Style / Trends


By Brendan Sullivan

There was a time in this country when air travel was attached to sophistication, but with long lines at security and irritable stewards, those times seem to have hit the iceberg lately. How does The Modern Gentlemen inject romance and style in into a seemingly unsophisticated experience?
If you’re going to travel at all, you might as well do it in style.  No need to pack your best suit (why fret about wrinkles and lost luggage?) when you can wear it on the airplane.  I always travel in a three-piece suit.  That way, if I have any in-flight mishaps I can peel off the vest, change my tie, and stroll off the plane ready for business or pleasure.
Airport security is an indignity that can be suffered with grace. Though it’s a long, tedious process, it’s no worse than Ellis Island.  Always arrive with plenty of time (two hours domestic, three international), so that you can calmly saunter through the airport instead of dashing frantically about, throwing your luggage around.
Always wear loafers or lace-less shoes and, if you think you can pull it off, get a cowboy belt with a simple wire-metal buckle. When the rest of the travelers are struggling to unlace their boots while holding up their pants, you can just skip ahead, slip off your loafers and unsnap the metal buckle, leaving the leather around your waist as you sail past the line (but try not to look too smug).
For a quick trip, where you are planning on traveling in your suit and packing your play-clothes, a surprisingly great bag is the Burton DJ Bag.  Who would have thought that a company that designs for the Red Bull set would think of something so clever?  This is a stately laptop bag that does not make you look like you run tech support.  The laptop pocket is actually suspended within the frame of the bag, so if you end up dropping it, the laptop itself won’t hit the ground.  The front pockets are more than you need to store books, cords and important documents.   There’s also a full-front pocket that is large enough for file folders. This will save you the trouble of accidentally presenting your laundry during business meetings.
The inside pockets have a full zip lip, which means it opens up like a proper suitcase and – ready for this? – it is lined with striped suit-lining.  Most nylon bags tend to collect dirt from sneakers and misplaced snack items.  But the Burton DJ bag has a fresh bright lining that always looks clean.  You will also look ageless and stylish carrying it.  There are detachable straps, which make it functional.  The Burton bag also has a leather bottom to it, so you will never have to worry about putting it down in Calcutta.
Other tips for bags: 

Backpack straps: nothing makes you look like a six year old more than twin backpack straps.  BUT there is a time and place for everything.  On your return flight when you’re loaded down with duty-free and wearing a short-sleeved button down shirt: use the straps.

Shoulder strap: The Modern Gentleman does not wear shoulder pads with a shoulder bag.  There are interim times when it is okay and helpful to use a shoulder bag (back and forth between errands in a button-down).  But if you are traveling in your overcoat a single shoulder strap will shift your posture and you will always look out of breath.

Handle strap: It’s there.  It’s perfectly positioned for a heavy bag.  When you learn to carry your bags by the handle you discover that it’s easier to wield through crowds ("Pardon," your bag says demurely as you raise it over your head).  And The Modern Gentlemen appreciates this because he likes to make good time in traffic, and he is never late.

For the longer trip it actually matters less which bag you pack because you probably won’t carry it around much.  A suit bag need only be comfortable, clean and it should not advertise anything on the outside.

Your sport coats also becomes a kind of luggage on long trips, especially if you’re on a plane for long enough that you can’t reach into your pants pockets conveniently.  It helps, in general, to map out your pockets so you will never worry while traveling.  Left-breast-pocket: passport, tickets.  Right-breast pocket: Phone, pertinent travel information.  This will also keep you from going in your bag for lost papers when you aren’t sure what might pop out.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky in the airport and have a chance to upgrade to first class.  Should you take it?  On a two-leg trip routed through Charlotte in the same time zone?  Don’t bother.  But bicoastal or international?  Yes, please!  When you travel First-Class you arrive well-fed, relaxed and ready for anything.  Also, your seat-mate in First Class will be some kind of big-shot.  You’ll either sit next to Elijah Wood or someone who can explain how a MRI really works.  Or, you can toast with someone else who upgraded and joke about how the job market has finally smiled on the both of you.
Luggage: to check or not to check?  
Somewhere along the way, you may have decided that checking luggage is somehow emasculating.  You may feel that checked baggage comes with a white-bar-coded stigmata that screams, "Amateur!"  Not true at all.
A Modern Gentleman is like the doctor who knows when to refer to a specialist.  So let’s try two scenarios:
Let’s say you’re packing lighter than usual.  It’s a short trip and you’re wearing your best so you don’t need a suit bag.  You have committed to loafers, so there are no shoes in our luggage.  You have a laptop, a change of clothes and an outfit for down time.  If necessary, it fits right under the seat.  So don’t check it.
But let’s be realistic.  We’ve all been in line behind someone who can’t even lift her cello-case-sized-coffin into the overhead.  Why wouldn’t you check a bag like that? The Modern Gentleman always likes to err on the side of adventure and the possibility of a funny story.  If your bag gets (improbably) lost, the airlines will trip all over themselves to get it to you right away.  Is that the worst that can happen?  No.  The worst is that you arrive in a strange city and you have to go shopping and buy a new outfit before your meeting.  
There’s a certain kind of person that cannot entrust another human being with his possessions: you do not want to be that guy.
The concierges at every hotel sit around all day telling stories of their heroics.  If your luggage evaporated over the Atlantic and you have a meeting ten minutes after you arrive in your hotel lobby and you absolutely must have a clean, white, dress shirt, call it in.  They’ll probably steam the creases out and brag about it for months.
Also, if you check your bag you can comfortably relax in the terminal and not worry that Homeland Security will take a sudden interest in your laundry.  You can stroll around, maybe try a new newspaper, have a drink at the airport bars, strike up a conversation with a wonderful person.  Everyone loves talking to a sharp-dressed stranger. If you’re in a large group or traveling with a companion you can be their hero and help them carry a bag. 

Delightful distractions
Remember that air travel is an escape like no other: embrace it.  Don’t bring that book-you-keep-meaning-to-finish. Pack light, and when you get through security (early) pick up a newspaper you’d never read.  If you’re traveling from New York to London: get the Boston Globe.  If you normally read books with embossed mass-market paperback covers, pick up some Hemingway.  If you’re a little too into Zadie Smith, find out what this whole Angels and Demons thing is about.
You’re about to sail through the air, fighting gravity and time.  Live a little…
There is the matter of in-flight sleeping pills.  Do you need them?  Do you really need them?  The Modern Gentleman always travels hopped up on goodwill and airport coffee.  If you would like to arrive at your destination feeling like you just got home from Bonaroo, be my guest. But you’ll miss out on a journey.
The number one thing you need to do is relax.  Flight delayed?  Not a problem — especially if you’re five-chapters deep into the latest by Dan Brown.  The most exhausting part of your trip is the stress.  So relax.
The Modern Gentleman always offers to buy a round of drinks when that little cart comes by, but never gets drunk in-air.
It’s important to drink water when you travel, but it’s even more important to breathe regularly.  Some travelers tend to over-do it with the pre-flight bottles of water, and those are the ones antsy for the SEATBELTS sign to blink off. This may be okay if you have an aisle seat and a long flight, but if you’re all the way at the window you might not wish to crawl across two sleeping travelers every half-hour to stand in line for those tiny bathrooms. Drink a nice big bottle of water after you land.  Your body will thank you.
Sitting beside strangers for an entire flight can be stressful, so why not kindly break the ice and just introduce yourself? Simply say, “Hello, nice to meet you, where are you traveling today?” You’ll have someone to talk to during pre-flight, and you might even get lost in conversation, saying things like, "The Thank-You-Note is a lost art, but for informal gatherings a thoughtful Thank-You-Postcard goes a long way to ingratiating yourself to the hostess."
And she’ll say something like, "Really, even just for a dinner party between friends?"  Then about halfway through the flight you have no trouble asking your new friend if they wouldn’t mind you visiting the lavatory.


When you arrive at your destination, you will be in no hurry.  You will stroll around the new airport and find your way to the exit.  You may call your loved ones and tell them you’ve arrived safe.  And five minutes later, your heavy bag will appear right by the exit door.