Dressing up for the flight in hope of securing an upgrade? Such an occurrence is unfortunately increasingly rare these days, with almost all upgrades automated based on frequent flyer status rather than a personal sense of style.
And where there is room for human intervention, smart casual will almost always be enough to get you the nod.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carefully consider what you’re wearing for the flight – particularly if you’re looking to hit the ground running on business or maybe spend a little time in the airport lounge, where dress codes are often still enforced.
So, what’s good to wear? Having taken numerous domestic and international flights over the years, these are some of the tips I’ve picked up on the road.
Firstly; shorts and a t-shirt are perfectly fine for leisure trips, but minimum standard attire should be smart casual if you’re travelling for work – and you needn’t sacrifice comfort.
By that same token, wearing smart casual in the air means you’re also covered should your luggage not make it your intended destination with you, eliminating the stress of having to immediately go shopping if you have an event lined up after the flight.
(Packing a non-creasing shirt and some staple toiletries in your carry-on is always a good back-up. This also allows you to freshen up as soon as you arrive, if needed).
It should of course be noted that these same general rules apply regardless of gender.
As for the clothing options themselves, these are some of my standards, plus a few recommendations I’ve received from fellow travellers over the years.
Capsule wardrobes: packing interchangeable clothing you can mix and match – commonly referred to as a capsule wardrobe – is not only a great way to travel lighter, but it’s efficient too.
The process is simple. Pack neutral pants or jackets (black, navy, or taupe are my go-tos), together with a variety of shirts in various colours or patterns that work well together.
Mixing and matching allows you to create multiple individual outfits from the same base, and no one will be the wiser.
Pants: all-cotton chinos or slacks are a comfortable go-to option, particularly when compared to jeans, which can feel ‘heavy’ and restrictive with extended wearing. Chinos on the other hand are light and breathe well, and they still look good even with some in-flight creasing.
Shirts: either a non-branded polo/blouse (short or long sleeve depends mainly on your destination) or a long-sleeved casual shirt. Both all-cotton, and usually in black or navy – because they look good against the chinos and don’t show creases as much as lighter colours.
Shoes: slip-on shoes are made for breezing through airport security checkpoints and quickly slipping off once the flight begins, but if they’re too tight a fit you’ll have trouble slipping them onto your feet after 8+ hours in the air.
If you’re only travelling with one pair of shoes – which may be the case for a day-and-night trip – choose dressy slip-ons with a little more give around the sides, or comfortable lace-ups.
Jackets: what about your suit jacket? Don’t pack it, wear it.
It’ll look sharp in the lounge (if you choose the right clothes to wear on board) and once you’re on the plane you can have it hung in the business class wardrobe, or gently folded and stowed in an overhead locker.
Just place it on top of your carry-on luggage, not beside it, to avoid other passengers shoving their bag in and scrunching it up.
Have tips for your own go-to clothing options? Share them with other Executive Traveller readers in the comments.