How to look fresh and crisp when traveling

How to look fresh and crisp when traveling

Q. When I travel for work I always have an issue with my jackets or suits looking wrinkled. I have a 3-day trip coming up and would love to get away with just wearing the jacket or suit I travel in. Can you provide hints or a few combinations to help pull this off ?

A. I can definitely help you create three very different looks with one jacket. This works best with a blue blazer. But first, I do want to point out that there are a number of ways to pack a jacket and keep it looking fresh and pressed. Know that you have that option; then you can decide whether or not to bring more choices.

Generally speaking, clothes become wrinkled or lose their crisp look based on skipping some key preparations more than on the fact that it is packed. To begin, here are 3 different ways to pack a suit or jacket. 

  1. A hanging bag. This is the most obvious choice, but many men today don’t even know of the option: A hanging bag is made of fabric; it folds in half and can be brought with you in a car, on a train seat, or on the plane. When placing suits or jackets in a hanging bag, the surest way to avoid unwanted creases is to hang each garment on its own hanger. Begin by putting one clear dry-cleaner’s plastic bag directly on the empty hanger, then the garment, and lastly another plastic bag, covering it. The bags from more than one garment slip past each other and keep one item from wrinkling the others. 
  2. A large suitcase. As with a hanging bag, again you want to use at least one plastic bag per item. Obviously, there is more pressure on clothes when folded in a suitcase, so you need to fold carefully and not stack too many on top of each other. 
  3. A carry-on. Of course many men now try to pack only a carry-on, particularly on shorter trips; this is a smaller and more carefully-packed bag. Here it is still important not to over-pack and try to fit too much into your bag. But, oddly, it’s also important never to leave empty space for the clothes to slide around in and wrinkle. In a carry-on, tissue paper works almost as well as plastic bags and also helps fill any empty space. 

In all cases be sure that nothing has too much pressure on it. And when you arrive, there are absolute steps to take. Immediately, hang all your clothing in a closet. This insures that your garments do not spend any additional, unnecessary time being pressed together. Bring anything with any wrinkles that bother you into the bathroom and hang it in the room during your shower, and/or run a hot, steaming shower with curtain open and door closed (without you). Allow the garment to cool before moving it to the closet. Finally, you might check with the concierge about how quickly they can press a jacket or if they have an in-room steamer to lend.

Now, back to your original request of ways to wear the same jacket for 3 days and not be noticed – which I believe is your worry. Your choices obviously need to be based on the occasions you will be wearing it. This also determines whether a suit is essential or whether a blue blazer would work. 

  • If you have a very serious, fairly formal business event, but one that doesn’t specifically require a suit, such as a professional dinner, followed by an informal business meeting – which are common on such a trip, this is fairly easy. That is, you could have 2-3 different pairs of trousers to give you variety. For shirts, you could have a white, a blue, and a third color, or a stripe. I would include a French-cuff shirt with cufflinks that are not gaudy but that could be your focal point . . . and maybe similar choices for pocket squares. Pack 3 or 4 different ties: one that’s noticeable/memorable, one that’s very subtle, and one that’s quietly conservative, or perhaps go without a tie on one or more occasions. 
  • If all 3 days are at the same level of formality and if that is highly staid, then your approach is more limited. You may need a suit and it may need to be combined with a white or near-white (ivory) shirt. In this case, one tie might be solid, another a stripe, and a third in a small all-over neat print (perhaps a paisley). The idea, of course, is to try to make the ties more memorable than the suit or the jacket. 
  • In between these levels are a few other options. Again your trousers and shirts could be a mix of not-too-expected garments. Men often overlook unusual trousers that are available in better men’s specialty shops. Interesting patterns, such as a subtle tweed, a herringbone, or tiny checks (but not a stripe) can help you join the dapper dresser crowd. Another way to add style to a blazer is to layer it over a colorful sweater. These accessories work well to set the men apart from the boys.

A man can certainly get way with wearing the same shoes 3 days in a row, if they are a quality pair in good condition. However, you may be more concerned with wrinkles than with over-packing, so adding a pair of loafers to a good pair of cap-toes will provide diversity to your look. At the risk of repeating myself from previous columns, another way to set you apart from the crowd is to be perfectly well-groomed throughout your stay. 

Finally, I should point out that these suggestions on variety also work for longer trips. That is, bring more than one jacket/suit and vary your combinations. The most interesting thing with this amount of care and thought, is you will go from hoping people don’t notice that your clothing is repeating to hoping (and succeeding) at having people notice how well you are put together. 

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