Bensimon shoes, to me, have always been the quintessential French laid-back summertime shoe.
Pronounced benn-see-mohn, the canvas shoes with rubber soles have long been an understated favorite of the sporty summer crowds in all the right French vacation spots.
They have always been cool. A French friend once clad all the young children in her daughter's seaside wedding (NDLR: no frou-frou grown-up bridezilla bridesmaids at French weddings, just adorable little kids!) in sailor suits and shod them in Bensimons. Of course it was totally perfect and chic in the most Côté Ouest kind of way. Can you imagine an American wedding filled with kids wearing, essentially, sneakers? Not on your life! This was totally charming and comme il faut.
I got my first pair of Bensimons on a summer vacation in France, on Île de Ré. So practical for toodling around the village, going to the marché, and oh, if you get invited to go boating, you're all set for maneuvering nimbly on deck. Then I brought them back to the U.S., and they seemed.... too casual. Frumpy, almost. There was zero recognition of their coolness. To some they looked like old-lady slip-on sneakers. But like my love affair with espadrilles, I ignored the social sartorial stigma and wore them with pride, knowing that I was in the know (shoe-wise) an ocean away.
Back in Paris, I became smitten with the Bensimon boutique in the Marais. Everything about it shouted "Ahoy, monsieur! Take me sailing in Brittany!" Rugged canvas jackets, khaki rubber-soled shoes, all with such clean, spare lines, You could practically smell the briny Atlantic air.
Fast forward to 2011. If you haven't heard, Bensimons are HOT-HOT-HOT fashion items these days. Darlin' Miss Bee brought a pair of pink lace-up Bensimons home from her year in France, and has been proudly wearing them around town. She is such a fashion trend-setter that I knew she was on to something.
Then while perusing the stacks of celebrity magazines at my dentist's office waiting room today, I came across two separate articles touting the glories of Bensimons. Yes, they are the rage with Hollywood stars.
Zut. I always liked being in a small group of fashion insiders. No more.
The good news is that Bensimons are available on line in the US via Bensimonusa.com And shipping is free. The price is a little more than you'd pay in France; but, factoring in the cost of a plane ticket that you don't have to buy, well worth the price.
And don't go for cheap imitations. The Bensimon cognoscenti will know the difference.
image via bensimonusa.com
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