Business trips are back but with reduced hours and a skeleton staff, it’s more hellish than I remember. Rowdy scenes in the departure lounges aren’t just for vacationers – a luxury goods CEO recently joined me in Rome after a meeting in Ripon. He kept me updated on his trip, sharing photos of what looked like a mosh-pit designed by Hieronymus Bosch but on closer inspection turned out to be Manchester Airport.
When the CEO’s flight was hijacked, his sense of humor ran out; but at that time, his phone battery was too, so he was unable to notify his driver of the airport change. By the time he arrived at the hotel, what had once been a smart suit looked more like the one he’d worn for orienteering in the Brecon Beacons. By comparison, my Friday night encounter with a bank of failing e-passport gates and an hour-long wait for the single official to squint on my passport felt like walking on a red carpet.
As Huntsman Creative Director Campbell Carey recalls, “There was a time when you dressed smart to board a flight in hopes of an upgrade. It seems to be the opposite now; people want to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible getting on a plane.”
The last time I received an upgrade that I think is related to my wardrobe was in 1995. I was on an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight that was not supposed to exist, departing from an unannounced gate at Miami airport, destination Havana. My colleague and I were both wearing blue double-breasted blazers and (if I remember correctly) ties: we looked distinctly out of place. I imagine it was out of pity and curiosity that we were invited into the empty first class cabin.
These days, unless, like the Sussexes, you have access to a private jet and make the necessary moral appeal of environmental impact, then the travel jacket is your first defense against slings and the arrows of the current scandalous state of air travel. To be successful, it must address the three Cs: comfort, crinkle and capacity, which interact and overlap. And when it comes to crinkling and comfort, two of the best and most stylish travel jackets are jersey.
I still marvel at my luck to have discovered Bel Teba about 30 years ago, relatively early in my career as a professional traveler. Based on a style of jacket worn by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, then modified by Spanish tailor Bel for the Count of Teba: chic Iberians have been wearing them for years in green and blue jersey. Unlined and unpadded with shirt-style sleeves and cuffs, a four-button front and a spread collar that can be buttoned all the way to the throat, it combines cardigan comfort with blazer DNA.
Since Bel opened its Geneva branch, the Teba has gone viral. “People usually come across them when they go on set and then they start wearing them all the time,” says owner Daniel Ballbe, who has extended the Teba to suede as well as summer fabrics, and has just launched a slightly closer version of the conventional blazer. called the Stanley Teba with a three button front and side slits.
If the Teba is my oldest travel jacket, my most recent discovery is the five button version with a half waistband. Lorenzo Cifonelli dreamed up the style when a Japanese client who traveled a lot asked him to make him a jacket that would look stylish on the plane and allow him to do without his overcoat. He uses a jersey made especially for him by a Japanese factory.
“It keeps the shoulder and sleeve line: I wear it when I travel to New York to see clients, I get off the plane and it doesn’t show a wrinkle,” he says, with the zeal of an evangelist preacher – and his proselytism seems work: two years ago, he earned 20 a year in blue. Now it’s 80 and the original blue has been joined by black and gray. And if your travel plan doesn’t allow you the luxury of attending multiple fittings, as a ready-to-wear travel jacket, it also offers a denim safari jacket with a drawstring to remove the waist.
The kind of travel the safari jacket was originally intended for was found in the pages of a Rider Haggard novel or a movie like the 1953 one. Mogambo. Today, he is more comfortable with cabin luggage on wheels (with satellite bag for laptop slipped on the telescopic handle).
I love a safari jacket; always did – it brings out my inner Roger Moore, sash tied at the waist, shoulder pads giving that military flavor, rolled up cuffs, muslin bandana billowing like a pennant in the wind, a handful of cigars in one of the pockets of chest . . . and I’m ready for boarding.
However, such flamboyance is avoided by professional mobile users; they tend to be more about pocket practicality and capacity. Every purveyor I asked to report on its popularity gave a James Carville response: “It’s about the pockets, you idiot.” After a systemic relaxation of business attire, accelerated by the work-from-home culture, safari emerged as a winner. “We’ve entered an era that feels a lot more code-free,” says GQ UK editor Adam Baidawi, “which means we have more options.”
And when it comes to travel options, Richard James co-founder Sean Dixon says the Safari “has almost become the ultimate smart casual jacket. If you are a man of a certain age, this is a way to wear a jacket that moves away from formal office dress, which will look a little more relevant, without looking like sheepskin dressed in lamb . We’ve always done something like that, but I’d say attendance has gone up 400% or 500% this year.
To be clear, the business class safari is less extravagant than I like – it tends to be beltless and shoulder padless, and once you see one, you start seeing them everywhere. Here they are at Turnbull & Asser and again at Budd. “They were treated with a bit of skepticism at first, with people seeing them as a shirt as opposed to an alternative to a jacket,” says Budd’s Kieran Wright, who introduced them in 2018. But now customers have them. understood, he struggles to keep them in stock.
Jeremy Hackett thinks they have the potential to be even smarter. “The business travel uniform is a blazer, blue shirt and cotton drill trousers – but the problem is that today’s jackets are too short and so tight that you can hardly put anything on. in the pockets: a linen safari shirt/jacket is incredibly light and very comfortable for travelling.
Meanwhile, in September, Drake’s Michael Hill is launching what he calls a “Travel Chore,” offering chore jacket comfort with added pocket security. And on the pocket side, his travel blazer shows that he has listened to market demands in terms of pockets: he has nine in total. “No carry-on luggage required,” he jokes.
However, this summer’s crowded flights are no laughing matter; and full cabins come with an increased risk of being asked to put your hand luggage in the hold, with the fear of never seeing it again. With that in mind, all of those pockets could come in handy.
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