34 Comments.

Hey Gents,

As you already know, the way you present yourself is important. It’s your statement; without speaking, you’re telling the world what you think of yourself and how others should perceive you.

Because of this, dressing well should extend to every part of your life. Even at the gym. Even when traveling.

Especially when traveling.

Why? Well, for plenty of reasons, but mostly because it’s your chance to shine.

Sadly, air travel used to be regarded with more respect and reverence. Just look at the photo above. It was an event; people dressed up when traveling.

Nowadays, it looks like a runway show for oversized sweatshirts and cheap pajama pants. And the sad thing is, no one bats an eye, because practically everyone else is dressed just as schlubby.

But not you, dear EG reader. You, my friend, are different. You don’t succumb to the ways of the masses, in their ratty sweatsuits and pajama pants. You know that dressing well is all about presentation and confidence.

Plus, you’re trying to get a bit of respect from those irritable TSA officers.

Here are a few quick pointers on how to dress while traveling.

(Disclaimer: If you take a pro-sweats stance, I’m not interested in hearing your rebuttal, and this site probably isn’t for you in the first place. If you’re thinking, “But I just want to be comfortable! Waaaa!” Suck it up, be a man, and sacrifice a small bit of your comfort to look presentable.)

What to wear up in the air

After jet setting a bit more than usual the past couple years, I’ve finally formulated the perfect travel outfit.

By the way, “perfect” in this case is relative. If you’re looking to command respect from the TSA and your fellow travelers, this outfit is perfect. If you’re hoping to look like a baggy grey mess in your oversized sweats, this will not be perfect (for you).

The Perfect Travel Outfit: How To Dress While Traveling, Effortless Gent

(If you’re reading this on EG, click the image to enlarge, and feel free to share with you friends)

In case this isn’t obvious, you don’t have to wear THIS EXACT outfit. Rather, I’m suggesting some sort of variation of this outfit. Don’t over-think it.

1.) Cotton sport shirt or oxford cloth button down. If I’m going somewhere tropical, I would wear a linen sport shirt, or maybe a polo shirt. The shirt pictured is from Fifth&Brannan.

2.) Lightweight chinos. These seem more comfortable than denim. Choose your favorite color. I typically go with a charcoal or light olive. The ones pictured are Dockers Alpha Khaki. If I’m going somewhere tropical, I’d go with a light khaki color, or some other brightly-colored chino.

3.) Lightweight navy sport coat. The pièce de résistance, if you will. Super comfortable, and takes your whole outfit up three notches. I just bought this one from Uniqlo (also pictured above), and I can already tell it will be my favorite warm weather / travel sport coat.

4.) Shoes. Wear your heaviest shoes, typically your leather lace-ups or loafers. The ones pictured above are Cole Haan (via Zappos). That way, your outfit is complete and you don’t have to lug around a bulky, heavy pair of shoes in your bag.

A quick tip

Always bring a sport coat, and wear it on the plane. You may be meeting with friends, or going out to a nice dinner at some point. You can make use of it, trust me.

I used to pack my sport coat, but the last trip I took, I ended up wearing it. I’ll never go back.

I suggest this method because 1.) you don’t have to worry about excessive wrinkles that come from packing a jacket, and 2.) you look damn good in a sport coat.

Dressing well should extend to every part of your life… Even when traveling. (click to tweet)

Same goes for the suit you were about to stuff in your carry-on. Instead of packing it, just wear it on the plane. Feel free to ditch the tie (or, heck, wear it for extra points).

People have this misconception that suits are uncomfortable, or that you need to fly in frumpy sleeping attire or baggy gym sweats to be comfortable. I don’t subscribe to that at all, and if you’re an EG reader, you shouldn’t either.

How to avoid wrinkling

In case you’re worried about wrinkling your suit jacket while sitting for a few hours, you have a few options.

You can take it off, fold it, and stow it away in the overhead bin. Alternatively, if you have a small bag underneath the seat in front of you, you can lay it right on top.

A third option would be to ask the flight attendant to hang it for you in the closet area up front, but I haven’t tried this one yet. If you’re sitting in First Class, up toward the front, or in the very back, this would probably be more of a possibility.

In reality though, it doesn’t really matter. When you take your first shower at your destination, simply hang up your jacket in the bathroom, and the steam should help loosen the wrinkles.

If you have a linen jacket like mine, the wrinkles add character, so I definitely wouldn’t worry about it.

Other considerations

The airport is often a hot mess. You, my friend, shouldn’t be. Keep in mind these easy-to-follow tips when traveling.

Go lean

Let the lean wardrobe mentality extend to your packing as well. If you’ll be gone only a week, you can fit everything in one carry-on bag. It’s just a matter of practicing minimalism and taking only the necessities.

Prepare to get frisky

You know how the TSA makes you take off practically all your clothing before walking through the metal detectors? Be prepared and do it all before you reach the conveyor belt.

Don’t actually take off your clothing, but if possible, throw your wallet, phone, jewelry, belt, etc. in your carry-on, and be prepared to take off your shoes and jacket.

Don’t wait to do everything until after you throw your bag on the conveyor. You don’t want to be that guy flailing all over the place while the line grows behind you, and the person that was in front of you is already through the metal detector and grabbing his bags.

I always hate Flailing Guy. I’m sure everyone else does too. Don’t be him!

Barefoot? Please.

Wear socks. Unless you don’t care about going barefoot in line.

Oh what, you’re wearing flip flops? Bad move, buddy. Flip flops are for the beach, the pool, or your walks to and from the beach or pool. Wear appropriate shoes next time. Tsk tsk.

Further reading

Here’s another take on stylish and travel-appropriate outfits, from Antonio / Real Men Real Style via Art of Manliness.

A quick update on my attempt at packing light

Hawaii Packing Revisited

A few articles ago, I discussed packing lightly for my upcoming trip. I’m proof that the whole Lean Wardrobe philosophy, even when extended to packing, is a constant work in progress, something that needs practice.

It’s not always easy to predict exactly what you’ll need during a trip. Inevitably there will be some inefficiencies, and you’ll wish you brought more T-shirts and less pants, or more underwear and less dress shirts… something like that.

All you can really do is take a long look at what you plan on bringing—lay it all out on the bed—and evaluate it.

Think about what you’ll be doing on your trip, and see if your plans align with the clothing you have laid out. Hopefully your selections are activity-appropriate.

My specific situation was a little tricky. I was heading to a tropical locale, but I was also attending a few meetings. I didn’t want to wear T-shirts and flip flops to these meetings, so I had to bring a few dressier options as well.

Specific observations

Turns out that I ended up dressing up in non-beach clothes more often than I thought I would, so I would’ve benefitted from one or two more sport shirts or polos. I didn’t hit the beach that much, unfortunately, so I could’ve survived with one pair of trunks.

I didn’t wear the Chucks much, but I did wear the dub monks, driving loafers, and sport coat a lot. So to those who said I wasted space by bringing them, I laugh smugly in your face.

Just kidding. But, seriously, I did wear them a lot, so you were totally wrong. :)

I didn’t wear the red chinos as much as I thought I would; I guess I wasn’t in the mood for brightly-colored chinos. I would have benefitted from a second pair of chinos, maybe ones that were slightly less colorful. Who knows though, moods change and maybe next time I’ll be into them.

Again, packing light takes practice! Even I’m not perfect at it. But, I know for a fact that the more you practice, the better you’ll be. I once was terrible, and I’d bring multiple options for multiple situations, and come home not touching two-thirds of the stuff I brought with me.

One thing I can say is that packing light definitely feels great, just like owning less and having a lean closet feels great. I personally hate lugging around multiple bags, and I never check in my suitcase. If you’re like me, you’ll benefit from the Lean Wardrobe philosophy.

Hope that helps

Where are you headed this summer? Any fun trips planned? Let’s hear it below.

One last thing! A small announcement

Have you checked out Dressing Like a Grownup? It’s the ultimate resource for the younger gent trying to dress better on a small budget.

You can pick up DLAG for only $7, but for a short time, if you pick up The Effortless Guide to Graduating your Style (my first eGuide), you can get DLAG for free. More details here.

 

[photophoto, photo, photo , photo]

PUBLISHED April 9, 2013


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr.



  • Ivar Z

    Great article, and timing is perfect, too. I’m going on a corporate event, company birthday celebration actually, in mid May to Turkey for 3 days and will have to be packing the suitcase for sure. However, I’m struggling to figure out what to take with me as the event involves having an official party and it’s probably going to be really hot there by that time, especially if it’s going to be outdoors.

    I only have a navy suit and I’m pretty sure I’ll be sweating like crazy in it. And I don’t know if wearing chinos with a dress shirt and a blazer on, and driving loafers, would be appropriate either…

    Any hints would be much appreciated

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      It’s important to find out the dress code as soon as you can. Maybe ask others (your colleagues, your boss, etc.) what they’ll be wearing? Is that possible? At least then you can gauge the formality of the whole thing.

      No idea how hot it gets in Turkey, but if it’s as hot as I’m imagining, a wool suit would probably be too much. A linen option would be better if you can swing it.

  • Miles Benton

    Enjoyable read, as I feel rather strongly about dressing well while traveling. It seems to be something that has gone by the wayside and has since been replaced by yoga pants, god awful track pants and the like.

    You never know who you will meet while traveling, so it’s always a good idea to look your best while remaining comfortable, which you articulate quite well!

    Question re: the Uniqlo Linen jacket – what is the fit like / comparable too? It looks a little boxy on the website, which is fine given the price one could nip&tuck with their tailor. Care to share any photos?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I’ve been on the hunt for a lightweight navy blazer for a while, and this fits 90% perfect off the rack (at least for me). I’m 5’9″ and I have a wide back and chest relative to my waist, and I bought the M.

      The jacket is a great length with comfortable suppression in the waist. I could have it taken in at the chest a little bit (also at the waist a little), but I could also live without it. The construction is a bit more forgiving since it’s unlined and unstructured. It also looks really dressy but feels really casual.

      I say give it a try if you can; I’m really happy with it, especially at that price point. I can take some photos for you soon.

      • Miles Benton

        Perfect, thanks Baron! Agreed its hard to see fault with a $70 blazer, especially Navy linen. Cheers!

      • TJ

        Hm I’m 6’2″ so maybe I ought to go with the large if I get one. I’m afraid it will be too big in the shoulders though.

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          If you go with the M, it will probably be more of a modern, shorter blazer style on you. Hard to say for sure. Also since it’s unstructured, the lack of shoulder padding may or may not work in your favor. Maybe buy an M and an L and return the one that doesn’t work?

      • Charlie

        Barron, what size are you in the chest? I’m a 38 – not sure whether to go for small or medium for the Uniqlo blazer. Also, what’s the length like? I’m 5’10” and find that a lot of blazers are cut shorter nowadays. Does it cover your ass?

        • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

          It’s cut longer than I expected, so that was a pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t say it’s as long as a traditional blazer would be, but it still covers 90% (or so) of my ass.

          The tag of the M says “chest size 38-41 in”, so if you’re a borderline 38/40, go with M. If you’re barely a 38, go with the S.

          • Charlie

            Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/FitandStyle Gretchen Neels

    Great advice, all of it! But “Suck it up, be a man and sacrifice a small bit of your comfort to look presentable” is the best!!! Barron, you rock.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      thanks for reading :)

  • Ruben.

    What about if you’re on a red-eye flight? Shouldn’t you aim for comfort in this situation since you’ll be sleeping on the plane and getting all your clothes wrinkled by sleeping in them? Is there an outfit for this situation?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I’d probably still dress the same, because you’ll have to get off the plane eventually. Everyone else looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed, but you? You’ll look ready to take on the world.

      Anyway if you still want another option, try something like a polo + a light merino wool (or cashmere) sweater under your blazer. You can always take off your blazer and catch some Zs in that.

  • Joe

    Barron,
    Great article and some really good tips on dressing for
    travel. I have to compliment you on one of the most informative and
    entertaining blogs.

    I very much agree with your advice to stow all your personal
    belongings before getting to the TSA Check Point and would like to add a few
    tips that I’ve found useful. First, I always travel with my passport,
    even for domestic trips since it’s much more convenient to use as ones form of
    ID, and you never know when your current domestic trip may become one that
    takes you out of the country. I like to keep my boarding pass folded into
    the passport’s first page and hand the package to the various people that need
    to see the two documents.

    This also avoids the need to remove your driver’s license from
    your wallet, which leads to my next tip – I put all my pocket stuff and things
    that one has to remove before the metal detectors in a small Ziploc bag and put
    that into my carryon. Once through the security check point and away from
    the crowd of people attempting to reassemble themselves I can remove the bag
    and replace all the pocket stuff including my watch and any jewelry, without
    having to dig through the carryon.

    And finally, as you mentioned it’s so much easier to remove your
    belt before entering the line which I also do, and I stow it where I can get to
    it quickly so that I can use it as a makeshift shoehorn when putting my shoes
    back on. I put the tongue of the belt in the back of the shoe and it aids
    in slipping ones foot in – of course this wouldn’t work well with a canvas
    belt, but is pretty effective with leather belts.

    Thanks for all your advice and I hope these tips might help
    you. Oh and by the way, there’s an old adage that there are two types of
    luggage when flying; carryon and lost.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  • av

    Great tips!

    One more suggestion, while waiting in line to go through the security scanners, empty your pant pocket contents INTO your jacket pockets (keys, coins, wallet, jewellery, etc.). I find they ask you to put your jacket through the conveyor belt anyway, but doing this allows you to just toss on your shoes and jacket, grab your bags, and go on the other end!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Agree! Another reader just mentioned that same thing. Glad we’re all on the same page :)

  • Nick

    Nice article, Barron. Another tip to avoid being “flailing guy”…wear slip-on shoes rather than lace-ups. Easy to get on and off as you go through security checks. Love those monks!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yes, definitely. Any kind of loafer that’s easier to slip on and off is better than trying to lace / unlace your shoes.

  • Taylor

    Great article. I always put my phone, wallet, watch or anything else in my jacket pocket before even taking off the jacket. Helps to expedite and puts all your stuff in one spot so easier to retrieve when you are putting back on your items. If i’m not wearing a jacket i put everything in outside pocket of my carry-on bag. Nothing is worse than digging through a bin for loose items.
    Belt is always in-hand before I grab my bins as well.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That’s pretty much my routine as well. If not in the jacket, in my bag’s front pocket.

  • Daniel

    Great Stuff. Nice to know. How much is a “lean wardrobe” (can you supply a picture?).

  • Albert

    Hi Barron,

    What recommendations do you have for luggage? I currently have a travel bag that is very practical and has great compartments, compression straps to hold keep clothes in place, but is not exactly why I would call stylish. Sorry if you covered this in a previous post, but I am considering getting a more sleek or clean-looking tote/duffel. My only concern is that many of the stylish-looking bags that are always on fashion blogs seem to lack interior compartments and pockets. Are they practical? Thanks!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I’ll have to get back to you on this one. I’m currently using a really old (but large) canvas duffel from J.Crew with minimal compartments / pockets. My grail carry-on would be the Rimowa Topas after seeing it in person… but as you can see, it’s a bit price prohibitive. http://www.barneys.com/Rimowa-Topas-Titanium-Cabin-Multiwheel%C2%AE/00505005146451,default,pd.html

    • Kevin

      How much do you travel? If you will are flying very frequently (between twice a month to several times a week) it’s best to stick with a high quality roller bag. Yeah, not sexy but it makes life a lot easier when you’re making a mad dash to change terminals or having to wait for an hour in line at security.

      If I traveled less often I’d get a good looking duffel bag. I’ve found compartments to be pretty irrelevant on a duffel bag or suitcase (much more useful on a briefcase/laptop bag). If you pack like Barron shows above you don’t need a lot of compartments, mainly just a big area for all your clothes. All I really need is a big enough area to put things without getting scrunched up and 2 smaller compartments. 1 outside so I can drop my cellphone/wallet/whatever else in while I’m going though security. And 1 inside to keep a spare phone charger (I keep one in my briefcase and one in my luggage bag, maybe overly cautions) and a few smaller items (like collar stays, spare credit card, etc)

  • Joshua

    Barron,

    Have been frequenting your website and getting many useful tips for more than a year. Can’t say thank you enough for helping me upgrade my style without hemorrhaging money.

    Quick question on the Uniqlo jacket: I am 6′, about 165 pounds, waist 31/32 and go between 38R/40R depending on manufacturer. After checking out the Uniqlo website I figured I’d try S first, ordered it, and received earlier in the day. I was also pleasantly surprised by the longer-than expected cut but did find the sleeves fall way past my wrist. Just when I thought I could have the sleeves shortened to begin rocking it, I buttoned up and found the jacket on the chest (where the rib cages are) a bit tight. If it were just a little loose there, the jacket would have been perfect.

    Seeing as how this is first time ordering from them, should’ve ordered both S & M even if I was going to end up returning one of them. Do you think I should give M a try? Will the extended cut make the look a bit off?

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Hey Joshua, the tag on the M says “38-41 chest” so you’re probably safe with the M. If anything, you might need a tailor to take it in a bit, but you’ll have to try it on first. I don’t think it will be too long for you. I’m 5’9″ and wear a M; it’s not too long for me.

  • http://suitsandskirts.blogspot.com/ Suits and Skirts

    Best pro tip is to definitely wear a blazer on to the plan instead of packing it to keep wrinkles low. Glad you made that discovery, it’s great!

    Still haven’t had much success with the shower steam tip though. Maybe I just have a puny shower at home.

    ~http://suitsandskirts.blogspot.com

  • Rick

    Or, even better, just get a GOES pass and wear whatever you want when you go through security.
    I sailed through in 28 seconds (a personal best) without the need to take off my belt, empty my pockets, or take off my shoes.

    https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes

  • Len Geiger

    While I prefer a slip on shoe when going through TSA, my suggestion is that you don’t avoid lace ups if they are the shoes you prefer to wear. For a few seconds spent untying and retying you now have on the shoes you want for the whole trip.
    I like to pack light, but don’t like doing without. If that means checking a bag now and then so be it. My preferred bag for checking or roll on is the Tumi Alpha, but recently I picked up a Tumi Tegra Lite for strict carry on only use, a very cool hard side that holds a lot more than it looks like.
    Personally, I would rather overdress on a flight than underdress. After all, you never know who you might end up sitting next to for several hours on your next flight. Dress accordingly :)

  • Brooksie

    Barron, thought this was a great write up. I would love to see more people dressing well for travel. One thing I did want to caution you on is your advice about bringing your wool suit coat into the bathroom with you during a hot show to steam out the wrinkles. You may want to provide the caveat that this is not recommended for owners of fused suits as the heat and moisture can breakdown the glue holding their suit coat together, significantly shortening the life of the garment.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      mmm, that’s a good point. I didn’t really think about that, although, how different would it be compared to a steaming or cleaning at a dry cleaner?

  • beardedman

    Great article Barron! Man, I look around at what people wear that passes for comfortable and it’s all rough sweatshirt material and course denim. How is that more comfortable than a light smooth wool? Sure it’s hot during the summer, but there are blends and weaves to mitigate that. I chuckle when people see me in a suit as ask why I don’t dress more comfortably. I just say, feel the hand on this jacket and tell me if I’m the one who’s uncomfortable! LOL