Deciding what to wear while traveling can be daunting. Obviously, if you’re going to be sitting on a plane or doing a lot of driving, you want to be wearing something comfortable, but you may have to get right off the plane and go to a meeting where you’re presenting that long-term project and you want to be feeling confident and looking your best. Or maybe scrubbing around in sweatpants just isn’t your style, and you’d prefer to be well-dressed regardless of context. Either way, here is a list of functional accessories that will help you travel smoothly, comfortably, and fashionably.
A good pair of gloves is more than just cold weather gear (although obviously you shouldn’t neglect them for your trip to Minneapolis in January.) Fine leather gloves can be worn year-round and provide a degree of protection for your hands from the elements. Driving gloves may seem like an antiquated concept, but if you’ve ever tried to grab a hot steering wheel in the middle of summer, you can probably see the appeal.
Gloves also provide a barrier between your hands and potential contaminants in the environment, particularly when handling surfaces or objects that a lot of people are likely to touch: gas pump handles are a good example, where a pair of sturdy gloves will keep wayward gasoline from your bare hands.
Unlike gloves, scarves are more limited to the cooler months of the year. Even the lightest scarf is going to warm you up in the summer, not to mention that it might seem a bit out of place. But for the months you can wear them comfortably, a scarf is a great way to add a touch of personality and color to a traveling outfit.
Shetland wool is the gold standard for scarves and will keep you superlatively warm without collecting moisture and becoming wet and clammy like cotton. Depending on the conditions, you can go with a tightly woven scarf for insulation or something more loosely knit for warmer weather, which also adds a different visual texture to the overall ensemble.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to store and carry your essentials, leather briefcases are a great fit that makes for a striking fashion statement to boot. You’ll want something rugged, but light. Brown and black leather are generally more professional, making those colors ideal if you travel for work, while tan fits a more relaxed, casual environment.
If you choose a brown briefcase, try to pick a visibly different shade than your belt and shoes. Trying to match shades between different products is generally a fool’s errand due to the high variability of the leather dying process, and so you’ll almost certainly end up with an infuriating almost-but-not-quite match.
Leather briefcases come in a variety of styles and shapes, so take some time to find one that fits your hand comfortably and works well with your build.
Some kind of belt is a necessity—if you’re like most men, you’d prefer your trousers to stay on while you move around. That said, belts can be much more than just a strip of black or brown leather these days. While the traditional single buckled black or brown belt hasn’t gone anywhere, and still is your best bet in a more conservative work environment, for more casual spaces there are a variety of patterned, woven, and textured belts that can add a bit of visual interest to an outfit, particularly if you’re forgoing the sport coat or blazer.
Light brown and tan colors are the norm for these more casual belts, but if you’re looking for something really striking there are options like red and white that will hold up your trousers very boldly indeed.
While not an accessory per se, a good pair of shoes can make or break an outfit–and also break your feet if you get the wrong size. Like most leather goods, dark brown and black are your best bet for the timeless, traditional look, while lighter browns, tan, and more unorthodox colors are suited to casual environments.
Special care should be taken when choosing shoes, however, because you still have to walk in them; those Oxford wingtips in black and white might be the sharpest thing you’ve ever seen, but if they’re just too small to fit your Sasquatch feet into, you’ll have to learn to live with something more solid.
When you do find a good shoe that fits well and looks great, wear them around the house for a day or two to break them in before you have to sprint across an entire airport for a connecting flight, otherwise, blisters and misery are in your future.
Bonus Tip: Picking Colors
Black and brown for professional, white and tan for casual is a good rule of thumb when picking colors for your leather goods, but there is a bit more to it than that, and it involves the colors of fabric you’re wearing as well. Black leather is the simplest to work with, as it’s neutral and goes with everything. If you’re buying your first pair of dress shoes, black is the way to go.
Brown shoes and belts should only be worn with blue or brown fabrics, never black. When wearing more casual clothing, the rules are more relaxed, and you can introduce colors outside of the traditional dark palettes, but the extra freedom can be daunting. Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong if you stick to black with black, gray with black, and brown with blue.
There is a stereotype that men don’t care about how they dress. If that’s true for you, keep an open mind and just try putting together a full outfit for your traveling needs following this list. More than just fashionable, most men’s accessories are practical and will help you in some way while traveling. Perhaps more importantly, though, spending some time putting together an outfit is a surprising confidence boost, which you will certainly discover if you take the time.