We’ve all seen them—the cargo-short-clad, baseball-cap-adorned, Teva-sandal-wearing tourists that pack into Times Square to snap a few selfies. They stand out like a sore thumb amongst the locals, and it’s likely that their fashion choices are ill-prepared for an unfamiliar climate.
The obliviousness they have for their surroundings is almost painful to watch, but at the same time, they’re having too much fun taking in the sights to care.
While you travel, how do you maintain that child-like wonder of a first-time tourist without actually looking like one? Don’t worry—it doesn’t involve overhauling your wardrobe every time you buy a plane ticket. Let’s break down the easiest ways to blend into any new environment like a chameleon and travel in style.
Go Back to the Basics
This is a pretty straight-forward piece of advice: when you don’t want to stand out, revert back to the basics. Whether you’re visiting Iceland or Thailand, you can’t go wrong with packing all the classic pieces in your closet.
Always start with one or two pairs of good, solid-wash jeans to pair with any outfit. If you’re going to a warm climate, you can pair jeans with a light T-shirt and non-touristy sandals.
Throw in some khaki shorts, and you’re golden. Leave the salmon and baby blue boardshorts at home—unless you’re headed to the Hamptons, of course. Once you have your bottoms on lock, pack any neutral-colored T-shirt you own.
If you’re headed to a colder destination, find thermals and sweaters in the same color scheme. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a city that doesn’t value the simplicity of a basic-but-elegant wardrobe.
Black is always your friend, but try to include dark blue, maroon, and forest green to elevate your outfit. The last thing locals expect tourists to be is stylish—so by blending in with the basics, you’ll avoid those disdainful glares on the subway.
Ditch Themed Apparel
We get it. If you’re headed to Ireland, it’s incredibly tempting to buy a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt to wear around Dublin on a pub crawl. Or if you’re headed to Mexico, a rainbow sombrero seems like a quality item to complete your margaritas-on-the-beach ensemble.
But themed apparel just screams tourist, and you basically put a giant glowing target on your body for all the locals who are tired of out-of-towners crowding their local haunts.
So you’re going to a beach resort in Bora Bora, huh? Those cheap Hawaiian shirts may have served you well in the past, but now may be the time to try a loose, linen button-down and khaki pants. This classy, airy look has a more sophisticated island vibe. After all, you’re not going to a beach party every time you go out.
How about a trip to Scotland to discover your heritage? Ditch the kilt and opt for dark pants and a plaid shirt that highlights the colors of your ancestral clan. Trust us, you don’t want to show up to a fish-and-chip shop wearing ancient Scottish garb.
Focus on the Bag
When you travel, you’re going to need a bag to carry around all the necessities (and perhaps hold souvenirs you pick up along the way). But a heavy-duty backpack with a thousand pockets will give away your status as a tourist in a heartbeat.
Be prepared for a day of exploring (without looking too conspicuous) with a handy leather messenger bag. These cross-body totes distribute the weight of the bag evenly across your shoulders so you don’t end up with a sore back at the end of a long day.
Plus, the chic look of a leather bag implies that you are a permanent resident of the area who doesn’t need a special travel backpack to get around the city. Well, jokes on them, because a stylish messenger bag is the ideal item for disguising your touristic intentions!
It’s never easy to strike the right balance between functional and fashionable where you’re exploring a new city or country. It’s easy to over-pack and end up with clothes that don’t go together, or to under-pack and end up buying ugly airport clothes before you leave the terminal.
But, if you stick to the basics, avoid themed apparel, and invest in a good bag, you can easily traipse around as a tourist without being detected by the local fashion police. Happy travels and be sure to always travel in style.