Talese on Travel: Dress Well, Get Treated Well

On the practical benefits of keeping up appearances on the road.
Photo: Art Tavee

Three-piece suit equals faster Martini service.

When I’m traveling, as I am so regularly these days, I maintain the same high tailoring standards in airports as I would if dining at La Grenouille. This, I’m happy to report, invariably impresses the flight attendants who greet me as I enter the cabin and (I’m also happy to report) earns me immediate attention when I request a first Martini and, on long flights, it induces them to promptly accede to my wish for an extra blanket and pillow. Perhaps because a majority of passengers, even those flying first class or business, are shabbily-attired on airplanes—people dress for comfort, caring little about being eyesores—those few of us who bring fashion to frequent flying are treated like royalty, or so has been my experience.

The only concession I make to “dressing down” while flying is in my choice of footwear. I have a pair of Italian-made Bally loafers that I always wear when heading to an airport, knowing that I’ll have to take off my shoes while passing through security, and these soft-leather loafers are easy to kick off and put on again. Since they’re black with a brown weaved leather facing across the front, they’re compatible with whatever color trousers I might be wearing. When standing in line waiting to submit my luggage for inspection, I always try to get in line behind people traveling with young children. The security people seem to favor child-burdened couples in getting them through the screening process more easily, and this courtesy is usually extended to me as I follow close behind, especially (as I say) when my fancy tailoring also suggests that I’m unlikely to be a grudge-bearing terrorist.

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