Looking Sharp While Traveling the World

by Antonio on January 25, 2011 · 60 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Style

Image from Modern Mechanix

Why “Stylish” Travel Clothing?

Traveling used to be a glamorous endeavor. As it was more rare than it is today, going on a trip was really something special. This was particularly true of the golden age of flying; men in suits and ties relaxed in plush chairs, stretched their legs out, and were served full meals by cheerful, attractive stewardesses.

These days, getting to your destination feels more like a trip to the dentist than the beginning of a holiday. We’re herded like cattle, poked and prodded, and led into a cramped chute, with only a packet of peanuts for consolation.

I guess it’s no wonder people have checked out from the experience altogether. Perhaps this is why the last time I was at the airport I saw a man dressed in an oversized t-shirt, pajamas pants with holes…and fuzzy slippers.

This casual vibe extends outside the airport as well, with tourists never leaving their sneakers and cargo shorts for the entirety of their trip.

But venturing away from home doesn’t have to mean completely letting yourself go. Dressing with a little style can heighten your experience, adding a bit of the old charm back into travel for you–and for your fellow travelers as well. You never know who you’re going to meet when you’re exploring a new location-a special someone, a new friend, or a potential business contact, and you never know what opportunities will arise on your trip. When you’re dressed sharp, you’re prepared to meet anyone and go anywhere. Finally, dressing well while you travel shows your respect for others and the places they call home.

While it may seem overwhelming to pack stylish clothes while also packing light, it need not be. The following guidelines are designed to help you dress sharp while you’re living out of a suitcase.

Characteristics of Stylish Travel Clothing

 

Ideal Characteristics of Travel Clothing

  1. Quality Build – By quality build I mean the clothing is constructed to resist expected tear and abrasion.  Seams are either double sewn or stitched to at least 12 per inch (higher is better for pressure points and tight fabrics like shirting).  Fabrics are selected based off need, although cotton and wools are excellent choices for 95% of tourist travel and 99% of business trips.  If you’re headed to an extreme weather destination, it’s well worth learning more about synthetic fabrics and purchasing specialty travel clothing with the help of an experienced salesman.
  2. Classic Style – Choose conservative clothing that does not stand out (if possible) and complements your build and complexion.  A problem with wearing clothing that draws attention to itself is that it’s memorable; a brightly colored windowpane tweed sport jacket will look great the first night into your cruise – at the end of the week you’ll be known as “The Scott” despite your Italian heritage.
  3. Comfortable Fit – When you feel good in a piece of clothing you can wear it all day, an important attribute when doing so becomes a necessity.  Ideal travel clothing has been worn many times before the trip, especially when it comes to footwear.  Many travelers purchase clothing exclusively for a trip and only find out their first day that their shoes are too tight and hot or their trousers are rubbing them wrong in the worst possible areas.

Stylish Clothing that Travels – The List

A Classic Coat – Much depends on where and when you are traveling, but assuming you are headed to a place that is cold or wet, a stylish coat may get more wear than anything else you bring.  Options for the stylish traveler include the classic trench coat, a wool overcoat, or perhaps an lightly lined windbreaker that’s water resistant.  Either way, choose a coat that fits well and is made with a non-attention grabbing color with minimal pattern.

A Charcoal Grey Classic Overcoat - Can be worn with a sweater and dark jeans or a 3-piece suit.

Sweaters - If the weather is cool, sweaters are an almost perfect travel item.  Sweaters are both stylish and functional and the right cut and color can accent a wide variety of clothing combinations.  A light-weight cashmere sweater can dress up a shirt and jeans or dress down a stuffy 2 piece suit.  Sweaters don’t require ironing, match a wide variety of styles, and are surprisingly durable– the only down side to a sweater is the amount of room they can take up in your luggage.  If possible, travel wearing one and save the space in your bag.

Two Versatile Travel Sweaters

Boots – In particular, dress boots that slip on if you spend time in airports, laced if you’ll be walking extensively.  Boots are a solid choice for the traveling man because they protect the ankles in poor weather, provide support, and are excellent for walking if equipped with the proper sole.  Boots can be worn with a suit or sport jacket and trousers if they are not too casual.

Starting at the top we have the more casual boots, the center pair are slightly more dressy, and the bottom pair could be easily paired with a sport jacket and odd trouser.

Other Footwear Options - classic slip-on dress shoes like plain loafers are a fine warm weather choice, and like slip on boots save you time in airports. Select a dark colored leather and rubber heel that doesn’t give too much of a sport look.  These are excellent travel shoes for moving through an airport and then walking all day on cobblestone streets.

Black Socks – You may be thinking, why worry about socks?  I’ll just take enough pairs so this isn’t an issue. Not so fast.  As any experienced traveler can tell you, everything counts when you seek to travel light and in my experience there is no need to ever take more than 4 pairs of socks on any length trip (I met a man who traveled with 3, but that’s for another article).  The key is to eliminate the white gym socks and only travel with black ones.  Yes, you can exercise with black socks.  And each night, before going to bed, simply wash them and hang them to dry.

Dark Jeans – No holes, no fading, no visible signs of heavy wear and a fit that complements your build.  Many of us wear jeans like they are an extension of our body – for those who don’t wish to give up denim when they travel, simply switch to a style that could be mistaken for slacks.  Dark and not too tight or loose, these are jeans that can serve you in a wide variety of situations.  You can dress them up with Chelsea boots and a sport jacket, or lounge around by mixing them with a sweater and casual leather slip-ons.

Wool Trousers – Lighter-weight and dressier than jeans, grey wool slacks are a neutral wardrobe piece for the traveling man.  Their strength is their simplicity and classic heritage.  Dark wool trousers will match almost any jacket that is clearly a different shade, can be worn along with a dress shirt, or paired with a sweater.

Wool JacketSport jackets and navy blazers are perfect travel pieces, especially when they are made from a dark fabric with a lightly patterned weave.  A wool sport jacket can be worn to the airport, on the plane, and used as a pillow or blanket on a long flight.  A few hours later that same jacket will have you looking respectable checking into your hotel,  ensure the hostess at your restaurant seats you quickly, and finally will ensure you meet club dress code requirements when you’re out on the town.  A classic dark colored wool jacket can be dressed up by pairing it with a crisp dress shirt and tie or dressed down with a soft check button down and sweater.

Solid Light and Medium Blue Dress Shirts – Simple, classic, and versatile, blue complements most men and can handle light dirt marks. Light blue is second only to white in formality, but it has fewer of its issues in terms of commonality, association with waiters in Europe, and the issue of keeping white clean.  Semi-solid and lightly patterned shirts are an option as well, but if the fabric is too memorable, you run into the issue of overuse.  Pertaining to style, hidden button downs are great but hard to find.  Medium spread collars are another option, and the classic point a solid choice if you’ll be wearing a tie occasionally.

The Right Undershirt – Undershirts make the list because they are critical to soaking up sweat and grime before it soils your outer shirt and jacket.  This allows you stay fresh looking longer, and in the evening they can easily be washed and laid out to dry.  My go-to undershirt is made by Ribbed-Tee, as I feel the elastic woven cotton does the best job of keeping me comfortable while absorbing perspiration.  And they dry fast – so I only have to travel with 2 or 3.   For more info on undershirts, visit Tug the Undershirt Guy.

A Proper Hat – Personally, I am not an avid hat wearer. However when I do wear one I do so because I feel wearing it is functionally appropriate.  Rain, sleet, snow, the bright sun – each of these conditions can be mitigated to some extent by the appropriate headgear.  Spending two weeks in Seattle?  Why not compliment your trench coat with a hat that protects you from the drizzle.  Headed to Phoenix?  The right hat will shave 10 degrees off the temperature when you’re out watching baseball. Hats also make great “do not disturb signs” when you decide to catch some sleep on the plane.

Worth Mentioning – The SCOTTeVEST -  Designed by a company that specializes in “pocket clothing,” the advantage of this travel vest is that it is simply styled (thus versatile) and incredibly functional.  The large number of pockets allows you to ditch the travel pouch and still carry everything you need.  This is a casual travel style, and is more appropriate for day sightseeing than a night out in Paris.  Also, be careful of overstuffing your pockets.

Clothing Specifically Designed for Travel

 

Pros

Wrinkle and Stain Resistant – clothing designed specifically for travel has often been specially treated so that the fibers are non-porous or repel liquids and semi-solids when they try to penetrate.  The advantage here is that the clothing you spilled coffee on and perspired in for 20 hours still looks fresh.

Machine Washable – This is a huge plus with jackets as a wool jacket has to be either sport cleaned or dry-cleaned.  If you’re headed to a part of the world where services like this are non-existent, machine washable stylish travel-wear makes life simple.

Cons

Cost – Specialty travel gear, especially the good stuff, is almost impossible to find thrifting and has to be bought new.  Rarely on sale, you’ll pay a premium for performance gear.  Because of this I often recommend a man spend a bit more and get a quality wool or cotton piece that will travel just as well and can be used once the trip is over.

Limited Style & Fit Options – Targeting a niche market, travel clothing doesn’t have as wide an audience and as such there will be far fewer style and fit options available.  If you are a hard to fit individual already, finding a quality wrinkle resistant shirt in your size may take twice as long.

Wrinkle Resistant Does Not Mean Wrinkle Free – Make sure to purchase wrinkle resistant clothing that has a money-back guarantee and can be returned if it fails to live up to expectations.

Travel clothing has its place.  If you’re traveling across Russia by train, travel clothing is perfect as it can handle spills and be washed and dried right there without inconvenience.  If you’re headed to London or Berlin you’ll have all the conveniences of home (and perhaps more) at your disposal.

I personally select quality wool pieces over wrinkle resistant clothing; I like the wider fabric and style selection, quality wool has a better hand, and it feels softer against the skin. For many men it is better to invest in quality pieces that they can add to their existing wardrobe and continue to use after the trip.

Companies that carry stylish specialty travel menswear http://www.travelsmith.com/ & http://www.magellans.com/

Useful Travel Tools

Travel Iron - Most hotels will have an iron either in your room or available upon request.  However, there is no guarantee of the quality and if your travel arrangements are more budget oriented you may find an iron is unavailable.  A good travel iron is well worth the cost and added weight. Don’t know how to iron? Here’s a primer on how to iron a dress shirt.

Small, lightweight, effective - the travel iron is a very useful tool.

Emergency sewing kit – if outside of the hotel system an emergency sewing kit is a smart thing to carry.  You need simply a needle, black and white rolled thread (2 feet), a few buttons, and various sized safety pins.  Package all of this in a small matchbox or puncture resistant box – duct tape shut and put it away in a side pocket within your luggage.  Most likely you won’t need it, but the 1% of the time you will it will be a lifesaver.

Items to Consider Leaving at Home

Fleece Jackets – Unless you’re climbing in the Carpathians or exploring Patagonia, leave the adventure travel gear for adventure travel.  Wearing clothing like this makes you stand out as a tourist, and nothing attracts a pickpocket like an easy target.

Designer T-shirts – There are situations that call for an AC/DC T-shirt.  Sightseeing in Rome is probably not one of them  You might want to think twice about wearing that shirt to the Vatican.

Sandals, hiking boots, sneakers – Comfortable, yes. But rarely appropriate for anything more than sightseeing.  If you’re going to be walking all over European cities, hiking boots are appropriate.  But if you’re going to a sales convention in Las Vegas, leave them at home.

Exercise Gear (Sweatshirt, gym shorts, running shoes) - Be honest – are you really going to exercise or are you packing your workout clothing just to feel better about yourself?  Workout clothes can substantially increase the size of your baggage especially if you bring a track suit or sweatshirt.  I find if I’m going for a couple days I plan my workout the early morning of my trip or the night before. That being said, I double my workout gear as my lounging around the hotel room clothing when I do bring it with me.

What are your tips for looking sharp when you travel? Are there things about dressing well while traveling that you’d like to know more about? Share your comments, questions, and suggestions with us!

Written by
Antonio Centeno
Real Men Real Style – Wardrobe Advice
A Tailored Suit – Custom Clothier


{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian January 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I think there is something to be said about the luggage you carry as well while traveling.

2 Carey January 25, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Love this. I’ve tried to preach to friends for years to wear at least a sport coat when traveling. Makes a world of difference. Not to mention how the rest of the world perceives ‘us’ (i.e. Americans). If you want to start with why Americans are identified as quickly as we are, it starts with the way we dress, and for the most part, when we travel, we dress as a general rule, 1) more casually than any other nationality when traveling and 2) more identifiably than any other nationality.

As an anecdote, when I traveled to Bulgaria for 2 years in the Peace Corps (2005-07) with 50 other potential volunteers, I wore a sport coat, dress shirt, and khakis. Every other volunteer who was sitting around me was asked (while flying on Lufthansa), while dressing in what might be called a typical American fashion, in English what they’d like to drink. They came to me and asked in German what I’d like to drink. My assumption since has been that it was based on what I was wearing as I was just a touch more ‘dressed up’ than my future-fellow PCVs.

That aside, there’s always the space you can save packing while dressing up.

Great piece.

3 Paul January 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Excellent article. While traveling recently I noticed how poorly people dress, especially men, and remembered old stories of my grandmother taking her first flight alongside men wearing suits, ties, and hats.

There are some great tips here for being able to travel well and dress well at the same time. It seems to me that the navy blazer is absolutely indispensable, I only worry about keeping it fresh during and throughout a particular trip. You can’t exactly get it dry cleaned on the road.

4 Jeff B. January 26, 2011 at 12:54 am

Great article! I just had to purchase new undershirts…and am relatively happy with the Tommy H. ones that I bought. That being said, I’ll definitely be checking out some ribbedtee.com shirts in the near future. I had some Army issue brown ones made by the same company or very similar and loved them. Wish we hadn’t changed uniforms so I could still wear them regularly. Great travel wardrobe tips as well!!

5 JG January 26, 2011 at 1:03 am

Vacuum Bags!

Normally you could fit X pairs of socks and underwear and undershirts in your luggage, but if you put all of the aforementioned clothing in a vacuum storage bag, then you can fit X+3 pieces of clothing or you have a little more room to bring back a gift for your loved ones.

Make sure you use the storage bags that are self-vacuuming (squeezing out the air inside the bag through a one-way valve) rather than using a storage bag which requires a vacuum cleaner (how often will you find one during your vacation?)

-J

6 Daniel January 26, 2011 at 1:35 am

I have taken to a better personal appearance for a number of reasons, and partially inspired by AoM. Over the Christmas holiday my wife and I flew to Germany to visit her family and it was amazing to see how sloppy many people have become. I also noticed that people seemed to treat us with greater respect just by the fact that we were dressed nicer. Even our young son had a nice travel outfit on. Interestingly enough, this was something that I realized years ago, but had somehow forgotten. To my fellow commentators…

@Paul – If your room does not have an iron with a steam setting, hang the coat in the bathroom with you while you shower. Let the room steam up, and leave it in there for a bit. The wrinkles should mostly work themselves out. Otherwise, you can use a regular iron as a steamer. Instead of laying the coat flat, hang it. Hold the steaming iron over top, tilting flat if needed to release more steam. You don’t have to touch the fabric, the steam alone should do the trick.

@Jeff B (and others) – For some really luxurious, and reasonably priced t-shirts, I would highly recommend Todd Shelton: http://www.toddshelton.com/

He is a designer out of New Jersey for menswear and the unique thing about him is that he sources as much as he can from the U.S., and when not available goes to Europe. He is a small operation and only operates online, but customer service was exceptional, with Todd contacting me directly for sizing. Exchanges are free, and as often as it takes to “get it right.” Oh, and all articles are made in the U.S. It’s hard to find quality like this these days, and especially at the prices he charges. In fact, it would be great to see AoM do an interview with him. Kind of seems like it’s right in line with what the site is all about.

7 Paul January 26, 2011 at 2:05 am

This pretty much sums up my travel wardrobe – right down to the boots instead of shoes.
I would also recommend a couple of tailored short sleeve shirts. They don’t take up much room and look informal when worn alone, but can be worn smartly under a jacket.

Also take tailored shorts. Again, worn the right way, these can look smart or casual.

i should point out that most of my travel is to Thailand, where it gets ridiculously hot. Shorts are acceptable here in almost any situation.

Lastly, another advantage of dressing well – there is a much better chance of being bumped up to business class if you look like you belong there.

@Brian – you are absolutely correct about luggage. Leave behind the backpack unless you are hiking. Invest in a ecent suitcase, or even better hunt down a really high quality second hand piece – it looks great.

8 K-milo January 26, 2011 at 2:33 am

Sunglasses. Don’t forget sunglasses!

9 saad January 26, 2011 at 5:04 am

Brilliant article.

Im travelling to KL alone for a holiday next week, and meeting my significant other there during my second week – during the first week Ill be visiting my uncle and hopefully walking around the city taking photos with the new kit.

Any travel tips and recommendations, as the weather is very humid, so not sure how useful slacks and a sports coat will be, but I still want to look sharp at all times.

10 Stephen January 26, 2011 at 5:28 am

Prithee Kind Sir:
Where can I get the boots you show? Do you have a manufacturer that you could share with us? Please let me know one way (ie the manufacturers) or the other (ie:
don’t know.
Thanks
Stephen

11 Ben January 26, 2011 at 6:06 am

Blundstone boots are the best travel shoe I have ever had. I have them in brown and black I am on my feet all day in them and never have a problem. I have the dressier version. They slip off for the airport, great in snow, ice, and wet weather, and look great with a suit or jeans. I even did some climbing on volcanic rock with them one morning and went out to dinner that evening at a very nice place. They are amazingly comfortable and still get compliments everywhere I go. I never need anything else traveling and wear them every single day of the week at home. The first pair my wife ordered from Australia, the second pair I ordered from the U.S. distributer.

12 Darren January 26, 2011 at 7:41 am

For undershirts/underwear, check out Icebreaker Beast.

(http://www.icebreaker.com/site/catalog/range.html?gender=Man&range=Beast)

Doesn’t smell even after repeated wearings, and it dries fast enough to wash in the lavatory sink and be dry the next day. Cotton–not so much, That fine-grade merino feels great against the skin. It’s my go-to for travel (and most other days too).

Downside: pricey. Upside: lasts a lot longer and is ultimately a better value,

D

13 Ryan Tyler January 26, 2011 at 7:44 am

There’s something to be said for looking good while traveling. It feels great to arrive at an airport and your friends and family comment on how good you look rather than suggesting that you’ll want to find a shower and change.
Ryan

14 Roger January 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

There is something else to be said about dressing to travel…safety. I don’t want to seem paranoid, but things can and do go wrong on planes, trains, and autos. There are accidents and intentional issues that can make it less than ideal. So your pajama clad, flip flop wearing travel companions are gonna be screwed when it comes time to say, run across a terminal littered with broken glass, or escape down an emergency exit slide and run across the tarmac. Men, this goes for the ladies you may be traveling with as well. High heels and tight skirts may look nice, but encourage them to wear something you they can survive in as well.

15 Darren January 26, 2011 at 8:30 am

Oh…and bravo for a great article. One of the best ones I’ve read.

For European travel, I’d add that wearing tennis shoes or trainers marks you from 100 yards away as American Geek. So do shorts anywhere but the beach or at a resort. And so does talking at 95 dB. And using trekking poles in the city. And wearing a huge SLR around your neck. And sitting at an open-air cafe table without ordering anything.

Worst of all, wearing these:

http://www.tilley.com/LT6B-Breathable-Nylon-Hat.aspx

I am often mistaken for Swiss. Maybe it’s my killer yodel.

16 Al January 26, 2011 at 9:11 am

AOM posts really need to mature from this pick ‘n’ choose view of the past.

17 Israel Thompson January 26, 2011 at 10:04 am

I don’t normally advertize for a specific store, but I have found that the Men’s Warehouse, a men’s clothing chain, has great customer service for those that travel. As someone elsed mentioned about keeping your suits, jackets, etc fresh and pressed while traveling, I always look to see if there is a Men’s Warehouse near where I will be going. Since I am a part of there “frequent buyer” program, which is free, they will press any items that I have purchsed from them for free at any of their stores. They have also done other items that I have not purchased from them as a courtesy as well. This really saved me when my luggage didn’t make with me to a funeral I had to attend. Fortunately being one that tends to dress as mentioned in this article, I had something appropriate to wear. After buying some cheap pants and shirt to lounge in, I took that outfit to them and they put a fresh press on it for the funeral. This is also a reason to dress appropriately when traveling.

18 Ben Baxter January 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

I always appreciate a Snappy Dresser myself. Thought i would add that a good attitude along with some snappiness will take it to the next level.
Sharp Dressed + Positive Vibe = Mr. Bond
Well Dressed + Jerk = Stuck-Up Rich Man

19 Thad January 26, 2011 at 10:14 am

Don’t knock the Tilley … depending on the type of travel that are doing, they are ideal! Mine has made international trips and is my go to hat when I am going to be out in the ‘wilderness’ for any period of time.

Agreed, they are inappropriate for any type of city travel. If you are going to be seated at a cafe table, may I suggest a straw fedora or panama hat as you headgear of choice.

20 Liam Clegg January 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

Nice article on an important issue. I learned a trick recently that has significantly improved my travel wardrobe, for folding a jacket and packing it tightly into a suitcase. Since I typically wear a cotton sport coat on the plane, this makes it easy to bring a nicer jacket or two to wear upon arriving.

Turn the left shoulder inside out (not the sleve, just the shoulder).
Tuck the right shoulder into the (now inverted) left shoulder.
Stuff a pair of socks or a rolled up t-shirt into the right shoulder.
The jacket should now be folded in half left to right. Fold it again top to bottom.
Now, the jacket is quasi-rectangular, can fit in a small suitcase, and can withstand a lot of pressure without getting creased, crushed, or wrinkled.

If that doesn’t make sense, google it and you can find illustrated versions of the above.

21 Jeff Boss January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Great article Antonio. Always love to read your posts; sensible and stylish sartiorial advice. I have learned the benifit to dressing respectably while travelling a couple of times myself but none as good as this: While on a brutally long flight home from China to Toronto, my brother (who was only 22 at the time, but well dressed in chinos and button down with some loafers) was intived to first class to occupy a vacant seat. You bet the stewardess passed by the shmoes in sweatpants and asked the guy who looked like he would fit in up there! Pays to dress well.

22 Dave January 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I have always worn a shirt and tie when flying, even going back to college. I always get treated better than any of my travel companions. On a college trip to England, everyone in my party got the extra search, except me. I always have nice clothes just in case, and my bag is smaller. I now use a SeV black travel jacket instead of a sport coat. The functionality is unparalleled. I got stuck in a situation in Germany last year where I needed some help. I got help in minutes. I think it would have been harder and longer if I looked like a shaggy bum,

23 Dan January 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

It’s interesting that you advise us to wear “conservative clothing that does not stand out (if possible)”. From my travel experiences, I’ve noticed that the best way to stand out (in a positive way) is to dress conservatively, eschewing the now-normal trend of wearing pajamas, sweat pants, and other clothes we used to reserve for the bedroom or gym.

24 David January 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I suggest leaving the jeans of any sort at home–they simply do not dry overnight in a hotel room with no dryer handy. I also second the notion about merino wool underwear for travel–extremely practical if you travel enough to justify its cost. I flew back to the U.S. this past Summer (I am an American expatriate living in Ukraine) and since I was traveling for six weeks, I took a carry-on bag, a laptop bag as my “personal item” and a Scott eVest as well–but at my age and with some of the medical stuff I can no longer travel as lightly as I used to. For most folks without things like a CPAP machine, a single carry-on should suffice. I suggest checking out onebag.com for how to do it with style.

25 Brucifer January 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Traveling down to Mexico, you can spot the American tourists from a mile-off. Seriously.

Males have a typical uniform of khaki shorts, sneakers and sports-logoed t-shirt and ball-cap. Older males, substitute golf-resort logos on golf-shirt and ball-cap and add white socks with tan sandals. Women, substitute designer logos on t-shirt and ball-cap and add a belt pouch.

In contrast, you can always spot the Italian tourists from a mile-off. Seriously. Those folks know how to dress casually, but elegantly.

26 Steve January 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Living in SE Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand) where the heat, but mostly the humidity and rain can really influence what you wear. Most tourists I see be they European or North American pretty much dress the same, shorts, tees, and sandals (the ubiquitous Tevas)
Even though it’s a Muslim country the locals don’t pay much attention to how tourists dress. But if you visit a Mosque or a Muslims home you should be respectful and dress a bit more conservatively.
If you’re traveling here and want to “dress up” I recommend light cotton fabrics. Heavy denim, oxford shirts, wool, and even most synthetics will have you soaked in perspiration after 5 minutes outside. If not perspiration then rain, a rain coat is impractical, an umbrella is the best choice, but in the heavy rain your legs and feet will get wet so lighter fabrics will dry quicker. Make sure your foot ware can handle the wet conditions also remember if you’ll be entering someones home or some Muslim business you may need to remove your shoes, so slip on are the most convenient, most people here wear some type of sandal.
If it’s for business light weight (tropical) suits are acceptable, however most SE Asian businessmen wear slacks with long sleeved shirts sans jacket and tie, in Singapore a shirt with French cuffs and cuff links are the answer to the tie. If you do go that route I recommend you bring a light blazer and tie for any more formal meetings, even though you may be the only one wearing them.

27 Sean Galbraith January 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Also worth noting that an airline is more likely to bump you up to business/first if you look like you belong there. Sloppily dressed schlubs don’t get the bump up.

28 Mike January 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

First style tip: don’t wear that hideous jacket. Here are some solid style tips for a two day trip: One pair of dark jeans. Leave the crazy washes, holes, and food stains at home. A pair of dark brown (preferably not shiny), rubber soled loafers. Two polos, two dress shirts, a v neck sweater, and a navy-blue lightweight wool blazer. This will allow you to dress down a bit during the day and up a night. Also, wear the right socks. Nothing is tackier than athletic socks with a pair of dress shoes.

29 Jonathan January 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Great advice! Thanks for the tips.

A word of advice on the hidden button-down collars – if you have them dry-cleaned or pressed, make sure the person doing it is aware of the loops and doesn’t press them into the collars. It ruins the “hidden” aspect if the outlines of the loops are visible.

30 Rob January 27, 2011 at 12:59 am

Pro Tips for a great idea.

The only, and I mean ONLY reason, I got on a flight from Buenos Aries to Iguazu Falls was because of my trusty black fedora, tie, and gray wool suit. They even rolled out the stairs on the tarmac for me to get on.
The only reason I got home from Philly to SFO was because of the smile and the hat. I squeaked on the plane and make it in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Never, ever, can you overdress. Smiling and looking like you own the place just opens doors for you.

31 Brian January 27, 2011 at 2:58 am

Great article! Just got back from 17 days of travel without luggage (not even a daypack) through FL, TX, and NY to raise money for charity. Wore a SCOTTEVEST Sport Coat and Trench Coat and, despite having less clothes than I’ve ever taken on a trip, I got more compliments than I ever have about how nice I looked.

Only used one pair of black (Smartwool) socks and two pairs of travel boxers for the entire trip. (Washed them in the sink each night.) Only used two t-shirts (one Merino wool, one synthetic), two quarter-zip long-sleeve shirts (one Merino wool, one synthetic), a pair of jeans, and a pair of khakis. Also brought a nice fleece vest to wear under the sport coat and trench coat in New York City.

Can’t recommend Merino wool products highly enough! Especially the t-shirts. Icebreaker and Smartwool both make great versions. They stay wrinkle-free, dry quickly, look nice, and are near impossible to stink up! Wore my wool t-shirt for at least 10 of the days and it never needed washing.

The quarter-zip long-sleeve shirts were great. They looked nice enough to wear to nice dinners and shows, didn’t wrinkle, and were versatile for venting when it got hot. When it was cold outside, I was able to layer them on top of each other for warmth (and ease of packing).

I also recommend Gore-Tex lined Ecco shoes. Protected my feet walking through slush in the streets in New York City, but were still nice enough to wear to a Broadway show. Have soles similar to hiking boots but look nice enough to wear to the office. Pair well with both jeans and khakis.

Here are a few photos of what I looked like with the Sport Coat: http://nobaggagebri.posterous.com/visiting-give-kids-the-world-village

Another of me in Texas in the Trench Coat: http://nobaggagebri.posterous.com/you-can-call-me-tex

And my full packing list: http://nobaggagebri.posterous.com/my-no-baggage-packing-list

Also my blog about the trip: http://nobaggagebri.posterous.com/

I’ve successfully made it to each of the 7 continents without checking a bag (including Antarctica) and would say this 17-day trip without luggage was one of my most manly trips and about the sharpest I have ever looked while traveling. The sport coat and trench coat made a huge difference. I would definitely travel like this again.

32 Simon Frez-Albrecht January 27, 2011 at 8:29 am

I just recently traveled to California for a week, where I spent a few days with a good friend that lives in Fresno, and then spent a couple of days touring and interviewing at a college near Bishop. I wanted to pack light and only take a carry-on because of the number of flight changes I had (six by the time I got home, plus a couple of long bus rides). I carried a nice old-fashioned canvas rucksack made by L.L. Bean ( http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/54122?from=SR&feat=sr ). It’s not as classy as proper luggage, but for my purpose it looks nice enough, and it allows a lot of flexibility in packing. It’s also durable and I’m not afraid to throw it around if I need to.

On this trip I wore a pair of black cargo pants (same as military issue) with a nice dress shirt and a simple black vest. Underneath I also had on long johns and a tank top undershirt. I also wore my dress shoes, flat cap and black down coat. I looked classy and slightly dressed up (proper slacks would have been nice, but mine need tailoring), but I was comfortable.

I packed: another undershirt, a nice-ish long sleeve waffle shirt, a nice lightweight fleece sweater, my running shorts, plenty of socks, and my running sneakers. I also brought a small toiletries bag, my laptop, and a couple of other little odds and ends.

I could have trimmed my bag a little more, but I decided I had a good compromise between being ready for anything and keeping it light.

Most of my clothes are somewhat muted in color (maroons, dark greens, blacks, etc) so that I can easily dress them up a couple of notches just by tucking-in my shirt or putting on a nicer hat or scarf, for example. I was also able to wear the same pair of pants hiking and feeding the cows at the school, then dust them off and dress them up again. On one of the cooler mornings when I went for a run, I wore my longjohns alone for running pants, along with my fleece sweater. When traveling light, it’s all about carrying multipurpose items.

33 Jay January 27, 2011 at 10:23 am

My stereotypical American Tourist outfit:

Starting with the feet, they wear brand new all white tennis shoes with black socks. The socks contrast greatly with the white shoes and the pasty white calves and knees showing up just below the jean shorts (jorts, as we like to call them). At the top of these jorts, they wear a fanny pack, always worn to the front. I could specify some really bad ones I’ve seen (think neon pink “Dollywood”), but I think it goes without being said that they are a bad idea. Our American travelista will also want their torso to announce to everyone either a.) where they are from or b.) where they’ve traveled before. My ideal choices for these would be a tank top or sleeveless shirt with an eagle clutching American flags and guns or an oversized, obnoxious T-shirt from Disney world, Gatlinburg, or Las Vegas. Following the strict fashion code, this shirt will always be tucked into the ever-fashionable jorts. On their head, they’ll be wearing a hat of some kind- possibly army-surplus camo boonie, but more likely a brightly colored bucket hat announcing loudly to everyone that they’ve been to Panama City Beach.

And to top it off, you can always recognize one of these tourists by the dripping ice cream cone or corndog they’ll be holding.

34 Matt James Deel January 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

If your shirt is ever wrinkled and you’re not near an iron, use a trick I picked up from my loving girlfriend: use your wife or girlfriend’s flat iron. Hair Straighteners are something your ladyfriend will probably have on a trip and they work the same way as a traditional iron. This has saved me in many shirt disasters.

35 Patrick O January 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I am 24 and my parents always harped on dressing appropriately while traveling, amazing to me to see the slobs in airports. Well in public anywhere for that matter…

Go-To Casual Travel: Levi Jeans, Cole Haan or Johnston & Murphy Mocs, Nice Brooks Bros button down, also Orvis is new favorite store. Drag along a sweater or casual jacket, socks are key on flight too.

Noting those boots pictured… the elastic looking pairs are hideous

36 Bruce Egert January 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Good article. Most people, today, dress like slobs for important ocassions. Travelling on airplanes is an excuse to dress like one was just released from a long prison sentence.

37 Sebastian January 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Maybe you’re not traveling during the week, but 80% of my Monday morning and Thursday evening flights are full of slack and tie wearing men.

38 Corey January 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

Every time I read an article like this it makes me sad that I’ll never be able to climb aboard a Connie filled with important people with places to go. Instead I get to be shoved onto a Southwest 737 next to the 300 pound sweaty man going to Disney world.

With any luck I’ll be Flying said 737 so at least I’ll look sharp all the time.

39 Topher January 28, 2011 at 2:33 am

Excellent article. I’ll throw in a few observations:

1. Looking decent (not like a slob) gets you better treatment from every level of travel employee you will deal with, from ticket agents to TSA to hotel staff. Provided, of course, you’re not a stuck up ass. Nice clothes and a “good morning” with a smile will get you more milage and help than the next guy. By a long shot.

2. When on vacation, I always plan on taking at least one “nice” evening out. Packing the clothes for that gives me options to mix and match in for different levels of casual to formal. If something comes up, I know I have a tie and jacket hanging there as “go to” pieces. And they don’t go to waste, because at least one night we go somewhere that requires it.

3. Remember a first aid kit and meds. Your perscriptions are a no-brainer, but 2AM in a hotel with heartburn – do you have any tums? Some antacid, pain reliever, burn gel, and a basic bandage kit will let you have piece of mind (and they don’t take much room).

4. I’ll disagree on one point. When I travel for business, I always take my workout clothes – shorts, tee, sneakers – for two reasons. One, it gives me a reason to not spend all my time hanging out at the hotel bar with other businessmen. It gets me out of my travel funk, especially when I’m by myself. Two, it gives me something I can throw with my swimsuit to go to and from the pool. I once read, “rich people and poor people wear the same things in the pool. Rich people wear and shirt and shoes to get back and forth.”

5. Books. Pack a couple paperbacks, or load your eReader. Travel delays will happen. Sitting there with nothing to do when it does is killer. Even if you don’t read while on your trip and everything is fine, having a backup for when things are not fine is important. I personally always pack two books – one for me and one in case the guy next to me on the plane didn’t pack one and so wants to talk.

Thanks,

Topher

40 Tim Raveling January 28, 2011 at 3:57 am

Gotta agree with Ben–Blundstone boots are by far the best travel shoes I’ve ever had. They served me well from Paris cafes to the mountains of Corsica to the deserts of Syria, and are still going strong–so strong, in fact, that I’m about to take them on a three-year voyage around the world. All of that, and still not even a stitch loose.

As for socks, I’d go with Smartwools or something similar, black or not, if you plan on doing a lot of walking. Essential to keeping your feet dry and preventing blisters, and how they look doesn’t matter too much with higher boots like the Blundstones, assuming you’re (quite wisely) not wearing shorts.

For more casual, I’d recommend a simple, cheap pair of flip-flops — good for the beach, for sitting outside your hotel on warm nights, and for wearing inside. Trust me, when you’ve been in certain extremely low-budget hotel/hostel “showers,” you’ll thank me.

41 ARP January 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

Get 2-3 few pairs of THIN black wool socks. You can wash them in the sink and they’ll be dry overnight. With underwear, try some of the highly breathable (not polar) sport underwear and do the same. That way, you can go on indefinitely with 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of underwear. You could do 2, but that’s pushing it.

42 Chad January 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thanks for the post. I felt it was very thorough, and much needed. Having taken multiple trips to various places throughout Europe, I see a great need for men to bring back the classiness in travel.
A perspective that I like to take is whenever I travel is to try and appear as much like a local as possible (aside from the camera bag, obviously). Dressing sharp is the best way to do this. It also makes the trip more memorable as it makes it into an activity into an “event” rather than the normal tourist routine.
Again thanks for the post.
- Chad

43 Dylan January 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

Under Armor makes great undershirts. I like to have a nice thin compression fit athletic shirt under my dress shirts since I get overheated even in northern New York in January. They are a bit pricey but a couple will do you just fine and can work double or even triple duty at the gym, and for layering while hiking/backpacking in cold climates.

44 Kevin January 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Yes! People have gotten way too sloppy in travel. Men should at LEAST wear a polo and slacks through an airport. Not only is it classier, it gets you a higher place in the line to a free upgrade to first class!

45 Rickard Bensow January 31, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Nice post. Incidentally I read it on my way back from a five day business travel carrying only my briefcase, although admittedly a slightly larger version (say 16 cm instead of my usual 8 cm). I still managed to pack a suit, two shirts (of which one I never used) and underwear in addition to the jacket, dark jeans, coat and Fedora as mentioned in the post. I also packed my swimming trunks; takes no place at all but I appreciate a swim after days of meetings.

I also want to promote the shower steaming mentioned by Daniel. Excellent for wrinkels but also freshes up a shirt nicely after being worn for a day; let it rest the next day and it’ll be fit to use again.

46 mike January 31, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I really enjoyed the article. I would not wear fuzzy slippers and PJs while traveling. I do however refuse to bring very dressy clothes when traveling because I walk/hike/climb/bike when traveling and while I see their value on days without exertion, I also like to travel light. Impressing those around me is not worth the extra weight on my back, and I cannot support the notion that what I have on the outside of me is more important than what’s on the inside.

I cannot agree more with the black socks/boots/clothes that wick sweat approach though. good stuff!

47 RHB February 2, 2011 at 4:54 am

(BTW, I bought your book a couple weeks ago after finding the AoM site via a friend Facebook)

Great Article. It amazes me to no end how people look in airports nowadays. My parents came to visit me in Italy and were horrified how our fellow countrymen (Americans) were in Pajamas, slippers, and hoodies.

48 cwnidog February 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

For the good people at TSA I normally wear Sanita clogs. They slip on & off quickly, which is also convenient when sticking my size 12s under the seat in front of me.

49 A different David February 7, 2011 at 3:55 am

I agree with wearing decent clothes on the journey. Not only do you get treated better, but you can also guarantee that at least some of your good clothes are available if your luggage goes missing.
I always try to travel with only carry-on luggage, but sometimes the weight restrictions make this impossible. In those cases, I make sure I’m wearing/carrying at least one good outfit to wear the first day.

I also try to wear a minimum amount of metal – pack your watch in your luggage, wear shoes that don’t contain metal, save that giant belt-buckle for another day. I even leave rings etc. at home. Metal detectors in different airports are set to different sensitivities, so if you travel to the same locations often then it will allow you to figure out what can be worn without setting off the alarms.

50 William P February 9, 2011 at 3:23 am

I have traveled for the past 8 years. (From East to West [roughly]: Japan, S. Korea, China, Mongolia, Thailand, Kuwait, U.A.E, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Rwanda, Kenya, Greece, Italy, Germany, France and Ireland) in every place I never brought more than this (packed in a Saddleback Leather XL Original Briefcase now):

- 1 Heavy Coat (Great for use as a pillow [goes on top of bag, not in it])
- 1 Sports Coat (I have a dark Blue one) [worn]
- 2 Sweaters (One crew neck, the other V-neck)
- 2 Dress shirts (White and a Medium-Dark Blue) [1 worn]
- 3 ties (1 red, 1 blue, 1 yellow)
- 4 Undershirts (All white, 1 V-Neck) [1 worn]
- 2 Regular shirts (One blue, one green)
- 1 pair of jeans (Dark washed Levis, straight cut) [worn]
- 2 pairs of pants (Grey and Khaki)
- 2 pairs of shorts (One regular [light brown], one versatile [prAna brand])
- 4 pairs of socks (Two blackish, two blueish, all Smartwool) [1 worn]
- 1 pair Dress boots (White’s Semi-Dress Boots. Well worth the $) [1worn]
- 1 pair of sandals

Great thing about this list is that even with a dopp kit and some reading material/laptop you can still put it into the overhead bin regardless of what you pack it in.

Also, make sure you roll everything. Only the dress shirts ever show a sign of wrinkling.

51 International Bachelor February 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

This is EXACTLY why I started the clothing company International Bachelor. There is no reason people should fly and look like they literally rolled out of bed. If you are out of bed, then you should look presentable because you never know what situation you might find yourself in.

The clothing line is in it’s infancy but I would recommend for everyone to check it out on Facebook (the website is in works): Facebook.com/Internationalbachelor

52 Gil February 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm

In summer I wear a polo shirt, slacks and loafers. If it is cool, I will wear a L/S dress shirt or oxford. Winter I will wear slacks, an oxford and light sweater.

Wearing a suit, and/or shirt and tie is probably impractical if you are not traveling on business, but I still try to look my best no matter what.

53 Zeb February 15, 2011 at 11:23 am

My wife took me to Paris several years when we were dating. It was my first trip to Europe, so I had absolutely no clue about how to dress properly for travel. At that point in my life, I had not yet begun to dress and carry myself like a man. Dirty jeans and dingy T-shirts were pretty much the uniform for everything.

An older couple who frequented the restaurant that I worked at (and who have since become dear friends and true mentors to me) gave me some very sound advice.

“When you travel”, they said, “especially in Europe, please wear a shirt with a collar. It’s a different culture. You want to be respectful as well as respectable.”

I did not even own one at the time so the gentleman brought me one as a gift. I was really touched and took their advice to heart.

Fast forward to now. I’m a married man and more successful in my career. My wife and I travel as often as our schedules allow and I always let my clothing make the appropriate impression. A lot has changed in my life, not the least of which is having left behind the dirty, ripped t-shirts in favor of a proud and “grown-up” image.

I’m very thankful for that well-placed guidance and mentoring. What started as simple travel advice has had a profound impact on my entire life.

54 Brad September 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I couldn’t agree with this article more. My new job has me travel a minimum of twice a month. Not being in my 20′s any longer I’ve taken the last two years to update my wardrobe. I was absolutely amazed at how I was treated in stores, airports and restaurants. As for the upgrades in flight as far as I’ve seen that’s a thing of the past, they know who the frequent fliers are and they usually get preferential treatment based on mileage card membership.

55 Marco November 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I once held a job that had me traveling from the states to England, Germany and Spain quite often. The owner of the firm (my boss) was quite generous, and usually had us traveling business class lest we endure the indignity of sitting with the great unwashed in economy. But no matter the cabin class, he urged us all to dress nicely; wearing a sport jacket or blazer, even if our final destination was the hot and sunny Canary Islands to do business, we would set ourselves apart from the hoi polloi and get better treatment from the staff to boot. I no longer have this job, but whenever the missus and I get on a plane, we make sure to be dressed smartly and neatly.

56 Erik December 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

I agree whole-heartedly with the theme of this article and even picked up some good pointers. I love the feeling of traveling light and smart while looking sharp. I am one of those American tourists now traveling with a young daughter. You need to ask yourself how many kids you see in airports now compared with decades past. As much as I enjoy all the considerations of this article family travel is the name of the game today.

57 William March 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I travel allot in the Army with uniform and very little else. These themes have very good points, and can see the my bag decreasing even smaller. I think your article should be read by all, to be travelers, for time saving and money.

58 Will May 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I just posted this comment in another thread, to which I think applies here as well:
Aesthetics has always been a very subjective area. One that I still struggle with to this day. Also, the current culture doesn’t help. That is, “under-dressing is cool, over-dressing is stiff, boastful, etc.”. Some older people used to tell me that they would never go to a nightclub (in Montreal) in the 60s or 70s without a shirt, tie, and jacket. Now, wearing anything but jeans and a T-shirt is “over-dressing”. You go to nice restaurants, and people are ultra casual. Even in churches, you see women in skin tight, low-neck outfits, full makeup (suitable for clubbing) whereas in the 50s and 60s, no woman entered a church without wearing a hat and her Sunday best. T-shirts used to be considered underwear. Really. No matter what your job, you always wore a shirt with a collar. Now, everyone has met in the middle where casual is it. It’s even gone further than that. I know engineering contractors who purposefully drive crappy cars not worth over $1000 just so people won’t think they have any money. Maybe it’s the “tall poppy” syndrome. (Tall poppies get plucked. No one rises above the norm!)

I think when you travel outside the US, how you present yourself matters more. I used to always wear a blazer when I flew out of country. But ironically, I found when returning to the US, I was always scrutinized more by customs when wearing nice clothes. Now when I travel, I purposely underdress a notch. T-shirt, jeans, and sandals, you look like every other mindless slob, and customs and TSA get you through the door quickly. Dress up, then security guards question you a lot more. In fact, I know an owner of a software company that always downdresses for traveling so she has an easier time through customs and the TSA. Sad, but true.

I like sharp-dressed people, but I don’t think it gets the respect it once did (in the US anyway). Everyone is mainly concerned with entertaining themselves, let alone care about their own appearance. I belong to a different generation, I’m sure.

59 Kyle September 19, 2013 at 3:37 am

Glad to see there are comments here even after 2 years.

I’ve lived in Asia & S. America and I’ve always been struck by the dignity of the locals-even if it is a hot train or bus ride on a humid day, people wear their best clothes. As a traveler, it heightens my experience.

Fortunately, there are advancements in textile technology that are bringing to market solutions that will make it more comfortable and stylish for all of us. One of the things gaining popularity is thermal control. It cools the body when too hot and preserves body heat when too cold. Oddly enough, as scientists are working away on this, wool has always had these properties. Unfortunately, most of this technology is currently used knitted material used for sportswear and t-shirts. There aren’t many woven options (i.e. button-downs, trousers, etc.).

60 OCDemon September 23, 2013 at 2:39 am

It pains me to no end how vast the gulf has always been between “fashionable” clothing and “functional” clothing, as if somehow they’re two completely different things. Sure, plenty of things span the gap, but why would anyone make any article of clothing that doesn’t?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter