Good style while traveling requires intelligent planning. Your clothing must be compact, multi-purpose, and versatile – across different cultures, climates, and situations. It’s almost impossible.
There is only one essential outfit that meets these requirements for the masculine and stylish traveler.
The iconic, versatile, always stylish, physique flattering – Sports Jacket and Jeans.
Why style matters when traveling?
Women. They instantaneously evaluate our clothes just as we do their bodies. This drives everything from her desire to chat with you to how quickly her panties will be on your hotel room floor. You can’t wear backpacker clothes on a date.
Some social activities are off limits. Particularly in places like Russia or Eastern Europe, clubs and nice bars have “face control.” The bouncers will not let you in unless you meet certain aesthetic standards.
Interactions with locals. The grungy backpacker look repulses everyone except your fellow backpackers. What’s the point of traveling if you aren’t having frequent quality interactions with locals?
Business and job opportunities. You never know when you will encounter an opportunity while traveling. Dressing well both increases the odds of this happening and allows you to appropriately dress for a meeting.
What is a Sports Jacket? Is it the same as a Blazer or Suit Jacket?
I’ll start with the basics, because I’m American. We are fashion challenged. Embarrassingly, I didn’t know anything about this topic until solidly into adulthood.
Your first thought may be to reach for the old suit in the back of your closet. Unfortunately, the suit jacket is not an appropriate pairing with jeans. Suits are made from smoother fabric and look far too formal. Also, if you use the suit jacket frequently, it will fade and no longer match the suit trousers.
Blazers are closer to sports coats. Often the terms are used interchangeably. However, blazers are typically more formal and tighter fitting that sports coats. They can work with jeans, but they are still a bit “preppy,” which limits what shoes and shirts you can pair them with. The snugger fit limits layering options.
The sports coat is the most casual and versatile option. You can dress them up with nice trousers,shoes, shirt, and a tie or dress them all the way down to jeans and sneakers. They have room for a light layer underneath. The sweet spot for a traveler or expat.
“Sports Jacket and Jeans Look” – The Components
Some things to consider when purchasing a sports jacket:
Thickness and material. For travel, you’ll probably want a thinner material that folds compactly. If you need warmth, you can accomplish with layering. Cheaper jackets are made with polyester – avoid this. Stick with natural fibers like wool, cotton, or linen.
Color. Go for compatibility with shirts or jeans that you already have. For versatility, stick to solid colors or subtle patterns. Charcoal, dark brown, light grey, or navy are all solid choices.
Fit. If at all possible, get it tailored specifically for your body. It makes an enormous difference.
I assume that most travelers already carry one pair of jeans. Go with jeans that are on the classier end of the spectrum – avoid holes, acid washes or distressing.
You’ll want them to be fitted (not skinny or baggy) to compliment the masculine v-shape that the jacket enhances..
Get stretch jeans! This makes all the difference when hiking or getting crammed into tiny busses, riding camels, etc. I live in my Levi’s 514’s.
- 99% Cotton, 1% Elastane
- Regular fit through thigh with a straight leg
I’ve heard many a girl say that they focus on shoes more than anything else – go figure. As a general rule, the type of shoes should be governed by the type of pants.
Since we’re talking about jeans, this constrains you to the range of nice sneakers up to casual dress shoes or boots.
If you are traveling light, it is understandable that you may only have one pair of sneakers, so make sure they are compatible with your jacket and jeans.
In my opinion, chukkas or casual dress boots are the most masculine choice and perfectly strike a casual/formal balance. If you have the space, I’d take them. The Clarks Chukka Boot is a staple of just about every stylish man’s arsenal.
- 100% leather
- Quality that lasts years
Between brown and black shoes, brown is the more versatile color. Often black comes across as too formal unless it specifically matches your hair/complexion/style.
The beauty of the sports jacket is that it can be paired with almost any kind of shirt!
Long sleeve collared shirt. The go-to choice. Dress down with no tie and the collar open. Add a tie for more formal situations.
T-shirt. Classic for going out to a night club or evening date. Stick with solid, colors. I prefer v-necks, but standard and even button-up t-shirts work.
Sweater or sweater vest. You can wear a simple sweater under the jacket or a sweater vest over a collared shirt.
Polo shirt. Not that common, but it works well in the third picture above.
Turtle-neck sweater. A good choice when the weather is cold.
Match the color and formality of the shoes – ’nuff said.
I always carry a cotton bandana while traveling. It can serve double duty as a pocket-square. I like the paisley pattern, feels ‘American’ to me and adds some color to the jacket.
Keeps your money and cards in a thin package that doesn’t bulge your jacket pockets. This is the one I recommend.
Figuring out your own style
Observe, take notes….Pinterest!
I started paying attention to style when I was living in Krasnodar, Russia. I felt so poorly dressed in comparison to local men. To learn, I simply sat on a park bench in the center of the city and observed what men were wearing. I took notes using my phone.
The best tool for organizing your shopping list is Pinterest. There are thousands of accounts dedicated to showing different outfits. You can search for “sports jacket and jeans” and start saving all the looks that you like. Refer to this when out shopping.
How to fold a suit jacket for travel
How a sports jacket should fit