It’s predawn in some windowless, low-ceilinged airport terminal like Atlanta’s Hartfield or New York’s LaGuardia. You’ve somehow managed to get packed at a ridiculously late (or early) hour, hail a cab in the morning frost, and make your flight in enough time to stand in four (or more) queues, capping it all off with the most metallic-tasting cup of coffee you’ve ever had in your life. In other words, you’re glad you remembered to wear pants at all, much less something smart and functional. It’s a rare instance when someone dresses down right after getting out of bed, yet that’s exactly what the harried state of contemporary air travel tends to encourage. We’re here to remind you that feeling comfortable and looking good aren’t mutually exclusive. Case in point: these four super-sharp, pliable, easily packable items. Put them in your travel kit and you’ll hit the skies in style (and maybe even score an upgrade).
1) On the subject of comfort: You’re going to be sitting motionless in a steel tube for the next one to fifteen hours. Pack your denim in your carry-on, and pull on a pair of broken-in chinos for the flight. Gilded Age (above right) makes nearly the perfect travel pant. Flat front, beat up, and with a slightly looser fit than the slimmer chinos you may prefer at sea-level (to make crossing your legs a little easier in that bulkhead seat). Bonus points for the more generous heft of cotton used, which makes wrinkling less of a problem.
2) Here’s the first real step to standing out amid your fellow travelers: Get a sturdy cotton oxford shirt. Opt for white or some lighter color, and one with a button-down collar—key when you’re going tie-less (which, by the way, is perfectly fine). It’ll keep your neckline looking crisp before, during, and after your flight.
3) The most powerful tool in your airport arsenal: an unstructured sports jacket. It’s a garment made for travel. The inner breast pocket provides ample space for your awkwardly-sized boarding pass and/or passport, while your folded copy of The New Yorker will fit squarely into the outer patch or flap pocket. And it’ll provide just enough warmth during your no doubt over-air-conditioned journey. We suggest something of the silk-lined wool tweed variety, like the Loden Dager jacket pictured above. It’s easy to stash in your overhead compartment with a simple fold, without fear of wrinkles.
4) Thanks to a lunatic wearing explosive sneakers, we all have to endure the indignity of removing our shoes at the airport. The unfortunate reaction to this fact has been a hostility towards laces that is tantamount to all-out war. If those eleven seconds it takes to unlace at security proves too much, then slip-on loafers should be the only lace-free shoes you’re putting on your feet. Otherwise, a pair of brown suede oxfords from Florsheim by Duckie Brown (like the ones pictured above) would do nicely, and could possibly slip on and off without even involving the untying process, saving literally dozens of seconds.