My way of passing the time when I wait in long lines at the airport is to sass out what other people are wearing. It’s fascinating. Everyone has their own unique “traveling uniform”. For reasons known exclusively to them, they’ve carefully chosen a specific set of clothes, shoes and accessories to wear for their journey. After many years of spending time in international airports, I can safely say that I’ve seen just about every type of traveling ensemble imaginable. The only thing I haven’t seen are tuxes and ball gowns, but I’ll probably see those at some point too.

In the melting pot of airport style, some fabulous looks are repeated time and again:

  • Immaculately polished flight attendants from some of the airlines. Singapore Airlines is the standout example. I don’t know how these working lasses manage to stay looking professional and perfect throughout the flight. Not a hair out of place. Mind boggling.
  • Well turned out businesspeople in fabulous suits, shoes and coats.
  • Women sporting the pseudo equestrian look with jeans tucked into boots, a tailored jacket or top, scarf and killer handbag. Sometimes it’s leggings and boots with a tunic and huge pashmina. So chic and sophisticated.

From bright Indian saris to spice toned African kaftans and headgear, I also love to see men and women in their regional dress. We refueled at Dakar on the way back from Cape Town, South Africa last week and watching the women board our flight in traditional Senegalese dress as their traveling uniforms was a real treat. They looked so effortlessly stylish and pulled together. I know that part of the reason these outfits appeal to me is that they are exciting and different from my point of view, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying them.

Of course, you also see everything else: sweats, pajama bottoms, short-shorts, big baggy T-shirts with moon bags (fanny packs), leg shortening capris with socks and athletic sneakers, crotch-scraping mini-skirts, head sweatbands, spiked 5-inch stiletto heels, Crocs and beach flip flops.

Some of this is just the variety of life, but it also represents different travel style philosophies. It wasn’t too long ago that people generally dressed up for air travel. Some people still do. There is also the other end of the spectrum where people dress for comfort at all costs. The best example of this approach was the businessman we saw in his pajamas under a long coat. At a glance he was businesslike, with the coat and briefcase, but then at security all was revealed.

Personally, I like to wear comfortable items when I travel, but I also have to feel good about the way I look. I usually wear jeans with ballet flats or boots and multiple layers on top to keep warm during a freezing flight. I also wear a huge scarf to keep doubly warm. What is your approach when you dress for long flights?