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Travel tips: what to wear in the air?

By David Flynn     Filed under: style, business travel

The idea that dressing like a business traveller will get you an upgrade to business class? It’s largely a myth. Almost all upgrades are automated these days, based on your frequent flyer status rather than your sense of style.

And where there’s any room for human intervention, which seems increasingly rare these days, smart casual will almost always going to be good enough to get you the nod.

(And if you’re going straight into a business meeting at the other end of your flight, pack your business kit into a carry-on garment bag or checked luggage using the roll-and-fold system.)

So what’s good to wear in the air? Here are my own tips, based on international (not domestic) travel.

Firstly: if you care at all about how you look then please, try a little harder than shorts and a T-shirt.

My own in-flight wardrobe is basic and fuss-free, but doesn't look out of place in a first class lounge or at the pointy end of the plane.

Pants: a pair of all-cotton chinos, in a soft-to-medium colour from sand to taupe. I find jeans are too ‘heavy’ and constricting compared to chinos which are light, breathe well and still look good even with some in-flight creasing.

Shirt: either a non-branded polo top (short sleeve or long sleeve, depending mainly on your destination) or a long-sleeved casual shirt. Both all-cotton, and usually in black – because black looks good against the chinos and doesn’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 the 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.

Jacket: what about your suit jacket? Don’t pack your jacket, 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 your jacket up.

We'd be interested to hear your own tips for what to wear in the air. Share them with other Australian Business Traveller readers in the comment box below or join the conversation on Twitter – we're @AusBT.


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 13/12/11 by Al

Is it just my imagination or is Qantas not handing out those business class PJs as frequently as they used to? Anyway I think they're great, keep your 'flying clothes' fresh and unwrinkled on long hauls.

2 on 13/12/11 by Dave

Compression tights would enable the wearer to recover from the effects of air travel much faster.  There are many brands on the market, and these are used by athletes and lay people alike. Some people swear by them, and even if you were to wear them for the placebo effect, if they make your flight recovery that much faster, then you'll be able to enjoy your destination more, sooner.

1 on 13/12/11 by David

Hey Dave - just to be clear, you're talking about compression socks, right? Or actual 'tights' covering your entire legs and more?

1 on 13/12/11 by Dave

Compression socks are to assist DVT sufferers; I was referring to 'tights" covering the entire legs and more. And to the Very Hairy Man; it won't work for you. The body undergoes a fair amount of stress in the pressurised cabins, and when the plane lands, it is usually back to normal atmospheric pressures, but your body does not adjust as readily or quickily eg. swelling of the feet; the compression garments assists in minimising the swelling to the areas of the body covered. In short, your body swells less, so it recovers faster. It won't be for everybody, since bodies come in all shapes and sizes. But for those who are able to wear these, you can give them a try!

2 on 13/12/11 by am

And I was thinking of socks - sorry! We've always just refered to them as stockings in my family for some reason...

2 on 13/12/11 by John

As An Very Hairy Man (apologies to Monty Python), I feel bound to offer the advice to other Hairy Mans: compression stockings are really not the answer to you, unless you enjoy shaving your legs. Tried several brands, and a big no from me!

3 on 13/12/11 by am

Best tip I can give is to wear something that you could potentially wear to the office if you have to - being stranded without luggage and faced with the prospect of meeting your new boss for the first time with nothing but a pair of jeans, a tee and a casual jacket is not fun. Needless to say I now travel with a change of clothes and a tie in my hand luggage.

And I second using compression stockings. In my experience they genuinely help, but definitely put them on before you get to the plane while you still have the space to thrash about as you pull them up your legs.

1 on 13/12/11 by David

That's a great tip for anybody with checked luggage, AM. I recall a few years back, a colleague's luggage was delayed and she was caught out with zip to wear to business meetings the next morning (the airline ended up having to shell out for her to buy a new outfit plus assorted toiletries etc, which sounds nice but you can do without the stress!).

Must get a bunch of some compression socks in before my next trip and try them out, do a little comparison!

2 on 13/12/11 by Dave

Excellent tip AM! Better to be prepared if it is important and a priority for you!


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