How to Look Like You Actually Belong At A European Airport

So first of all I must ask you to excuse the simplicity of this post as it was originally drafted on a British Airways napkin 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.  Secondly, I must admit I've missed all of you terribly and hope the style world failed to ferociously devour any of you during my absence.  Thirdly, Africa was absolutely incredible...but more on that later.

As you might imagine, other than the undeniable European influence within the larger urban areas of the country, Uganda offers very little in the form of inspiration for style blog posts.  However, what did manage to recharge my interior fashionista (or is it the masculine "fashionisto"?) was my time spent in London, England, both in Heathrow Airport and during my short time touring the legendary city itself.

Now ashamedly I must confess that my style-ometer was running almost completely on the opposite side of "refined" during my time in the European hub.  As a friend of mine who has been to England more times than Madonna told me, "You'll know you're in London when you look around and you're the worst dressed person in the entire country."  Now granted, I had just returned from a small village in Eastern Africa where hot showers are a luxury that last little more than 30 seconds, but looking around, I was astounded at the impeccable style of the average business man strolling through the terminal.  Conversely, I stood drenched to the bone after a painfully ignorant decision to wear canvas espadrilles and a t-shirt to the coldest, wettest island on the planet.  I therefore still find it inexplicable that the good people of Britain actually allowed me to set foot in any establishment at all without immediately calling the Bobbies to come and remove the unfortunate-looking American transient standing in their doorway.     

Rock the Euro-Casual
Luckily, if you wish to avoid such embarrassment while traveling through the Mother Land, the solution is surprisingly simple and yet unbelievably dashing. Without question, the commonality between nearly every stylish gentleman I encountered while in London was their adaptation of a classic idea--pairing a dress shirt and blazer with jeans. This look was absolutely everywhere, and it's no mystery why. Insanely simple to put together, and even simpler to personalize. So, let's break down the essentials you'll need to master this look as well as the elements every man can use to customize this staple of European cool.

1. So Where Do You Keep Your Legs? 
You've already got a go-to fitted blazer, right? Good. Now the next step is ditching the chinos and reaching for a perfectly trim pair of jeans, which absolutely make or break this look. Those shredded, wide-legged JNCOs from junior high, have no place here, or anywhere outside of a toxic waste disposal site for that matter. Your jeans should be slim, low rise, in a dark wash. But don't buy into the lie that good jeans cost a year's salary. My absolute best fitting slim jeans came from Old Navy for under $30. I know...I was surprised too.
Old Navy, Men's Premium Skinny Jeans, $39.50

2. Get To The Point
The pointed-toe dress shoe is absolutely everywhere in London and for good reason.  The streamlined profile these shoes provide is stunningly sharp and refined in the way that takes the entire look in a direction far away from that bulky-shoe, XL blazer, disheveled look of the 90s.  And if you're looking for something more comfortable to wear when you're hopping on a plane, for instance, check out some of these ridiculously cool pointed-toe sneakers from TOPMAN.
TOPMAN, Decon Summer Plimsoll, $64
3.  Don't Blend In Too Much
Once you've got the basics down, don't be afraid to punch it up with your own personal swagger.  Add a tie, a pocket square, a belt, a beard--whatever fits your style.  Just keep it simple.  If you start adding every accessory you can think of, you'll be cursing yourself as you sit unable to move throughout the duration of your 8-hour flight.  One of the easiest ways to punch some life into this look is to play with the color or pattern of your dress shirt.  Bright, solid colors like blue and purple can do wonders and pinstripes and plaid give you a decidedly American look.  But just in case you were wondering, floral-patterned dress shirts (like those from the 1970s) are coming back in Europe in a big way (although very slowly), so perhaps you can take the initiative and be a frontrunner in getting the trend back to the States.  Whatever you decide, rock it with that American confidence we used to be famous for.  With any luck, maybe you can make up for any damage I did last week to the global perception of American style.  Here's to hoping.


  1. In my many trips to the Europe across several years I've learned two things. London is not representative of the UK(and the UK not representative of Europe) in terms of fashion on the ground. Two, European fashions pass throw the UK filter before reaching the US and some don't make the cut. I've kept a close eye on ASOS and Topman for many years now. I'd bet a top dollar outside of designer parties, Greenwich village, and the adventurous stylist as yourself floral prints won't spark that strong here in the US. I'm very partial to European styling versus American. However, advising your readers to frontline that trend might be setting them up for a cross culture nose dive. European men will take a tram one block away to go eat lunch because their shoes are so uncomfortable but good looking(and complain the whole time even when you ask them to stop and offer to buy their expresso if they stop!). I don't see that resolve in American(or Southern American) men. I'll be interested to see if that 70's trend breaks the UK wall(cities outside London, because London just like Dublin are Continental transplants when it comes to fashion and pop culture.) And then if it can actually break the US mainstream wall.

  2. I have noticed that many of my shirts that I get from Manchester have that floral patter on the inside of the sleeves, revealed only when I have them cuffed and rolled. I suppose the next logical step is to bring it to the outside. I wonder if the identically styled (and material) ties will come back too. You know the ones that you could never tell if someone was actually wearing a tie or not, unless the tie moved.

  3. @Jarrot: I agree fully, my friend, London cannot be taken as a definitive representation of European style at large, but I assure my readers that this look is additionally everywhere this week in Milan among the attendees of Fashion Week. I also agree floral prints should be approached with extreme caution. As of now, they seem to be seeping slowly into the more upscale Euro designers and will, as you say, probably never fully make it over to the States in a huge way. Although the 70s resurgence is undeniable in the style world at large, so if you've got a very strong inner dandy I say take advantage of it. But I concur with you, sir, this is not a trend to go crazy with by any means nor is it for everyone.

  4. I'm just glad you found a use for all my floral patterned shirts from when I was trying to be a hippie in high school. I'm totally going to rock this style soon.