It was mentioned in a comment from Jean-Louis (merci, monsieur) in August that it might be a good idea to address travel attire. I had posted (and received so many great contributions from our readers) on the Back To School Wardrobe for Old Money Guys and Gals, but I’d never thought to write about what to pack and wear when one hits the proverbial road. For me it’s always been Throw and Go.
Not that I’m unaware of travel attire every time I board a train or plane here: poorly and barely dressed, ghastly and ghostly travelers are everywhere, all the time. I know they aren’t that impoverished because they’re traveling, for God’s sake. I long to drop into a dream sequence that places me on the Orient Express with a cast of non-violent Agatha Christie characters who dress well, know and practice good manners, and enjoy sparkling conversation.
But we’ll agree at present to climb one mountain at a time, and simply address the issue of Travel Attire. Not surprisingly, my suggestions won’t vary from the tried-and-true Old Money wardrobe of button-down oxford cloth shirts, wool or cotton sweaters, khakis and blazers.
I do advocate, especially for travel in spring and summer, the 100% cotton polo pullover. Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Lands End, and LL Bean all make comparable models of this classic. You really can’t go wrong with a navy blue, forest green, and burgundy ensemble of these, ready to be tossed in a duffle bag at a moment’s notice and carry you through whatever adventure’s a three-day weekend might hold. I opt for dark, solid colors, but the inevitable pink or lime green will make it’s way through an Old Money closet on a regular basis.
The Essential, Eternal Polo, for Old Money Gals and Guys on the Go.
If the weather turns cool, you can toss a cotton or wool sweater over the polo. If you want to go full-retro Official Preppy Handbook with the look, you can put a button-down oxford over the polo, and then a sweater over that, and then a blazer over that. Layer up till your heart’s content. Just remember to throw at least a sweater over your shoulder before you board the plane: the cabin can get really cold on long flights, for some reason.
Now, hold onto your leather armchairs…I’m going to also go half-blasphemer here and recommend, especially for international travel, denim jeans. I have good reason, based on recent observation. Pickpockets love them some baggy khakis on American tourists, to quote a very funny friend of mine. And they do. I encourage all my male friends who come to visit to bring a pair or two of jeans, put the wallet in a front pocket, where it’s snug and almost impossible to steal, and casually rest a thumb inside same said pocket, just to be sure.
The Heretic, in Verona, in jeans.
I’ve watched pickpockets here in Paris and Rome attempt to relieve unsuspecting tourists of their wallets, and almost succeed, numerous times. The target is always an American or Brit with full cut khakis and their wallet in the back pocket or even in their front pocket. The khakis and cotton pants have the front pockets cut on the the seam, vertically. This gives a pickpocket too much access. It’s just not a plan. As reluctant as I am to do it, I’m going to suggest a pair of Levis five-pocket jeans for travel, at least for the men, when visiting a pedestrian city.
Footwear is key: it has to be comfortable, versatile, and durable. Sturdy brown walking shoes with rubber soles fit the bill. They can keep your feet comfortable all day long and then be acceptable in a restaurant at night. The younger set here in Paris and in Verona opt for Adidas sneakers with three stripes on the side and a tough-as-nails sole underneath to absorb the shock of cobblestones and metro stairs. Your call.
The blue blazer will serve you like a faithful servant, with inside pockets for passports and airline tickets. Tweed jackets in cooler weather, and I have come to admire the North Face three-quarter length all weather coat for rainy and cold days. For me, the fur trim hood is easier to operate than an umbrella. The coat is lightweight, warm, and water-repellant. Navy blue is the go-to color. Check ’em out before the weather turns really cold.
Warm and Dry in a North Face Parka.
In summary, if you’ve purchased a traditional Old Money wardrobe to start with, you’re in for some easy choices when you throw open the suitcase and begin to pack. Most of your clothes match most of your clothes, color-wise and style-wise; natural fabrics that wear well are universal; it’s easy to be dressed well without dressing up.
Welcoming your experiences and comments, as always.