a man in a suit standing in a crowd

This week, I was very graciously invited to the GQ Men Of The Year Awards in London, at the magnificent Tate Modern.

I’m very rarely found on red carpets, and if I am, it’s rarely among such sartorial company. A-listers tend to look pretty good at these kind of events and this was no exception, so the pressure was on. Ed Sheeran even wore Elton John’s famous tuxedo jacket.

After consulting some knowledgeable friends on the do’s and don’ts of black tie, I found myself with a new conundrum: not arriving looking like I slept in my suit. Despite years of business travel, I felt extra pressure not to look sloppy — I mean, right?

It then dawned on me, well, after prodding from Executive Traveller, that this feeling is one most business travelers, and all travelers attending weddings and relatively formal events feel constantly.

Looking for all the hacks to stay sharp while living out of hotels, planes, trains and automobiles?

I’ve compiled a few of my favorite sartorially focused tips to approach looking sharp despite the spanners which travel of all forms can throw at an outfit.

In my travel experience, even 5 minutes of sitting down can put some unfortunate creases into suit pants, jackets and shirts, and suitcases are rarely kind to fine, crisp garments. To help round out the wisdom, I consulted the infinite knowledge of Twitter to help out with how best to “travel”, without looking sloppy on arrival.

Crisp Outfit = Train, Please

There are many global reasons to consider train travel when possible, you know, raging climate crisis and all. I’d love to tell you that’s why I took the train, but I’d be lying through my teeth on this occasion.

I took the train, because the best wisdom I got from my Twitter question was that I could stand up on the train the whole way, without creasing my tux or shirt . It worked out really well, and in the future, even if an event or business is happy to send a car, I think I’ll stick to mass transit where possible, if looking full crisp is a must.

If you do want to sit down, or can’t take a train/tube, “jacket off” is the wisdom from all. Jacket creases are more notable than minor pant creases. If you’re also worried about sloppy shirt look, consider a t-shirt for the ride in, and then a superman/woman shirt change just before arrival.

a man in a blue suit

Steam Your Shirts After Arrival

Staying sharp during business travel isn’t easy when working out of hotels and packing things into suitcases. One hilarious tip, is actually a great one.

If you can’t make a suit bag work, or things get crinkled despite best efforts, putting your shirts on a hangar in your hotel bathroom while showering is a truly genius hack. I believe it was passed to me by Jono Grant from Above & Beyond, but it’s been a long year.

With a good steam, you can even use your hand to unravel most creases and folds. Just be sure to avoid shower splash…

Don’t Use The Hotel Iron

Speaking of tips from other people I’ve learned through the years, my friend Captain Chris, a Virgin Atlantic A350 pilot and Instagram sensation had one very clear piece of advice: never use the hotel iron to iron a shirt. At least, not without looking first.

Chris noted that in many busy city hotels, people use the iron for everything, including reheating pizza. Unless you’d like to replace a wrinkled shirt with a less wrinkled, pizza oil stained shirt, it’s best to do a serious once over of a hotel iron before actually using it for something mission critical

Bag Of Goodies

Spare everything is always shrewd advice in travel. Flexible things can be equally so. If you’re pressed for time, and may see the day go from formal business or event attire to something more casual, chucking a pair of sneakers, and or a t-shirt can totally mix up a look, for the evening.

It’s not at all uncouth to throw on some crisp white or leather sneakers with a suit, dress, or any formal wear, yet it gives a totally new meaning to an outfit, once clunky formal shoes are off. Replacing a fancy shirt, or shirt and tie, with an Air Jordan t shirt can breathe new life as well.

In other words, if you’re pressed for time and won’t likely make it back to the hotel in time for a change, but don’t want to look like “a suit”, carry a few flexible options to lighten the mood as the sky gets darker. These items fit in a backpack which can be used to house work stuff, so it’s an easy move.

Use Dryer Sheets In Luggage

Dryer sheets help keep clothes smelling fresh in transit, and more importantly, help non-fresh clothes from ruining others. On top of this handy olfactory help, adding a dryer sheet will also help prevent static.

Few people find that a clingy, static laden shirt improves a look, so dryer sheets will do more than keep you smelling good. They’ll keep you looking good too.

Roll Your Clothes

Rolling clothes is the way pros pack. It’s the truth. Not only does it save space in the case, allowing you to bring more — it also prevents clear wrinkles. Things may not be starchy crisp, but they’ll look at lot better than folded clothes.

If you don’t have time to freshen up clothes after travel, rolling is your best bet, if you can’t lay something flat, or hang it in a garment bag.

Invest In Modern Tailoring

Traditionalists may have issue with new materials, but frankly they’re game changers. Many companies have carved out a space for themselves by finding weaves and fabric blends which are crease and crinkle resistant, and allow people to land directly off a flight and look presentable.

I wore a Reiss ‘Modern Performance’ tuxedo (bought, not gifted), which is both crease and liquid resistant. Paul Smith makes “a suit to travel in”, and Bluffworks entire line is designed for travel.

Got more tips for staying crisp while traveling? leave them below!

Thanks to Virgin Atlantic, GQ, Laura Brander & Louise Gallagher for the invite!


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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