Dress Tips

5 style tips for business travelers (who never check a bag)

By on February 26th, 2019

If you travel regularly for business, you can probably have access to expedited security screening, business lounges, and know exactly what goes into your carry on bag. But as a consequence of packing so minimally, do you ever feel that your style could be improved? Dressing well can have a positive impact on your business success. And feeling confident in your clothing, while in a business lounge or meeting with clients, is important, right?

But nobody wants to have to pack a larger bag just to dress well. Let alone have to check a bag!

Here are five of my favorite style tips for you, the regular business traveler. You won’t need to increase the size of your carry on bag and you’ll still have room for some more casual clothes to relax in.

Is this an exhaustive list? Certainly not. Your specific office, personal taste, and travel needs will all dictate what goes into your bag and what doesn’t. But if you want to dress a little more stylishly this year while on the road, here’s what I suggest:

#1: Pack a monochromatic outfit

For example, tones of grey, charcoal, and navy tend to work well during the day, but when happy hour turns into dinner with your colleagues, that dark blazer or dress shirt will do just fine in a restaurant setting. Remember, darker colors tend to work best under dressy circumstances or at night, whereas lighter colors like grays and light blues are best for daytime.

For example: Pack a navy suit/blazer and a light blue dress shirt. Pair with a striped tie for business hours, but lose it for dinner and unbutton the first button or two on your shirt for a more casual look.

#2: Brown lace-up dress shoes

As a frequent traveler, you probably don’t have to remove your shoes as often as you had to just a couple years back. So leave the loafers or slip-on shoes at home and wear your dressier lace-up Oxfords again. Acceptable for pretty much any business occasion, a lace-up dress shoe is always going to look better than a loafer.

This isn’t to say that loafers aren’t awesome — they are — but they are inherently casual. And a dark brown lace-up will pair well with most suits. [Exception: if you wear dark suits, like something in a dark charcoal or black, stick to black dress shoes.]

By the way, I hope you’re not frowning at the notion of wearing Oxfords on a travel day, because there are plenty of super comfortable Oxford style shoes out there.

Pro tip: Wear these shoes when you travel. You’ll free up space in your bag for other things (e.g. lighter shoes like running sneakers).

#3: Turn the hotel shower into a steamer

This is a common travel hack that’s worth repeating. And especially when you consider that since all suit jackets and woolen pants are going to wrinkle a little after time on a plane. As soon as you check into your hotel, hang up your nice business clothes in the closet and put the next day’s outfit on a hanger in the bathroom. Close the door when you shower for a simple steam job to get some of the wrinkles out.

Or, buy a travel-sized steamer and get all the wrinkles out!

#4: Pack a pocket square

If you follow this blog regularly, you’ll know that we regularly work to show guys just how awesome pocket squares can be. Given that a pocket square takes up almost no room in your bag, there’s no reason not to bring one or two, right? Pack a square folded and pressed white pocket square for your big presentation and a colored one for a dinner out. It’s a subtle touch to your personal style, but a great way for people to remember you.

#5: Wear a sportcoat more often

For us guys, one of the easiest things we can do to dress better in a hurry, is to simply wear a sportcoat. Putting one on over a button-up dress shirt, polo shirt, or even a T-shirt, instantly elevates your look. And in the context of traveling, a sportcoat is downright practical!

While it’s best not to use your outside jacket pockets for anything too bulky (or you run the risk of deforming the pockets’ shape), you usually have three or four inner pockets that are fair game. Your phone, wallet, small notebook, pen, these are all things that you want to have close at hand. Sure, you could rummage through your briefcase, but it’s a lot easier to simply reach inside your jacket.

And if you’re worried about how to pack a blazer in your bag, don’t be! Here’s everything you need to know about packing a suit jacket for travel to avoid excessive wrinkling.