Dress to Fit In – Not to Stand Out

26 October 2012
Dress to Fit In – Not to Stand Out
Dress to Fit In - Not to Stand Out

Let’s take a look at how to dress when you travel and why travelers should dress to fit in and not to stand out.

When it comes to safety while traveling, your appearance and behavior are critical whether you stand out as an easy target or not.

Thieves typically like to pick their victims based on appearance and behavior:

  • Flashing expensive jewelry versus something plainer and simple
  • Dragging oversized designer bags versus a smaller simple carry-on
  • Strapping a big camera across your chest versus something more subtle tucked in a bag

The way a thief looks at it, tourists are often carrying enough money to get them through their trip, so the score is higher. Plus, a thief has a better chance of taking down a distracted tourist than someone who’s local and aware of their surroundings. Simply not looking like a tourist is a great start on protecting yourself.

It’s not just about avoiding getting robbed

Of course, it’s not just about whether you’re going to be marked for mugging – it’s also about obeying the regional laws and showing respect for the people of that country.

Some countries go so far as to impose legal limits on what citizens and visitors are allowed to wear:

  • France bans burqas and niqabs (traditional female Muslim dress)
  • North Korea bans pants for women
  • Sudan bans makeup on men
  • Saudia Arabia bans bare skin and cross dressing for men

Many countries are more conservative than our own, so your clothing style should be more conservative as well – especially when visiting churches, cathedrals, and other historic or holy places.

Not every culture is like your own

Torn jeans may be the ultimate in cool in New York, but they’re looked upon as shabby in other countries and you may not be treated as well as you’d like when trying to get a table at a restaurant or check in at a hotel.

In many areas of the world, wearing camouflage is isolated to the military and there’s little benefit to being identified as military as they are prime targets for terrorism and rebel actions.

10 Universal Travel Fashion Rules

The best travel clothing has a comfortable fit, classic design, and a quality build. The following guidelines will help you dress to fit in while living out of a suitcase:

  1. Opt for soft, earth tones like black and white, grey and cream, rather than loud bright colors.
  2. Leave the expensive and flashy jewelry at home.
  3. Leave the bedazzled shoes, jackets, and purses at home too.
  4. When in doubt, dress up just a bit rather than down.
  5. Jeans are fine if they’re well-fitted and fashionable and worn with a jacket.
  6. No loud prints, dazzling stripes, or flamboyant patterns.
  7. No strapless or tank tops – especially in churches and sacred places as this is a sign of disrespect and you could be turned away at the door.
  8. Ditto for shorts and short skirts – the knees should be covered.
  9. Sweatshirts, gym shorts, running shoes and exercise gear stay at your lodgings.
  10. Nix the fanny pack – always. It screams tourist and many people are offended by them.

The key is to blend in and avoid standing out because there’s really no upside to being identified as a tourist. Those who live locally and are seeing you briefly for just a few seconds will judge you completely by your appearance and behave accordingly toward you.

When most of your personal contact is with hotel clerks, cafe waiters, and museum staff your best bet to securing a good room, a nice table, and great service starts with looking properly dressed. For many who travel, submerging in the foreign culture is the best part of the adventure and blending in has as much to do with safety as it does with learning a new culture.

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.