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What should fliers wear in the air?

The era when men wore jackets and ties and women donned skirts and high heels to board an airplane is as ancient as the rotary-dial phone. These days, people hardly give a second thought to what they wear when they fly. Flip flops, tank tops, yoga pants — it seems like just about anything goes. Can bikinis be far behind?
Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Do airlines need to post a “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Seating” sign on the fuselage? Have they stopped giving out blankets hoping that their passengers will wear something a little less revealing?
Far be it from me to deny anyone’s right to comfort while they shoehorn themselves into a cramped seat for a six-hour flight. But personally, I like to wear layers when I travel. A long-sleeve shirt (preferably one with a pocket to hold my boarding pass) over a short-sleeve shirt usually prepares me for just about any cabin temperature. And I can use the shirt as a pillow if it’s too warm. I’m surprised more people don’t do the same.
On my feet, I try to wear shoes that slip on and off easily for going through the security line. Flip flops would seem to fit that bill, but they require you to walk barefoot across the dirty threshold, so I prefer shoes and socks. I’m frequently bemused (and occasionally annoyed by the delays caused) by travelers wearing gladiator sandals or high lace-up boots for a plane trip. I give a pass, however, to soldiers on leave, who are probably even more perturbed than anyone at having to take off their combat boots.
What do you like to wear when you travel? Are your fellow fliers’ outfits any of your concern? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

— John Rosenthal

John Rosenthal is a frequent contributor to Bing Travel based in Santa Monica, Calif.


  • As an Aviation Safety professional for a major airline, I would recommend wearing sturdy shoes in the event of an emergency.  Yes, they are more cumbersome than flip flops (I'd prefer to wear them myself), a shoe with a sturdy sole will be invaluable in the unlikely event of an emergency.  

  • In most country outside the US, travelers/ fliers wears shoe as flying is still reserved for the wealth.  Its just a slow transition from an experience that is extraordinary to one that is a common practice with flip - flop as the main foot attire.

  • Try the new fit flops not only are they comfortable but they are a work out shoe to. I wore mine last time i flew and where i sometimes find my feet swell and get uncomfortable the fit flops kept them comfy, not to expensive did but them in sale at but have a look and you may pick a cheaper pair up.

  • Ive also noticed that more and more people are wearing nontraditional attires when they fly. But I respect their right to wear what they like. However, I like to put on clothes that prepare me for any uncertain cabin temperature.

  • I still dress to fly.  I always look my very best with the appropriate hosiery, skirt and heels.  This has given me added perks as unexpected upgrades, free drinks at the airport and many an appreciative look from fellow fliers.  Its a little bit of glamor and style to everyone's day.

    To pass through airport security I wear very flat flip flops.  They have never asked me to remove my flipflops when going through.  Then on the other side I change them out to some sturdy and comfortable heels.  From there I continue on my merry way.  I have a change of shoes in case I'm super extra delayed and need to rest my feet, my clothing is appropriate to changes in cabin temperatures... carrying a shawl that doubles as blanket or rolled into pillow as needed.  

    One need not look like a schlub to be comfortable.  Many people forget that, sadly.    

  • agree with bombshellwithin about the unexpected upgrades.  when a plane's coach class is oversold and they start upgrading people: after the frequent flier upgrades, they're going to upgrade those who look like they belong in higher class seats.  i always dress to impress.

  • Always look your best on the plane and I would recommend wearing sturdy shoes in the event of an emergency also never know what is going to happen these days.

  • I travel a lot of both business and pleasure, and I've found an outfit that really works for both.  A short sleeve knit dress, leggings, slip-on shoes, and a cardigan is comfortable enough for overnight flights in coach but also wears well enough to look presentable when I get off the plane.  The layers cover most weather and airport/airplane climate changes, and I slip a pair of fuzzy wool socks in my carry on bag.


  • I usually take some ear plugs and an extra pair of clean socks.  Both are really helpful after a long international flight

  • As an airline employee and seasoned traveler, I never travel by plane without the following: #1 slip-on shoes (easier at x-ray point), #2 cotton short sleeve shirt and a cashmere sweater. Cabin temperature always drops just after take-off and only when the plane levels off does it get adjusted to a comfortable setting. Everyone has a different idea of what a "comfortable temperature" is. My sweater acts as my blanket if I am cold. Rarely are blankets boarded in plentiful amounts these days. #3 eye mask & ear plugs and #4 a lightweight scarf (pashmina type) which I use to drape over my head while sleeping. It prevents others from seeing you with your jaw open and drool coming out. One word of advice...NEVER use the lavatory barefoot!! We crewmwmbers see it all the time.

  • I always wear sturdy shoes and prefer to dress casual chic, and a light sweater is a must. Always wear natural fabrics; cotton, in case of fire. Dress comfy, but be smart.

  • As a frequent flyer, I find all the above advice to be true.  Layering is essential, since cabin temps can vary from freezing (often when you have a window seat), to sweltering. In winter I would never fly without a fleece -a fabulous pillow if the temp is warm, a great blanket when it is not. Elastic waist pants are a must on long flights, and they DON'T need to be sweatpants!  Really people, do you forget that you are "in public" when you fly??? I wear slip on, soled shoes for ease thru security AND at my seat. Many times my feet are freezing, so flip flops are just stupid... I have a favorite "flight suit" - a jersey knit stylish black pantsuit that feels like PJ's, but looks like I could wear it out at night, and it doesn't EVER wrinkle. Paired with a sweater (in summer) or my fleece (in winter)I've flown 12 hours, and get off looking great!

  • I travel once a month to my office. I wear what I am going to wear when I go in to my office, which is directly upon landing. I do wear layers with a cute vintage sweater and always include a pashmina shawl in my carry-on. In the summertime, I almost always wear flip flops on my feet. If I'm traveling across country, I'll pack a pair of "hospital socks" in case my feet get cold. In the winter I'll wear shoes that slip on and off easily (although occasionally I've had to wear knee length boots that zip on/off). I try to dress so that I can quickly and easily get thru security without holding up the line at either end.

    I dress very comfortably. I don't look like a slob, but I am casually dressed. I'm not needing to impress anyone on the plane and we have a casual dress code in the office.

  • The last thing you should worry about are your shoes when something goes wrong at 30,000 feet.

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