The Classic Sartorialist: Fashion for airports

Airports don’t have the best reputation for fashion. As security has increased and air travel has become more of a chore than an adventure, people’s attire has taken a drastic decline. These days you’re more likely to see men and women in sweats than the suits and dresses reminiscent of vintage Pan-Am advertisements.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As the holiday travel season approaches, it might be time to rethink your in-flight look. Here are a few helpful tips for negotiating long-lines and crammed economy seats while maintaining a relaxed, yet sophisticated style:


What you wear onboard will largely be determined by where you’re going, but it should also be influenced by what you can fit in your bag. If you’re in the market for new luggage, a nice leather or canvas weekender bag is a great carry-on option for any occasion. If you prefer rollers, look for one in a strong, durable fabric like Samsonite’s line of ballistic nylon bags.

Once you’ve picked out a bag, you need to know how much you can fit into it. Louis Vuitton’s “The Art of Packing” is an excellent online guide (available for men and women) that can help you efficiently pack any bag. But even the best packer can’t take everything, so start with the basics: a pair of chinos, your go-to jeans, a couple gingham button-downs, one or two v-neck sweaters, and of course a ready supply of the unmentionables.

Flight attire

The thought of missing a flight due to security delays is nightmare-inducing. However, with a few thoughtful preparations, you can easily speed up your trip through metal detector alley.

If your holiday destination is somewhere warm, slip-on shoes like boat shoes (Sperrys) or espadrilles (Toms) are perfect since you don’t have to worry about untying laces. If you’re heading north, wear the bulkiest shoes you’re bringing to save space in your luggage. The trick here is to have a shoe horn close at hand to quickly slip your shoes back on once you’re through the lines. I stow one in the same exterior pocket that I keep any liquids I need to take out for security.

If your destination requires outerwear, you’ll want to wear that onboard as well. A Chesterfield topcoat will keep you warm, relaxed and dapper. For milder-weather trips you’ll still want to bring along a jacket to keep you warm if temperatures take an unexpected plunge. I suggest a Barbour waxed jacket.

Now, there are plenty of comfortable sweat suit alternatives when it comes to your shirt and pants. A basic henley offers a touch of style with the same comfort as a sweatshirt and they look great with Levis. If you want a slightly more fashionable look, go with a relaxed fit chino and a fair isle sweater. With or without a button-down underneath, you’ll be stylish and comfy whether you’re stuck in the terminal or you arrive on time.

Weaver’s downtown offers a great selection of fashionable luggage. For boat shoes and espadrilles head over to Shark’s Surf Shop. Jos A. Bank is a great destination for a variety of winter topcoats.

— Nicholas Cunigan is a Ph.D. candidate in early American history at Kansas University. He blends classic fashion with modern details on a low-cost budget.


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