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VogueUK: You might not know it to look at her (that’s the whole point), but behind every effortlessly cool French girl is a line-up of beauty pros, from hairdressers to aestheticians. Hairstylist David Mallett, whose Parisian salon sits on Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, is one such expert. He creates just the sort of dreamy, undone styles we associate with aspirational Parisian women for his chic clientele. With Vogue World: Paris on the horizon, here he shares some of them.

The haircuts

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And how are our French counterparts wearing their hair now? “There is a real blueprint of softness,” he says. “Even when we’re cutting in a bob that was, in the past, all about geometric lines, now it’s very soft. The French want texture on the ends.” The aesthetic is “bohemian, poetic and soft”, and most important, he says, the cut should not be severe.

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Jim Morrison in 1969.

 CBS Photo Archive

One haircut that is very much de rigueur across the Channel is a soft, shag-meets-mullet style. Jim Morrison, with his tumble of mussed-up waves, provides an excellent – if unlikely – template. “It’s a poetic soft cascade of hair, and it works beautifully on straight, wavy and curly hair,” Mallett says. “When a client has long bangs, we make sure the edges are really textured so that the bangs move. French hair is a little less neurotic.”

Poker straight hair? Mais non

Less neurotic than who? You might ask. Well, anyone whose go-to style is ultra straight. The French, he says, have a “total aversion to poker straight hair”, and consider it a surefire way to make hair look “dead”. Instead, it’s all about natural movement: ensuring hair looks perfectly imperfect; nonchalant, but still falling in just the right way. “They all pretend they don’t care, but actually they have spent hours and hours looking like they don’t,” adds Mallett, amused. “For the French, horror hair is straight, ironed, with a straight centre parting, and highlights that start at the roots and run straight to the ends. That is what a French woman hates!”

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Soft, diffused hair colour

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Rather than a full head of highlights distributed uniformly through the hair, French women prefer to get their hair coloured with a more freestyle (but still expert) touch. Mallet says they like a darker shadow at the root, with lighter, washed-out colour towards the ends. “The colour has to be dimensional. It must be diffused, soft and non-defined,” he says. “It should blend and melt towards the edges. Overly fine highlights are a big no!”

The ultimate French fringe

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From Jeanne Damas to Violette Serrat, we’d all like to be able to pull off a French fringe, wouldn’t we? Mallet says the trick is in how they’re cut. “When cutting a long fringe, the ends and edges need to be frayed – it should look like the bottom of trousers when they’ve been worn in,” he says. Forget anything blunt cut or razor sharp. A perfectly square fringe is a dead giveaway that you’re fresh from the salon, says Mallett, and that simply wouldn’t be French.

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How to style hair the French way

“A lot of my clients like to create a soft bend in their hair for daytime, and while they don’t like using straighteners for their intended purpose, they do like to use them as a waving tool,” says Mallett. “Another great tip is using your hands to scrunch the hair. Or, for our laziest clients, we advise going to bed with wet hair – you wake up with it naturally tousled!”

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