meet-the-rohmer-guy

Meet the Rohmer Guy

The sexiest part of Love in the Afternoon, the French director’s classic Eric Rohmer’s infidelity movie, is not the scene where Chloé and Frédéric almost consummate their flirtatious friendship. No, it’s the one where Frédéric buys a turtleneck. Early on in the movie, he traipses from store to store on his lunch break, eyeing various turtlenecks in different colors before ultimately landing on a plaid dress shirt, which he purchases at the insistence of a persistent shop girl with penciled-in eyebrows. He stands still, asking questions about whether or not the shirt will be too itchy as the shopgirl buttons him up. He doesn’t make a pass at her. He just kind of stands there and decides that he suddenly likes the shirt.

Rohmer’s movies are often like this. The best scenes in the French director’s oeuvre are the ones where nothing really happens at all. A light breeze passes over a woman’s face in Biarritz. A man drives a boat across an opalescent lake on the Swiss border, and the main thing you hear is the motor jackhammering across the waves. Someone smiles while putting down a coffee cup. But Rohmer’s best scenes are often also about the clothes. The turtleneck moment in Love in the Afternoon recurs throughout his films, because Rohmer’s men all have a sensual relationship with clothes. In Claire’s Knee, Jerome wears straw boater hats and crisp white shirts and high-waisted polyester bell bottoms. His button-downs are buttoned, down. His fisherman’s sweaters are practically off the shoulder. In La Collectionneuse, Adrien has a bob. He sits on the balcony with his shirt unbuttoned. He wears ties and tightly fitted suit pants. More often than not, in these movies, it is summertime and people are eating lunch outside or dancing or wading in the sea. 50 years later, this whole way of living is aspirational. More than that, in this weird post-covid milieu, Rohmer’s luxurious aesthetic idealism has come to seem like the predominant mood of the moment.

Rohmer guys in La Collectioneuse.

Le Films du Losange / Criterion Collection

Have you met a Rohmer guy? Perhaps you already are one, or desire to be one, and don’t know it yet. A Rohmer guy is a guy who looks like he should be an extra in the movie The Green Ray: wearing a sweater while hanging out at the beach, despite the heat. Rohmer guys like to wear loose fitting shirts—preferably in polyester or linen. They wear big sunglasses. They often have bobs or whispy mullets or some other super sculpted hairstyle. Men who dress like they’re in Eric Rohmner movies probably own a Bode shirt, but not one that’s super recognizable—they like a translucent chemise. They probably own a Thom Browne jacket, a pair of JW Anderson loafers, and perhaps a Wales Bonner Adidas shirt. This is all to say: among a certain set of downtown types, Rohmer guys are not particularly rare. From where I sit, they’re everywhere—drinking an amaro at a bar, on vacation in the Hudson Valley sitting at a white, wrought iron table, reading a newspaper underneath a large tree.

I should stipulate: a Rohmer guy does not have to have even seen an Eric Rohmer movie. Rohmer guys can also take their inspiration from a myriad of other flicks that appear to revolve around going on a super-long vacation. Call Me By Your Name is a Rohmer guy movie, because most of it is about going swimming and eating fruit en plein air. Summer Hours is a Rohmer guy movie, Juliette Binoche being the biggest Rohmer guy of them all. The new Gucci biopic, although unreleased, appears to have Rohmer guy vibes, just by the look of Adam Driver in his big glasses taking vacation pics with Lady Gaga. The Rohmer guy lifestyle also extends to other facets of culture. The rollout for Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me if You Get Lost, has Rohmer guy vibes in that it’s partially set in “Geneva Switzerland,” and also because of the line “A young lady just fed me French Vanilla ice cream!” In Eric Rohmer’s cinema of sensuality, having fun, eating, lazing around, and causing drama with women is paramount.

Serge Gainsbourg: a Rohmer guy…but only at the beach.

Gilbert TOURTE

And Rohmer guy fashion is everywhere now. At men’s fashion week in Paris, Milan, and Pitti Uomo, there were many guys wearing lots of mustard yellow, which is a classic Rohmer guy shade. There were also plenty of showgoers wearing bell bottoms, fisherman’s sandals, and neutral-toned canvas jackets—all of which are very much in the visual language of Rohmer’s films. Stop by any downtown New York bar with a terrace, and you’re likely to see someone in a pair of corduroy pants and a deadstock button down with an oversized starched collar.

Alexander Si, an artist who works at a Chinatown gallery, identifies as a Rohmer guy. He started watching the directors movies as a teenager, and as an adult, he covets the lives of Rohmer’s men. For Si, being a Rohmer guy is more than just a way of dress—it’s also a way of existing in the world. “There’s no judgement on cheating,” he jokes. Said less in jest: “Everything is slower.” In terms of dress, Si likes how the characters aren’t particularly flashy and tend to be a little more utilitarian.

Tyler, the Creator, classic Rohmer guy.

Bennett Raglin

But why now? Why do guys everywhere seem to be dressing like chill lotharios named Pierre or Gabriel vacationing at a friend’s parent’s chateau circa 1975? Like so much else these days, it seems closely tied to our strange covid-but-not moment. Looking like a French guy on vacation is an aspirational way to go about getting dressed in a summer where a lot of people are still working from home, but where deadly disease is less of a threat. In this long summer where we’re all outside and hanging out together again, it feels kind of nice to dress for the life you want to have: one where all you do is hang out, and look good. C’est sympa comme ça.

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