Restaurants and sneakers
Now, does it mean you can wear sneakers everywhere, on any and every occasion? Probably not. Restaurants are a case in point. Can you dine out in sneakers?
Say, you are strolling along in your casual jeans and comfortable Lands End boots. Its now dinner time, and you are looking for an enticing restaurant. There it is! The menu displayed outside is appetizing, prices are reasonably expensive, the place is not too crowded... but guests are dressed smartly. Will they let you in? Will you fit in?
I have yet to see in Paris a door sign indicating "No Sneakers Allowed In." True, some high-brow places will expertly leave you at bay: "Do you have a reservation? Sorry, we are full tonight." But generally speaking, no restaurant will refuse to seat you because you wear sneakers.
The right question is therefore not, "Will they allow me in?" but, "Will I feel comfortable entering a dressy place in sneakers?" I daresay probably not. And being self-conscious is not the best way to enjoy your meal. Your attention should be in your plate and on your food, not on your shoes and attire.
So my practical rule is to dress according to the place you go to. If you plan to dine out at expensive, dressy restaurants when you are in Paris, just pack your Pradas. Even better: visit Stephane Kelians and Robert Clergeries boutiques in Paris, and buy yourself great-looking footwear by these typically Parisian designers.
Other places and sneakers
There are other places where sneakers just wont cut it.
The Opera House is definitely one of them. But who would be so foolish as not to dress up for opera night? The sneaker point is moot.
What about a cabaret? I would say it is much better to dress up when you have dinner at a cabaret like Moulin Rouge, Lido, and Paradis Latin. Though only the stage is well lit in these places, the fact is people around you will usually be dressed up. You will feel much more comfortable in some more formal wear.
How about the boats on the Seine? If you are boarding a boat for a dinner cruise, dont wear sneakers. This is a romantic experience, you will want to make the most of it. An evening dress is de rigueur. On the other hand, if you simply want to cruise up and down the stream, sneakers are fine.
Museums? Forget style, wear very comfortable shoes. Nobody will look at your shoes, art is on the walls. But walking down the Louvre galleries is a tiring experience: so much too see, so many galleries, so slow the pace. The good doctors advice: go with cushion and comfort.
Art gallery vernissages? Style is your cue. Art galleries are small, vernissage evenings are short. Evening dress, black preferably, nothing flashy, and good-looking design shoes. No sneakers.
Dress according to the place you go to. If in doubt, call in advance to understand the dress code. Pack up a nice pair of shoes, or buy some when you are in Paris. Bring a nice, understated evening dress.
But dont shy away from sneakers for any not-so-formal occasion. Wear them in the street with no shame. You will blend in without any problem if you wear jeans and a pair of sneakers. Nike is an American brand, and it is very popular in France. Levis, Diesel, Wrangler, and Calvin Klein are American brands, and they rule the jeans world in France too.
So be comfortable in your sneakers, and enjoy the view.