For frequent fliers, finding and wearing the Perfect Airplane Outfit is a point of pride. It’s a mixture of comfort, style, function, and routine that promises to make long-haul flights slightly more bearable, allowing you to arrive ever so slightly more sane.
The New Yorker’s food correspondent, Helen Rosner, posed the question of what constitutes the ideal airplane outfit recently on Twitter. The range of responses show it is less a replicable, one-size-fits all formula and more a cozy-practical state of mind.
The answers were pleasingly specific, including clothing material, accessories, and hairstyle:
A common thread of the PAO is that it should feel as though you’re wearing pajamas on the plane without looking like you actually are. (No shade to PJs wearers, but it’s a sartorial choice that’s not particularly practical if you have anywhere to be before or after your flight—or if you’re angling for an upgrade.) The PAO must also be a look that doesn’t wrinkle, bunch, or crease, even after several hours with your rear parked in an airplane seat. And finally: It helps if it has some built-in features to block out the general population.
Here is a list of tips to keep in mind when crafting your own personal PAO.
We are living through the golden age of the PAO. The reason for that? Athleisure. Even if you’ve never been to a yoga class and you’d rather wear a straightjacket than leave the house in leggings, there is still probably a sweat-wicking, wrinkle resistant option for you to wear on the plane. From chic tapered joggers—which are great for men—to smart looking leggings, there are more stretchy, spandex-y, and/or drapey bottoms now than ever before in human history. All of these choices give you numerous options to follow number one rule of the PAO: Avoid stiff jeans.
“Pack layers” is rather predictable packing advice, but it’s for a reason. The layers you’ll want for the PAO, however, aren’t necessarily the ones you’d want for a hike or urban adventure. While a jacket is a must, choosing outerwear that’s not too rigid is key (Uniqlo’s widely imitated Ultra Light Down is perfect). If you have to head to a meeting or look presentable after your flight, a roomy or slouchy blazer can do the trick, even if paired with aforementioned athleisure, but consider bringing something warmer for the plane.
A scarf or shawl is also a vital layer to bring, particularly one that can double as a blanket, so you can avoid the scratchy, staticky, and not-always-free airline blanket altogether. If you’re wearing leggings, it can feel good to have a top that is quite long and drapey. The gist here is that you should have a climate-appropriate option for everything from the stuffy metro ride to the airport to the freezing cold cabin.
Consider compression socks
Few people want to keep their shoes on throughout a flight, but removing your shoes causes a few problems: Your feet swell—making it damn near impossible to put your boots back on after landing—and your socks get pretty gross as you traipse around the plane.
Enter compression socks. There are plenty of evidence-based reasons to regularly wear compression socks, and you’ll be thrilled to find there are now rather stylish versions to boot. Wait until you’re at your seat, luggage stowed, then do a quick sock switch. You can put your normal socks back on when you land, if you wish. Your feet and legs will thank you.
Choose shoes wisely
The choice of what shoes to wear on a flight can be fraught. Militant packers will want to wear their heaviest pair on board to save space in their luggage, but boots might not always be the most comfortable to slip on after a long flight. Opt for expandable options for swollen feet (sneakers are a good option). And do not be the person who wears sandals on a long haul flight (and by god, if you do, do not put your bare feet on anything).
Invest in antisocial accessories
If hell is other people, than commercial air travel is pretty hellish. That’s why the ideal PAO has some isolating accessories built in. Hoodies, noise cancelling headphones, eye masks, snuggly scarves to drape over your head, and Rosner’s suggestion of in-flight shades are all good ways to avoid interacting with other human beings.