Rome….

  2. Boulder sounds like my Alma Matter (New College of Florida), but I understandgoes you! I do love the anything-goes mentality and not caring, but it was also nice when I lived in France to see everyone looking so good! It’s an existential question I haven’t been able to answer!

  3. What’s amazing about American dress is that anything goes, in most situations, and I can understand your husband’s desire to fit in to some degree. The norm for Google Boulder employees sounds quite inventive and I’m sure it’s freeing for your husband to relax his standards. Still, we all could use a spouse or friend to keep us headed towards the best version of ourselves–inside and out! Merci for the entertaining and thoughtful post.

  4. Great post! French men are exquisitely handsome in their wool coats, modern pants, and hard-soled shoes. Sigh. Perhaps your husband is telling the world he’s happily married and doesn’t want any ladies looking his way. 🙂

  5. I also love your statement about French dudes. Here in Provence, in the heat, my French dude is now wearing shorts with holes in them!! How horrible. He says he is going to work in the field on a tractor but ends up going to a store or the market. I think your husband has more fashion sense than my guy. Great blog today!

  6. Hmm… I have to say I’ve noticed some fashion disasters here in France, but now that you mention it, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. I certainly seem to have become more fashion conscious since moving back here. That said, I still lean heavily towards casual and consider myself lucky that so far I haven’t had any jobs that require dressing up.

  7. Lol! I totally can relate. That’s how I felt when I moved from Paris to the SF Bay Area so many years ago. Now I live in Southern Cali and I have worn sweat pants to go grocery shopping! I think my old Parisian self would have shunned the new me. But it’s all good. I don’t wear all dark outfits anymore, but I never leave my house without a scarf in the winter 😉

    • A Parisian wearing sweatpants in the grocery store!? I never thought I’d see the day 🙂

      You’ve retained your scarf habit, though, so not a complete loss!

      Enjoy southern California, and the ability to cut loose in the fashion department. Hope you’ve discovered the joy of flip flops!

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