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Traveling In Style

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Hard to believe it now, but once upon a time people actually dressed up for air travel. Today, as you know, anything goes. John Mariani, a world-famous food and wine journalist, reminds us in his newsletter The Virtual Gourmet, dressing up for the flight and during your trip has its advantages.

One of Mariani’s more thought provoking suggestions in the course of his article is to consider how you look to the concierges, front desk clerks, fine dining restaurant hosts, and others you will encounter in the course of your travel. In one section he writes that showing up at the counter in a jacket and, preferably, a tie can work wonders with the gate and flight attendants in getting you a bit of preferential treatment.

While I agree that looking good can help you score little favors, free upgrades seems a rather tall order these days. I do have to admit that John Mariani in full splendor is quite a site to behold. At the first of what would be many more industry lunch meetings for this journalist in Manhattan, I was quick to notice an exceptionally elegant man with a distinctive, fitted suit, gorgeous tie, and silk handkerchief in his pocket who looked as if there was an invisible valet behind him, keeping him polished, crisp, and free of lint. Though I knew John Mariani’s work by name, I didn’t realize it was him until the first round of formal introductions.

The incredible importance of being absolutely the best-dressed person in the room was made clear to me on that momentous day. A well-dressed individual exudes an air of confidence and makes others curious to learn more. Mariani’s look is uniquely his own. Though it’s rare to see the impeccable, airbrushed male suit models in magazines like GQ and Esquire in “real life,” Mariani approximates this camera-ready style.

Breaking down the look, I’d have to say Mariani’s style is not just one thing; it’s many things. For people wishing to approximate it, starting with a well-tailored suit of the best fabric is key. Then comes the GQ part of finding the right shirt to offset the subtle pattern of the suit – classic, expensive, yet low key cuff links, and both a silk tie and neckerchief of the highest quality in a design and color that somehow pick up the colors of the shirt and suit.

I can’t tell you how it’s done, but almost every issue of the above-named magazines offers detailed examples. Women can incorporate the same ideas by choosing a scarf and learning how to tie it in different ways. Bottom line? Accessories matter.

I’ve been reading his newsletter for quite a while (free subscription on his site, linked with his name above), but something about this particular article really resonated with me. With that, I’ll let him have the last word: “As I said up front, traveling with a certain elegance can be as comfortable as traveling in bad taste. For those who couldn't care less, go right ahead. But don't blame me if a maître d' in a posh restaurant leans over to say, ‘Are you dining with us today, sir, or are you here to check the gas meter?’"

I'd be so pleased to hear your responses via the comments section below. I'll compile thoughts about what makes a well-dressed person. 

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  • Hi Marisa
    Dressing well conjures up an image of formality and we imagine wearing the most expensive business attire. But the term “dressing well” has many shades to it.We must first Dress for the situation,a person wearing a tuxedo would be out of place going for a swim off a hot beach.So before we start to put on clothes we must always think about where we are going.Dressing well in this example is a situational one,but it covers only one part of the subject,”Dressing attractively”covers the other part.To dress well also means dressing attractively and this requires good taste.Before buying any clothes, spend some time in front of the dressing room mirror,and ask yourself the question: If I wear this item will I be dressing well?,if the answer is yes,you wont be wrong.

  • Good point, Melvin – thanks!