Surviving Holiday Travels in Style

As everyone begins traveling for Hell Week, ahem, Christmas, I’d like to make a basic appeal to all of you to refrain from getting on planes, trains, and, well,  mainly planes in your jammies. I understand, I do. Airlines have made it as difficult and uncomfortable as possible to get from one place to the next. They engage in gratuitous price gouging, they cut services, they hire increasingly more irritable people, they won’t give you food, leg room, consistent travel times, or a even a guaranteed seat with the purchase of an overpriced ticket. They are awful. There is no magic left in the skies these days, but that doesn’t mean we have to punish one another with our rebellious “comfortable” aesthetic choices. How are we supposed to garner the respect and dignity we deserve from American Airlines, Continental Airlines, and all the other shit stick airlines if we look like a roaming herd of lumpy college freshmen?

Years ago, on a flight from Brussels back to San Francisco, I sat next to an aged gentleman who was dressed in a full suit and wingtips. As we began our decent he started chatting with me about how flying used to be an occasion to dress your best– an event to be celebrated. He kept asking me why nobody dressed well anymore (I actually think he kept forgetting that he had asked me the same question repeatedly–he was probably in his late 80s/early 90s). I tried explaining that people flew more often now and just wanted to be comfortable in their tiny seats, but he looked disappointed nonetheless.

It was a small conversation, riddled with language and age barriers, but it made a distinct impression on me. Every time I travel now, I try to look like I haven’t just given up. It’s truly impractical to dress like a Francophile from mid-century New York, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in sleep wear, Asics, and a college hoodie. Or any hoodie. I make an effort to remember that it is still pretty incredible (albeit terrifying) that I, a wingless mammal, can get into a man made structure and ascend into the foggy endless atmosphere. I try to remember that I can still be comfortable and presentable and I consider it a marker of respect for my fellow travelers that I choose to not subject them to my 6am worst, which is pretty bad if I don’t try. I would appreciate the same consideration from others; particularly at the Dallas airport– I don’t know what goes on in Dallas (maybe it’s not Dallas, but those just passing through from other parts of the country), but someone needs to airdrop well-fitting jeans and clothes from sometime in the past decade. It’s a visual minefield in that place. How depressing when it’s too early for a cocktail.

You don’t have to break the bank to look like a cultured traveler. My Life Partner of a designer, Billykirk, teamed up with Urban Outfitters to create the Brothers Bray & Co, a pleasing line of affordable and stylish travel gear that will only set you back about $70. Please, PLEASE– enough with the clumsy, hideous, and spatially inconsiderate rolling bags. Yes, the little wheels make it easier to run through the airport, but they also create an infuriating clusterfuck in the ticketing line, the security line, and in the already over-crowded terminals. Additionally, are you on the short side? Meaning, is it difficult for you to hoist your rolling bag over your head without hitting me or employing the help of others? If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions, you might want to rethink your approach.

Try something more akin to a valise, or a weekender bag. We’ll all get on and off the plane more quickly and you’ll look like a skillful jet-setter.

Beyond that, I’m assuming you totally have your own personality. Rolling bags are purely utilitarian, there’s no spark of adventure with a rolling bag– no spirit of the great beyond! Maybe you’re just going to spend the holidays with the same old family you’ve always had. There’s no reason it can’t be an opportunity to embody the personality that makes you beloved by those who know you! Weekender bags, rucksacks, valises– these are items with variety, with personality, with the ability to say something about you while you move from liminal space to liminal space.

 

Despite being one of the most comfortable and versatile items of clothing ever invented, you know what’s not great to wear if you’re sitting in a tiny, enclosed space for eight hours? Jeans. Sad but true, y’all. But that doesn’t mean you need to head straight to yoga pants and weird sweats with words like “PRINCESS” or “SLUT” across your ass. In fact, can you please not? And if you know someone with this leaning, can you please ask them to stop? It’s atrocious. Really, yoga pants and weird sexist sweats are the scourge of contemporary travel. Shudder.

Check it, Carmen Sandiego;  throw on your most comfortable black leggings and put some tuxedo shorts over them. 100%  seat conducive and not at all scorn inducing. These little shorts from Need Supply are only $52 and leggings can be purchased for like a penny from anywhere.

I guess women used to travel in full make-up, heels, driving gloves (with or without the driving), hats, tailor-made jackets, and a wide variety of matching accoutrements. I’m only sort of happy that feminism released us (somewhat) from these oppressive habits, but I also wish there was a little more glamour across the gender and sexuality spectrum when it comes to journeys. I’m willing to bet that my fellow bloggers manage a little bit of an old world aesthetic approach when they set out on their respective travels. What a treat! And what a way to make the miseries of flying slightly less miserable. Also, sad truth: you get treated better when you look put together.

 

Anyhoo, not the shorts and leggings sort? Very well. I’m not really a skirt sort, but I hear they’re wicked comfortable, so what about a nice a-line-ish skirt with a silk or cotton blouse? You can find some comfy ankle boots without a heel and look like a thousand bucks. People will assume things about you. Good things. Your family will think “my, my, doesn’t so-and-so look like they’ve got it figured out.” Wes Anderson will write sonnet-like movies about you. Actually, maybe not. I think you have to be a dandy-ish straight white guy for that. But one can dream!

Finally, most of you are going somewhere cold this week. Layering will be key, but perhaps you don’t know what to do with a bulky coat while you’re on the plane. Perhaps you don’t want to cram it between yourself and your fellow aisle mates. Perhaps you get cold and then you get hot and then you get cold again– an eight hour flight can be a temperature fluctuation purgatory.

Look, buy a cape. Seriously. It’s the perfect garment for travel. It doesn’t bind, it’s warm but it breathes, and you will definitely NOT look like a lumpy college freshman. Since you’ve saved so much money on all of your other supplies, I think you should consider this Kezi Cape, from Need Supply. It’s $275, but it is %100 wool, which means it’s worth every penny. And you can unzip it to cool off, or zip it up and fasten the collar snap for added warmth. No constant shifting to take it on and off or wrap up in it or not wrap up in it. Just sit still, already.

Don’t forget, too, that Mercury went into retrograde on December 10th. Usually this means that anything remotely involving communication goes haywire– flight delays, computer problems, interpersonal communication breakdowns, etc. Mercury’s retrograde, while often infuriating, is actually meant to force you to slow down, to take life as it comes. Looking at Holiday travel as an event to be experienced and dressed for is a great way to avoid a nervous breakdown when you inevitably have to slow down. People used to commit to months-long journeys on steam ships across the ocean! A flight delay is small potatoes, comparatively. And remember, the better dressed you are, the better you feel about yourself, and the better you feel about yourself, the more composed you’ll be when facing a twitchy ticketing agent who really just wants to be seen and treated with respect. If you look and act like someone with refined social graces, it’s possible you’ll be able do that for that harried ticketing agent. Then everyone will get the connection they need.

About Michael von Braithwaite

Does it look like I'd wear it on a boat, at an eccentric person's estate or accompanied by a peacock on a chain? Yeah, I'll probably buy that.

5 comments

  1. pagemcbee

    My gentlewoman! You are a superstar of land and sea! Thanks for this hilarious and sorely needed public service announcement.

  2. clare

    here here! i love seeing well-dressed people in airports.

    i just bought an old american tourister train case that looks a lot like this one:

    the only issue with actually using this is the stupid 3-1-1 rules. OR i could just RIDE A TRAIN instead.

  3. Leo Plass

    I hope everyone I will be stuck on planes with reads this.

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