The French Speedo is Back as France strips down for the Climate
Saturday, April 01, 2023
Levant Island, off the coast of Hyérès, is one of France's naturist territories. From April to October locals and tourists roam free (of clothing). Find out why the French government is expanding its "no clothes zones" across the Hexagone and what, if any, effect this will have on Paris. First, today's French phrase:
"EN TENUE D'ADAM"
: in one's birthday suit, without a stitch on
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
In the three decades I've lived in France, I have witnessed a few cultural, economic, and social changes in my adopted country--the most extreme being the abrupt demise of la bise. Before that, there was the disappearance of the French franc. And the past decade has seen a particular custom disappearing as, little by little, on French beaches from coast to coast, the French are "covering up." Whereas you used to see a lot of topless women (and men in speedos), these days one-pieces for her (and long "board shorts" for him) are à la mode. While all this amounts to just a few more square inches of fabric (if you can call it that), environmentalists at the Paris Climate Summit say the trend of "seasonal overdressing"--or wearing more than necessary during warmer months--is having an effect on greenhouse gas emissions. So much so that global heating experts believe it is clothing--and not cows--that's the real culprit behind the climate crisis.
C'est les vêtements! Non pas les vaches!
"It's clothing! Not cows!" You may have seen this mantra on posterboards that began cropping up across France in March. It is no coincidence officials waited until Springtime to crack down on "Les SVs" (Les Sur-Vêtementés or Over-Clothed). But a new law will do more than crack down on clothes hounds, it will penalize anyone wearing too much clothing in summertime.
But just how much is too much clothing? According to France's climate minister, Philippe SansHabilles, 1 kilogram of clothing--or the equivalent of a t-shirt (350 grams), shorts (500 grams), and underwear (150 grams) even this much is a burden when you consider just how much energy it takes to machine wash and dry or produce the collected tons of clothing throughout France. (And you thought cow burps were to blame!)
Wear less, emit less....
As summer heats up, so do new legislative measures. By June 15, the clothing limits fall to 700 grams. In July, with the heatwave well underway (and when CO2 levels peak in Europe) citizens will be required to shed their "threads" by another 200 grams and to use the community lavoir to rinse what few articles of clothing they're still sporting.
By August it is rumored certain towns along the South coast will have the same stature as Île du Levant (France's "naturalist" island which I reported about here after ditching my jeans and t-shirt).
"Bring Back the Speedo!" A drastic measure to slow climate change has the French government scrambling for a solution.
Our town of La Ciotat happens to be within this bare-all jurisdiction and these extreme government measures are no longer a rumor but a soon-to-be reality. In order to drastically reduce the ecological footprint, citizens will be encouraged to go about "en costume d'Adam" or without a stitch of clothing. (Fig leaf optional.) Failure to wear less will result in une amende of 1500 euros (1629.60 USD) or two days of civil service (I can tell you from personal experience this is a super creepy job--even in Paris!). CCTV cameras are posed to record and track perpetrators and to assign points: the more points the fewer grams of clothing you're allowed the next time out.
Thankfully our mayor (more of a Prudist than a Nudist) has divided the town into zones:
Zone A ("Adam's Costume," or no clothing)
Zone B (Barely-Clad)
Zone C (Clothed--500 grams maximum)
For those like me who are prone to skin cancer, the city will be distributing free and unlimited crème solaire, but I won't be taking any. You will find this hopeless prude holed up at home. I can't bear the idea of seeing my neighbors naked (Zone A)--and don't want to catch our local policemen sporting speedos (Zone B)! Hallelujah, though. I just realized my church is in Zone C (but what will 500 grams of clothing look like on my brothers and sisters? Does this include shoe weight? Are shoes "clothes"? What about espadrilles(which have a lot of fabric)?
As you can imagine, there's a lot to consider given these drastic measures go into effect very soon. Meantime, if you are traveling to France this summer and if, like me, you'd like to keep your pants on, stick to Paris where the clothes hounds hang out. If you do come south, take heart: there is one day a year when such draconian laws are relaxed: April 1st. (Only an April Fool would be caught in their birthday suit today!)
Click here for the audio file and listen to these French words
être en tenue d'Adam = to be in your birthday suit
la bise = a French greeting wherein two people kiss
à la mode = in fashion
C'est les vêtements! Non pas les vaches! = It's clothing! Not cows!
les Sur Vêtementés = the Over Dressed
le lavoir = community wash basin
Île du Levant = Levant Island
une amende = a fine
le costume d'Adam = Adam's suit (to wear no clothes)
la crème solaire = sunblock
amicalement = yours
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety