I am the last person who should give style advice. For decades I have read articles about “the ten key pieces every woman should have” only to discover I own three of them and have no energy or interest to track down the remaining seven.
I am however newly qualified to give style judgment. I have recently spent a fair amount of time in airports. Minneapolis. Denver. Newark. Albany. Detroit. Reykjavik. You cannot beat the people watching at the airport. The state fair is a close second but you don’t get the broad scope of subject matter like you do at the airport. And what I saw is disturbing. As a world, we have collectively lost our sense of style when it comes to air travel.
I admit I don’t exactly long for the days when people got dressed up to fly. I’m not willing to put on pantyhose for any reason and certainly not to have that hosiery jammed into leather pumps on a transatlantic flight. But society has let go of all reason with airport wardrobe.
Some are dressed like they are getting ready for bed. Others like they just rolled out of it. Many are dressed like they are about to exercise but they can’t fool me because they are carrying a chihuahua in a handbag so they are not about to exercise. There are micro shorts and wide legged pants. There are a lot of hats. Beanies. Baseball caps. Straw hats and cowboy hats. Newsboy caps and many fedoras.
If you have been gifted a quarter zip with a corporate logo or taken the freebie t-shirt at an event, the airport is where you are supposed to wear it. Each concourse providing a mobile billboard for mysterious logos embroidered onto misshapen vests and matching ballistic nylon laptop bags.
Graphic tees. I’m a fan of some graphic tees. I’m not sure why they seem to be a popular pick for the airport. I saw a man wearing one that said, “Person wearing a free t-shirt.” At least that’s amusing. Shirts boasting messages like, “I’m with stupid.” “It’s wine o’clock somewhere.” “Bourbon is a vegetable.” Those really seem like they belong at the state fair. And I did see one gentleman in a Kelly green t-shirt that read-AIRPORT TSHIRT. I like that guy.
Every once in a while, if you are lucky, you see it. An airport style unicorn. A woman in flax colored linen pants and crisp white button down with pressed cuffs rolled up. She has on clean white wedge tennis shoes and her hair is effortlessly held up by a tortoise clip. She only carries a lightweight tote in camel leather and it holds next to nothing. Who is this woman and where is she going and why is she not rumpled?
I admire her but she is not my people. She definitely does not have the backup to the backup to the backup airplane outfit packed in her carry-on like I do. She also probably doesn’t drag boxes of Hot Tamales all over the globe for fear of running out of candy while traveling. So we cannot be best friends but I do hope she is inspiring those around her. We really need it.
People wear athletic shoes and lifestyle sneakers and work boots and a wide variety of the most alarming collection of sandals. It’s harsh but I think we very much need to cover feet at the airport, and therefore on the airplane for the greater good of humanity.
Traveling can be grueling and people want to be comfortable but we have taken it too far. When TSA announces “you will need to remove your belt” I think-save your breath, we aren’t belt people. We are an elastic waistband world.
The airport sometimes does not bring the best out in us humans. There is a lot of impatience and stress and anger and rushing and atrocious fashion. I’m not sure how to solve it but I do think we can do better. Step one. Pack the sandals and put on the running shoes-it’s the airport and your gate will be changed and you will be required to jog.
Jen Fortner is a freelance writer who enjoys asking friends and strangers far too many questions. She spends her spare time sitting in inclement weather watching youth sports, traveling, cooking, and searching for the very best baked goods. She lives in Shorewood, Minnesota with her husband, three children and the most spoiled dog.