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Take the 2nd arrondissment in central Paris: Once a notoriously seedy area, every year it grows further into a haven of hipsterdom. Yes, there are still daytime prostitutes on Rue St. Denis (d'un certain âge, as they say), but right now that allows us to describe it as "edgy," which is where this story is going anyway.
A quick walk along rue Tiquetonne, for example—one of the cobbled and curving streets that once screamed old-world charm—reveals a short corridor that has given birth to a series of hip clothing boutiques and other forms of retail. The folks at Royalcheese have taken over no less than three storefronts: One flagship for their selection of Cheap Monday and Ben Sherman looks (heavily sold on Paris' growing population of the flannel & glasses crowd), one Vans store selling exclusive designs of the trademark sneaker (some found only in Europe!) and one boutique called Bluecheese, a tongue-in-cheek way of selling just denim. If you're from New York or LA (especially certain parts Brooklyn or Silverlake) you may feel too much at home, which is what globalization is all about!
A bit farther down rue Tiquetonne, passing a few cute restaurants, 3D Haircut (a great and very hip hair salon) and other boutiques for shoes and fringues (slang for "clothes," pronounced "frahn-gh") is L'Épicerie de Bruno, a six-years strong gay-owned business featuring spices, chilis, and other tasty condiments shipped in from around the world (Bruno's sachets for hot spiced wine are worth every centime). And of course L'Espace Kiliwatch, back at the westernmost part of the street still holds it down as one of the premier vintage stores in Paris, having arrived first in the line of gentrification.
But the real "re-discovery" for this particular voyage happened literally around the corner in le Passage du Grand Cerf—one of Paris' several delightfully-covered market streets. In this passage are a great pastry shop, an old-world café, and vintage posters and prints; all lovely and very typical of class of thoroughfare. My favorite place to stop was actually Rickshaw—this fabulous niche-in-the-wall is full of gorgeous Indian and South Asian distressed furniture, textiles, cabinet knobs, and other unique and miscellanious houseware. It is also more reasonably priced then places like Anthropologie. It is lovely, but nothing truly new or that exciting.
The real discovery was, get ready, Jadis Les Hommes: a just-opened underwear shop specializing in sexy garments for the male body. Dare I call this a men's lingirie store?
The two-level boutique is stocked with sexy and colorful loungewear, tops, underwear and jocks from German, England, and France (okay, the U.S. also, but why travel across oceans to pay for 2(x)ist undies in euros?) by designers like ManStore, Olaf Benz, Body Art, and l'Homme Invisible, to name a few. José, the main proprietor, is happy to help—he will happily suggest items to try on and leaves them by the big changing area upstairs (yes, you can try things on!). Aside from being politely discrete, he's also quite honest and refuses to sell a $50 bit of underwear if it doesn't look quite right.
How shocking this store, considering the location, at least in my American sensibilities! Protected from the elements and surprisingly intimate, the charming 19th-century passageways are legally considered public streets, where even smokers may stroll (take that Bloomburg!). Among the generally a semi-private association of businesses, it's difficult to get a new boutique in such a central passage—let alone one featuring bright neon jockstraps and a clear niche market of a certain type of man! The French, it appears, are not at all shocked and walk by Jadis Les Hommes unbothered.
But I'm glad this new place is there, along with all of the hip spots just around the way on Rue Tiquetonne—it made what was supposed to be a quick stroll in the rain a fabulous afternoon of Parisian shopping.