There’s a small shop on Rue Gambetta – No.13 – that catches the eye. The shop window is restrained yet immediately attractive. The old scooter may snare one type of enthusiast, the high quality Harris tweed waistcoats will catch another. Meanwhile the local women walk by with a wry smile. ‘L’egoiste’ is the name of the shop – that’s ‘selfish’ in English. Proprietor Stephane Gaffino offers his own wry smile – ‘when you ask any woman about their man they always say the same thing, always: “selfish!”’
Guys who enjoy the dress-up of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride will be all over L’egoiste, for the dapper look is the pain et beurre of this retailer. The story of L’egoiste and its sibling brand ‘Ocean Surplus’ is over seven years old now and its success has led to countrywide expansion, with its shops also to be found in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon and soon Deauville.
But if L’egoiste has a cultural home then Biarritz is it. Shop regulars, ‘les Dandy Riders’, turn out in force at the annual Wheels & Waves festival (see our article ‘El Rollo’), mixing up the brand’s signature waistcoats with ‘destroyed denim’ as they enjoy the ride set against the summer sun and surf of this sea-side locality. You’ll find a mix of military-type textiles here, too, plus plenty of scarves, all of which suit the local climate… ‘the weather is crazy here,’ explains Gaffino, ‘so often it’s four seasons in one day.’ Biarritz is at the southern end of the Bay of Biscay – notorious for its storms that create the swells that make the surfing here legendary – so it couldn’t be anything less. Gaffino might be stretching his analogies when he says Biarritz is like a French California but, given our own observations, we agree when he suggests that the locals are ‘cool – not like those in St. Tropez’.
Gaffino even publishes his own magazine, naturally handsomely designed, and naturally printed on recycled paper. The subjects look immaculate but are in fact real people, not models, these are simply enthusiasts, Gaffino’s customers, who like their bikes and like the clothes too.