It may be a little weird to say this as a heterosexual man, but among devoted viewers of Netflix’s ‘Emily in Paris’ I am decidedly Team Alfie.
This isn’t quite what it sounds like. For those who haven’t watched, the series follows American marketing professional Emily Cooper as she navigates the challenges of life in the City of Lights. While the first two seasons largely focused on the title character’s romance with her neighbor and chef Gabriel, season 2 introduced a British financial services professional named Alfie who has become a pivotal point in this season’s love triangle.
You don’t have to care about any of this to appreciate Alfie, played by Lucien Laviscount. You can just study his wardrobe to get a sense of how a man could dress in 2023 if he had effortless, impeccable taste.
Case in point, in one episode, Emily and her roommate Mindy talk about recently seeing Alfie. “Was he wearing a suit?”
“Yesss,” Emily enthuses. “A suit. Sometimes I see him in his suit and I just want to pull the knob of that necktie down . . .”
I may be paraphrasing a bit here, but you get the idea: even after two years spent in on and off lockdown, beautiful women continue to notice when men make an effort.
Like many of the other characters in the show, it’s actually hard to imagine that Alfie ever reduced himself to sweatpants during 2020 and 2021, even if he could have gotten away with it on Zoom calls.
Though I haven’t finished the current season, I’ve already seen enough to draw a few important menswear lessons from Alfie that are well worth applying as those of us in the real world figure out how to present ourselves for work and play:
1. Update the classics by adding bolder colors
Working at a bank, Alfie could pass for any up-and-coming manager striding down Bay Street in Toronto – with one exception.
Dressing like an executive can lead to a mediocre aesthetic of dull grays, browns and boring navy blues. Alfie takes a different approach. The blues of his suits almost glow with an indigo hue. Instead of the traditional blue stripes for a dress shirt, he opts for what struck me as “barbershop red.”
Blazers in almost buttery tan and laurel green. A green-and-white rep tie against a blue suit. A three-piece suit in periwinkle. Dress socks the color of rust. Nothing about it screams “dandy,” but everything about it screams “deliberate.”
2. Pair patterns and colors without fear
That red striped shirt I mentioned? Alfie paired it with a tie of nearly the same shade, but with tiny polka dots.
Later, a very similar tie (though a wider one) shows up with a shirt sporting thick dark blue strikes.
Some guys might stop themselves in the mirror before going out and wonder if these choices “work.” Alfie’s confidence reflects a basic truth: in many cases, no one has seen us in dress clothes for a while. Who remembers the rules? And who cares?
3. Casual time is time for keeping it solid
How do you know when Alfie is out of work mode? The patterns disappear. If he needs to dress up, it’s a monochrome black suit and dress shirt. For a train ride, it’s a light brown suit with a dark blue dress shirt.
When he’s truly off the clock, Alfie sticks to a crisp white T-shirt under a solid button-down, loose pants and pristine white sneakers. No logos. No ironic mottos across the T-shirts. Relaxed as hell, but presentable to absolutely anyone, anywhere.
4. Formal wear should always look fun to wear
Maybe it’s because it’s a French show, but I’ve yet to hear anyone describe Alfie as a “stiff” or “stuffy.” You just can’t, because he positively swaggers across this screen.
Alfie has learned, for example, that you can wear suspenders without looking like Larry King by making sure you take every opportunity to undo a few extra buttons on your shirt. A waistcoat looks more dashing when the jacket has been removed. A tie slipped around your shoulders like a scarf? Undressing ever so slightly makes any outfit feel less conservative.
5. Excellence in Grooming completes any ensemble
One more confession to make this post particularly humiliating: after watching this season of the show, I decided to trim my beard. Yes, the same scruffy beard I’ve had since COVID-19 first broke out.
Seeing Alfie’s stubble was a reminder that a well-maintained five o’clock shadow is another way to offset a lifestyle where suits are an everyday staple of your attire. Most of us may not be able to keep the chin line and cheeks quite as detailed without a behind-the-scenes TV crew, but it’s worth trying.
I’m still not sure whether this year will be a turning point in men’s fashion for the better, or the worse. Whatever happens, though, at least we’ll always have Paris — and Alfie’s inspiration as he walks through it.
All images: Netflix