You’ve seen this before. The hundreds, probably thousands, of “French girl style” articles where words like sophisticated, timeless, pared-down and undeniably chic jump out of the screen. And the writers are not wrong. As The Outline pointed out, among other things, French girl fashion is the one trend that never goes away.
These articles also share another thing in common—reading them, you come to the conclusion that the perfect French woman is a white woman. Style listicles often leave out women of color, although there are many.
So you’ve seen articles like this before, but never one with hijabi French bloggers. Trust me, I’ve looked.
France also has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe. According to Pew Research Center, there are around 5.7 of them, most hailing from former French colonial territories in Africa—such as Algeria, Mali, Niger and Senegal.
Deep diving on Instagram a few weeks back, I finally found a whole bunch of Muslim French bloggers. It was a whole fashion scene I knew existed but just couldn’t find—French hijabis in chic neutrals, some wearing berets, posing on picturesque streets or in front of the Eiffel tower. My Instagram saved folder was filled with chic bloggers from the bleu, blanc and rouge.
Take @taqwabintali. This French Tunisian is the founder and creative director of Zarafet Galleries, a modest fashion exhibit and magazine. Interspersed in between outfit pictures of her in chic blazers, trenches and sunnies fit for an editor-in-chief, shots of her magazine covers, cups of lattes at cafes and aesthetic-y Tumblr shots is an undeniable air of cool.
Narrowing down her posts to just three was almost impossible.
One thing regarding the elusive style of French hijabis not so pretty nor coveted is the fact that France’s history with the hijab, and Islam as a whole, is fraught with tension.
Since 2004, students in France are banned from wearing the hijab to school. Mothers who are hijabi can’t come on field trips as chaperones with their children. French students are only allowed to wear it in university.
In 2011, France became the first country in Europe to ban the niqab. Those who wore it in public ran the risk of being fined. President Nicolas Sarkozy said that veils oppress women, and that they were not welcome in France. Emmanuel Macron, France’s progressive darling and current president, was quoted saying that he would like to make an “Islam of France,” a proposition both insulting and full of insinuations that Islam is something that needs to be fixed.
If seen wearing a niqab, the penalty is 150 euro or in the U.S., 217 dollars. As of 2015, 1546 fines were doled out.
In 2016, France started deliberating banning “burkinis,” hijabi-friendly swimwear, in its beaches and seaside resorts. The law was later overruled by France’s top administrative court.
Last year, French brand Decathlon wanted to start selling a sports hijab in their stores. They already had them on store floors in Morocco, but planned to bring them to France. Politicians and the French part of social media were quick to express their discontent, some even speaking of boycotting the store. Decathlon decided not to sell the sport hijabs in their stores.
Simply put, France does not like the hijab.
We all know this. Before we think of France’s culture, its monuments, its soccer team, we think of the government’s oppression of Muslims and other minorities.
The thing is, I have always heard so much about French hijabis without actually seeing any French hijabis. French Muslims and French style seem to operate in separate spheres, the existence of these hijabi bloggers bridges that disconnect.
It’s something to think about. Like the je na sais quoi of French style, it’s hard to put your finger on it.
Check out the feeds of five more modest French bloggers here.