The pros and cons of being ‘singlet’ in Paris

Despite or because of going to a school where the girls’ uniform was a gum-nut patterned maternity-shaped dress, I have always taken perverse pleasure in seeing two apparent strangers standing next to each other unwittingly wearing the same idiotic outfit.

In Melbourne, whenever I found myself to be one of those idiots, I would go to considerable lengths to make sure the other party was also fully aware of the awful coincidence.

This especially included the time I was inadvertently dressed as ‘Where’s Wally’ outside the Cinema Nova in Carlton. “You should have hidden better,” I told the only other guy in Melbourne that night wearing a red-striped t-shirt. He looked at me awkwardly, and fumbled nervously with his cane.

I had no reason to expect things would be different in France. But I was wrong.

Along with berets and onion necklaces, stripy blue and white tops have always been big in France. For reasons known only to the French, last year they decided to embrace this stereotype with both arms; which means that one year later, everyone else living in Paris started following along.

I bought in to the trend shortly before summer, investing in a blue/white stripy singlet that was on sale. “No wonder it’s 30% off,” I thought, “this t-shirt is missing arms.”

The only thing more atrophied than my sense of taste this year has been my arm muscles. But this did not deter me from purchasing the piece of clothing that would most reveal my weakness.

With only a few days above 20 degrees this Paris summer, I haven’t busted out the singlet too often. Saturday was an exception. After an unproductive day, I dashed to the local Chinese supermarket looking for a fish for dinner. I was wearing flip-flops, shorts and the famous singlet.

Entering the fruit and vegetable section, lo and behold, I saw a young Asian man wearing a similarly patterned singlet. Being well rehearsed in what to do after all those years of dressing like a dickhead in Melbourne, I made sure to catch his eye and then gave him a knowing head-nod that silently asked “do you see the singlet solidarity?”

His reaction was a little unexpected. Coming over to me he said, “Hey how are you! How have you been?” Then as is the custom for French men and women among friends, he leant into me and obliged me to kiss him on both cheeks.

Until that point, I was pretty certain that the only thing we’d shared was the same bad sense in clothing.

Quickly heading home with a half-kilo of bass in a plastic bag, I reflected that for all Paris is known for being a good singles’ market, it’s not necessarily the best place if you like to wear singlets in markets.

These guys were standing ahead of me at the supermarket

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