Until Instagram, and the influencers utilizing the platform, travel fashion was ugly but efficient and effective.
It wasn’t uncommon to see cargo shorts, tank tops, long-billed hats, and fanny packs as you traveled around Europe during the summer. Winter wasn’t much prettier, with large brown jackets, big black boots, and gray wool gloves. What it lacked in beauty, outfits overcompensated in hidden pockets, extra storage space, and comfort.
As travel photography and influencers began sharing beautiful locations, they also realized they have to look good when they travel too. A lovely beach and a palm tree weren’t enough. The swimsuit, hairstyle, and sunglasses all had to be in vogue as well. Like all good things, women adopted this change significantly faster than men.
As you travel in Europe this summer, you’ll see sundresses, heels, and even some ballgowns on tourists excited to share their travel photos. However, the men will still look underdressed compared to their female counterparts. My goal is to help fix this.
You may be asking yourself, “Who is this guy, and why should I listen to him?”
My name is Layton Cox – @laytonjacobcox. I’m Angelina’s husband, and we’ve been traveling together since 2016. Angelina has always been stylish, but I needed help.
After a few years of her picking out my outfits while packing for our next trip, I found out there is a relatively simple equation to looking good as a man when traveling abroad.
No matter the season, location, weather, or culture, the outfits below will make you look great and feel confident.
White Button-Down Oxford Shirt
A button-down shirt has long been a male fashion staple. With the “slim-fit” revolution, men no longer need to worry about having too much fabric around their waist or having too long of a shirttail if they don’t tuck it into their pants.
Whether you are in a boardroom or the beach, a button-down shirt is a must-wear. The Oxford-style shirt is even better. Traditionally, Oxford shirts have collars buttoned down to the shirt itself. While this feature makes tying a tie a bit more complicated, it works great for travel and non-tie photos.
My favorite is the Amazon Brand – Goodthreads Men’s “The Perfect Oxford Shirt” Slim-Fit Long-Sleeve”.
Long-sleeve may sound hot at first, but trust me, I’ve worn this exact shirt from Egypt to Panama, and the 100% cotton keeps you cool with just the simplest of sleeve rolls.
If I had to wear one shirt in any location, it would be this one. It resists wrinkles, the collar stays down (and doesn’t widen like those terrible shirts from the 70s), it hugs my torso, has sleeves which roll and stay easily, and fits me well.
When it comes to colors, I pick white. It goes with anything. However, Blue and Turquoise also pair well with our next topic: Khaki Pants and Shorts.
Non-Pleated Khaki Pants
Now, most people hear the word “khakis” and think of Jake from State Farm. While Jake’s fashion reflects business attire, his choice of khakis works for travel as well.
Some of the first international travelers, soldiers, wore khakis for uniforms, including camouflage. Khaki is a color, a light shade of brown with a yellowish tinge. It goes well with nearly any skin color and is versatile. You can wear a pair of good fitting khaki pants at any location for almost any event (just maybe not a wedding or a funeral).
My go-to khaki pants are Amazon Essentials Men’s Slim-fit Stretch Golf Pant.
These pants are 98% polyester and 2% spandex. The slim-cut helps you look thinner with tapered legs while the spandex helps the waist stretch after too many pina coladas. They resist wrinkles, are super breathable in hot weather, and feel great.
By avoiding cotton-blends, you get a bit more flexibility in the pants and wrinkle-resistance. I can literally jam these into a backpack and then wear them the next day to a luxury restaurant.
Non-Pleated Navy Shorts
It’s a fact that pleated plants make you look wider than you truly are. They tend to add a “bagginess” to clothing and outfits, which isn’t in style. That’s why I recommend non-pleated, otherwise known as flat, pants and shorts.
Let’s get to shorts. Many people only travel during the summer, usually to warm locations like the Mediterranean, Caribbean, or East Indies. While you can wear pants, you may not fit in with the rest of the environment or be the most comfortable. Hence, shorts.
Stay away from cargo shorts. While the extra pockets may seem handy, they look ugly and are easier for pickpockets to target. Simple, flat-fronted shorts are all you need.
These are about as simple as you can get for shorts. They are 100% cotton and have a 7″ inseam. I prefer the shorter inseam to keep me cool and because the current male style is to wear shorts above your knee. If you want to go with a 9″ inseam, I completely understand. Don’t go longer than 9″, ever.
Navy is a fantastic color that goes with a white, light blue or gray shirt. I have these shorts in Navy, Stone, and Khaki. I prefer to avoid black pants or shorts when traveling because they only match well with gray or red shirts. Navy, Stone, and Khaki pair well with a wide variety of colored shirts.
Black Short Swim Suit
If you are traveling anywhere, you’ll probably want to relax either at the beach, pool, spa, or hot tub. A swimsuit is nearly as necessary as a shirt.
My go-to is the Amazon Essentials Men’s 7″ Swim Trunk.
I like black because it is a slimming color and easy to keep clean. However, I also own a few Hawaiian prints, which do look great in photos! If you are more fashion-forward, go with whatever your heart feels is appropriate. However, swimsuits should be short. Don’t go for the board short look. That’s been dead since the 90s. 7″ or shorter: that’s the rule, especially when traveling internationally. The majority of Europeans and Easterns wear significantly shorter swimsuits than Americans.
Brown Flip Flops
The flip flop is probably my most “controversial” choice of clothing.
Flip flops have a bad rap. A lot of people believe it is a childish choice of footwear, but not me. For one, I have high arches, which mean a lot of sandals rub the top of my foot oddly. Flip flops don’t. Other shoes also leave strange tan lines; I’m sure you’ve all seen the “croc” tan line photos.
I go with Amazon Essentials Men’s Flip Flop Sandal in brown.
Brown because it goes well with navy, khaki, and stone-colored pants or shorts. They also don’t get as hot as black sandals when left on the beach all day.
If you have the money, the best sandals I’ve ever owned were Rainbows. They mold to your feet after you wear them for a few weeks. Super comfy.
Non-Sandal Slip-On Shoes
If you aren’t on the beach, or by a large body of water, you probably won’t wear flip flops. If you are sightseeing, you want something close-toed and sturdy. I prefer to go with slip-on shoes. Slip-on shoes tend to look relatively “bland” in photos, which is what you want as a male traveler.
This is not the time to show off your new kicks or bring attention to really anything other than the cool location you just traveled to. In my opinion, these are the two best options:
Word of warning, if you haven’t worn Sperry’s before, don’t start. They will leave terrible blisters the first few months and need significant time to break-in. However, once you break them in, they are incredibly comfortable. They do tend to have a flatter bottom, so if you are walking miles, I would suggest the sneakers.
Sneakers may not win any design awards, but they are comfortable, easy to pack and go with nearly any outfit. In my opinion, the all-black or pewter options are my favorite but there are five other colors options if you’re looking to get creative.
With just a few colored slim-fit oxford shirts, flat-fronted khakis, navy shorts, and various shoes, you can create three to ten outfits for multiple occasions and environments. To truly customize and personalize your look, you need some accessories.
Sunglasses are a must. However, everyone’s faces are a bit different. What looks good on my face with my big nose and jaw may not look good on your face.
I prefer Joopin for a brand on Amazon. They sell high-quality sunglasses at crazy low prices.
Hats are also a great way to put your style mark on an outfit. Personally, I’m a ballcap guy. Whether it is a hat with a simple logo from my alma mater or the polo man, a simple ballcap makes me feel complete. However, I’ve seen cowboy hats, Indiana Jones’ hats, Panama hats, and bucket hats all look great with a simple outfit. Do what you think fits your personality and style best.
While these items are just the basics for male travel fashion, they are perfect since you can re-wear multiple articles of clothing while also creating a variety of outfits.
When creating outfits, I start with my bottom half and work my way up. If it’s warm, I’ll wear shorts. If it’s cold, I’ll wear pants. Depending on the pants, I’ll choose which color oxford to wear. If I’m feeling crazy, I may put on a slim-fit Hawaiian shirt. Add some shoes and accessories, and boom, you are done.
You can mix and match to your heart’s content. However, I highly suggest you follow these rules no matter what:
- Buy slim-fit, even if you are big, it looks better.
- Stick with Navy, Khaki, and Stone for your bottom colors.
- Only buy flat-fronted pants and shorts.
- The simpler, the better. Solid colors with little to no design look timeless.
- If you’re going somewhere warm, find breathable fabrics like linen to add to your top or bottom (but don’t do both at the same time).
Tip: Don’t forget to bring along a travel blazer or sports jacket if you have a reservation at a formal restaurant or just want to spiff things up.
I hope this helps you pack for your next vacation! And remember, fashion, while traveling, doesn’t need to be complicated or stressful.
Layton Cox aka The Instagram Husband