Hey travelers, do you have the right to tell someone to dress up?

Can you believe what people wear on a plane these days? You’d think an old Greyhound bus had sprouted wings by the way some people look.

Flying used to be something that only business people or the one-percenters could afford. And when they did, they dressed up. Men wore suits and ties, and women wore dresses — or at least a long skirt, a nice blouse — plus a coat or a shoulder wrap. Dressy shoes were a must.

The “people” who would have dressed up to fly years ago still dress nicely — it might be Dockers and a sport coat for him and dressy pants and nice top for her. But they’re still wearing laced up shoes and socks!

Today, people wear what look like pajamas, and their flip-flops are a poor excuse for shoes. Sometimes, they wear even less and then get expelled from a country for taking pictures of the spectacle. What happened to exercising some decorum when you’re in public?

As a million-mile flier, I like to be comfortable when I fly, but I think you can still wear proper clothing.

Some passengers have been kicked off planes, or simply refused boarding, based on what they were wearing.  Remember this incident? If nothing else, it highlighted  some of the clothing “errors” that have kept passengers out of the not-always-super-friendly skies.

But do do I have the right to I tell a fellow passenger to dress better?

A fairly standard, and politically correct, response is that it’s none of my business how anyone else is dressed. That might be true, but have you ever sat next to someone who’s kicked off his flip-flops and is playing with his toes? And then he offers to shake hands with you?

Related story:   Why did you copy me on that?

I’ll pass, thanks.

Or, how about the fellow in the sleeveless tank top who decides to put both hands behind his head while his sweaty armpits are only inches from your face?

You can’t think that’s OK, can you?

Don’t even get me started about the apparel, or lack thereof, that many of the younger females wear. Would you want your daughter to sport a top with some intended-to-be-read writing emblazoned across the chest area? What about the tight pants with a brand name across the buttocks area?

Why should going on a plane be any different from going into other establishments? Lots of restaurants post a “No Shoes – No Shirts – No Service” sign, so why can’t the airlines post a “Your mother used to dress you nicely; when did you start dressing yourself?” sign?

Would that sign actually offend someone?

Here’s a little summary of some wardrobe “malfunctions” that have created problems on flights. While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does guarantee the right to free speech, one common item that most reputable articles cites is that businesses such as airlines still have the right to say what is acceptable to wear in “their establishments” and what isn’t. An interesting closing to the article is the following:

If airlines do establish and post dress codes, enforcement could be problematic. Overworked flight crews rarely notice when passengers board with oversized carry-on bags. Would there really be time to take a tape measure to all those skimpy skirts?

As you think about the way people are dressing (or not!) on airplanes it makes you wonder if there ought to be rules about how people dress in public. But that’s another column.

Loading ... Loading ...

Stuart Gustafson

Stuart Gustafson is a writer, world traveler and professional speaker. He’s channeled his love of travel into writing travel-based mystery novels.

  • Freehiker

    I couldn’t care less what someone wears or doesn’t wear.

    Life is too short for me to waste my precious time thinking about such things.

  • Joe

    Business or pleasure, I always wear a coat and tie when I fly. For starters, it’s easier for me to wear a jacket than pack it (54XL) and hopefully avoid a few wrinkles. There’s a chance that, when paired with good manners, some goodwill is generated between me and the flight attendants – I know a few free cocktails (yes, even with all the penny-pinching and add-on fees today) have come my way as a result. But bottom line I think it’s respectful to others. I feel comfortable and confident in coat and tie, in a way that stretch pants and an old hoodie can’t deliver. I won’t call other passengers out for the way they dress because it seems like the increasingly slobbish status quo is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to push back in my own small way.

  • sirwired

    The business certainly has such a right. A generic “you” (as in, random passenger)? Not so much.

    Personally, after a couple recent business trips, I’m always wearing at sport coat from here on out. Not because it looks snazzy or professional (although it does), or because it can ward off window-seat chill (although it does) but because it has lots of large pockets, which are really great when traveling.

    I have pockets for my tissues, boarding pass, itinerary, cell phone, headset, parking garage ticket, a book, pens, business cards, etc. It even holds my Kindle! It can hold everything I might need until I get to my hotel except for my laptop.

    As an added bonus, it means I don’t have to unload my pockets before going through the Scanner Of Doom, I just have to plop the whole jacket into a bin.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Both of the links in this article are misdirecting… the first to an error page, and the second to a six-year-old “The Travel Critic” article, “Posting power: 7 tips for blogging your way to a better trip.”

  • ctporter

    I am ok with what people choose to wear as long as the clothing is not malodorous. (but then, which is causing the odor, the person or the clothing?) Even nice clothing can be off-putting if the person has issues.
    Does my opinion/perception of the person change based on what they are wearing? Of course it does, but the question is, does that matter to them? As long as we do not have an interaction that is impacted by my opinion such as a job interview, or trying to sell me something, etc. my opinion has no impact for them.

  • Detroiter327

    When I have long international flights I almost always change into a fresh and clean sweat pant/shirt combo on the plane, and usually change back before landing. I cannot explain the wonderful feeling of changing into comfy and clean clothes for a long flight. This is multiplied times 100 if I plan on sleeping. My biggest problem is that Ive seen multiple people make income judgements based on what people are wearing. A common example I see on travel forms: He/she was wearing a hoodie and looked very unkept. Obviously hasn’t flown first class before.

    I think the only thing that can be inferred about people who travel in sweat pants is that they prioritize comfort. Its why I change my clothes the second I can on the plane. Also if someone is going to make in depth inferences based on my clothing I would prefer not to get to know them anyways.

  • Oh, we had some production issues on this story. I fixed the first link but I’m waiting to hear back from Stuart on the second one. Thanks for your patience.

  • MarkKelling

    As long as they don’t smell bad, I really don’t care what or even if the passengers around me are wearing clothes.

    And no, I don’t have the right to tell anyone how to dress except for my own children that are under 18. The airline can post a dress code if they want and, as long as it is implemented consistently, I would have no problem with that. But I doubt the dress code would be more than “wear clean clothes that cover necessary body parts and don’t have emblems or slogans that would offend.” Even that would be difficult to implement due to the various interpretations possible.

  • Jhana

    And another thing…get off my lawn!!! Seriously, this is the rantings of someone who is waaaaay out of touch. Would I want my daughter wearing pants with words on the butt? No. Do I care if she or someone else’s daughter wears them on a plane? No. The restaurant rule is for sanitation, not appearance. And I bet that people in the “olden days” , if given the choice, would have LOVED to wear some super comfy cotton drawstring waist pants on the 48 hour trip to Australia.

  • MarkKelling

    You can be non-slobbish and still not wear a suit and tie. If you are comfortable wearing that, good for you. I on the other hand am comfortable in my Dockers and dress shirt. You will never see me in flip-flops, a tshirt or shorts on any plane.

  • jmj

    Do blog readers have the right to tell bloggers what to write about? If so, I would tell you that “back in my day” type columns with high-horse notions of style are not appropriate. I remember when this blog detailed travel abuses and consumer horror stories. Put the shotgun away, Elliott, people can play on this proverbial lawn all they want.

  • Thanks for your comment. Stuart is one of our columnists, so technically, this is his lawn. You are a guest.

  • MarkKelling

    Eh, I don’t find drawstring pants comfortable at all. I would much rather be in a pair of well worn, but not worn out, jeans.

  • I always appreciate suggestions from readers, including yours. This is Stuart’s column. If you want a customer-service horror story, please see this morning’s post.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Taking the survey question at face value, *of course* you have the right to tell someone to dress up, just as you have the right to tell a Hell’s Angel biker to go $#$! himself. The latter is inadvisable and the former may well be too, but if you’re talking “rights”….

    As for the airlines, certainly they could establish a dress code, if they chose. Enforcement would be problematic, but that would be the airline’s problem.

    I will say, however, that I’ve seen a lot more people wearing flip flops and sandals since the TSA started requiring passengers to remove their shoes. It would be easier for people to wear nice shoes for travel if it wasn’t for this. (And yes, I know loafers are nice shoes.)

  • Detroiter327

    Ive heard multiple people express the same viewpoint as Stuart. You may not agree (I don’t either) but I think its worth reading to see where other people are coming from.

  • jmj

    oops sorry! Didn’t know you started taking on retirees as interns! :-)

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Differing opinions are great! The questions I raise are meant to generate discussion, which they seem to do, and to find out peoples’ sensitivities to certain subjects. I appreciate your input.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I agree with you, especially the problematic enforcement of an airline dress code. Heck, they can’t even enforce the carry-on limitations that they claim to have. Seriously, have you ever seen any gate agent tell someone to put their overstuffed bag into that rack they have by the gate? I haven’t!

  • sofar

    Agreed. I had some trouble figuring out what exactly the author is bothered about — dirty/smelly clothing, or just casual? The former is inappropriate in close quarters, but the latter is fine to me.

    If I’m settling in for a 12+ hour flight, I’m going the casual/comfy route. My go-to long-haul plane out fit is: black leggings, long fitted tshirt/tank top, loose long-sleeved cover-up/cardigan, bright soft scarf, and sneakers or boots (which I swap for slipper socks when I get to my seat).

    This ensemble might look like PJs to some, but it’s comfortable and easily laundered in the hotel sink to get rid of the plane smell.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    My intention wasn’t to rant, it was to raise a question about travel and has it gotten too commonplace for a certain level if decorum. The beauty of our country is that was can have discussions with differing opinions. Thanks for your input.

  • Joe

    That’s great to hear. One less person on a plane who looks like they just rolled out of bed.

  • I wear jeans and a comfortable shirt. The process of flying is too stressful not to wear comfortable clothes. Long lines, crowded airports, crowded airplanes, security checkpoints. I want to be as comfortable is possible while enduring these things.

    I can also imagine that in the past, way back when, flying use to be easier. If fewer were doing it, would make the crowds smaller. Security checkpoints were probably not quite the same either. Flying might have actually been fun. But now, when shoved liked sardines into a can, I will go for comfort over appearance any day.

    Probably would ruin my good clothes if I wore them while traveling like this. Also, this kind of reminds me of the British TV show.. “Keeping Up Appearances”. :P

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I like your questions, “Does that matter to them?” I think I know your answer; mine would be that they don’t care or they would have worn something else in the first place. I understand how wearing easy to remove shoes has probably increased significantly thanks to the “shoe bomber” incident, but it’s just “not for me.”

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Joe — you are probably making a nice impression and maybe even influencing a few people by the image that you give. I’m glad you’re comfortable with your coat on, even when it’s to keep it from wrinkling. You have a good outlook on travel that is probably a pain sometimes due to schedules, delays, etc. Stay positive; I think it does spread to others!

  • Darth Chocolate

    Look, if some young girl wants to wear tight yoga pants and a one-size-too-small sweater, who am I to complain? I sit back and enjoy the show.

    I was thinking of starting a blog called “Cute Girls in Yoga Pants”.

  • David

    On several flights in the past few months, even in first (domestic), I’ve had to endure shoeless, sockless individuals sitting next to me. I am trying to adjust to the generational “thing” about casual dress but it does get harder for this old man who feels khakis, a patterned shirt and a blazer is dressing down!

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Good for you! I bet you also keep your stress level down, and that’s a very good thing.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    You are certainly right, Jeff — it wasn’t that many years ago when getting on an airplane was simple: show up, produce a ticket (maybe an ID), and go on the plane. I also like to be comfortable when I travel, and I don’t think anyone objects to that.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I understand, David. I will typically loosen my shoelaces, maybe even remove the shoes. But I leave socks on, and I NEVER put my feet on the bulkhead!

  • Detroiter327

    Ive really liked all your columns so far! This one included! I think its really interesting to see where people stand on this. Esp. since its been a topic of travel discussion for years now. Keep up the good work!

  • Regina Litman

    In spring 2009, when the Philadelphia Phillies were the defending World Series champions, I flew to Florida for a vacation and to visit relatives there. Keeping with the fun spirit of the trip and the destination, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, at least on the way home. Just before our trip, the Phillies had swept the Marlins, the local team, in a 3-game series. Although the Marlins themselves had won the World Series twice in the 12-year-period before this trip, they were going through a down period then. On that trip home, I proudly wore one of my Phillies t-shirts on my Southwest flight home from Fort Lauderdale. None of the airline employees or the other passengers said anything to me about my wardrobe choice, but a TSA agent gave me some good-natured ribbing about the Phillies’ recent victories over her team.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    THANK YOU for the words of encouragement. I’ve appreciated your comments that past couple weeks. Keep on reading, sharing, and letting your friends know about all of the columns.

  • Detroiter327

    Not trying to be provocative… just intentionally curious after reading the comments below:

    As long as the person does not have smelly/sweaty feet what is big deal about wearing flip flops? Ive actually never been bothered by it before!

  • Detroiter327

    This is the only comment that has made me question wearing yoga pants on a plane.

  • An Even Newer Alan Gore

    Dressing up does improve the way you’re treated, however. Try it on your next flight. Personnel would swear they’re not treating you any differently, but they do so without realizing it.

  • David

    Of course on international flights i, or even domestic Red Eyes, I will take my shoes off and slip on either slippers (ala hotel or premium cabin offerings) or those sockettes that SQ still gives its J passengers. And I will change into at least the pants part of a sleeper suit when in a premium international cabin, but never when in the back cabin.

  • MarkKelling

    I see gate agents check bag sizes every time I fly.

    Frontier does this for each and every flight and each and every passenger. United does it when they feel like it. Not sure about others.

    I think most travelers who adhere to the bag size requirements will be happy when all airlines start enforcing the limits.

  • MarkKelling

    Too late, it is already there.

  • polexia_rogue

    Yes, a greyhound bus with wings is exactly what airlines are now.

    with ticket prices below $100, airlines are now the main means of travel for more “average” people.

    the type of people who, 20-50 year ago, might have said “no! an airplane flight is way to expensive, I’d rather drive. “– are now on flights in their pajamas. or what ever they rolled out of bed in.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I’m not “bothered” about anything. I wanted to find out what others thought about how people dressed when they traveled. Your outfit sounds chic AND comfortable; I just don’t think the leggings would work well for me!!!

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Even we retirees like to travel (such as 210 days in 2014), and we like to raise questions that get people thinking and talking.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Your last statement is so true — now if we can get all the airlines to enforce THEIR rules.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I’ve seen that a lot. Plus unless you are 100% independently wealthy (if so, why are you on a commercial flight?), you never know who is sitting next to you. That person just could be the one to promote your book, your story, invite your niece to an audition, etc. Or, it just might make the trip more pleasurable.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    No big deal except when I see him playing with his toes!

  • Darth Chocolate

    Glad to help

  • Darth Chocolate


  • Joe_D_Messina

    Obviously dirty clothing is a problem. So is clothing that obviously doesn’t fit. But beyond that I don’t see where the issues come from. Why would anybody care that somebody else is wearing flip-flops? Or shorts? Or a t-shirt?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    True, however you can be non-slobbish and wear shorts, too. I’m at a loss why somebody in a golf shirt and a pair of shorts would be a problem for anybody.

    I wear pants on planes because I tend to get cold but if you asked me if the last 5 people I’d sat by on plane were in pants or shorts and I’d have no clue. It simply doesn’t register as a major difference to me. Now, obviously dirty, smelly, or really poorly fitting clothing is a problem but having khaki shorts as opposed to khaki pants doesn’t strike me as an important distinction.

  • Travelnut

    There used to be a show on cable featuring Southwest, and what happened between the passengers and the gate agents/flight attendants. I remember one show where there had been a big game between two college rivals, and someone was wearing a t-shirt saying that the other team “inhaled”. SW made them put a sticker over the offensive word.

    Off topic, Regina, I remember you from the CPCU Facebook group. Nice backdrop on your profile picture. :)

  • Never had an issue with the way I was treated. In fact, I feel like I’m usually treated pretty well. It’s the process that I find stressful.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    You’d think an old Greyhound bus had sprouted wings by the way some people look.

    The “people” who would have dressed up to fly years ago still dress nicely — it might be Dockers and a sport coat for him and dressy pants and nice top for her. But they’re still wearing laced up shoes and socks!

    People in quotes and shoes with laces!

    Today, people wear what look like pajamas, and their flip-flops are a poor excuse for shoes.

    As a million-mile flier, I like to be comfortable when I fly, but I think you can still wear proper clothing.

    Clothing that looks like pajamas but is not proper clothing.

    Don’t even get me started about the apparel, or lack thereof, that many of the younger females wear. Would you want your daughter to sport a top with some intended-to-be-read writing emblazoned across the chest area? What about the tight pants with a brand name across the buttocks area?

    Examining the covered breast and buttocks of girls young enough to have their clothing dictated by their father.

    As you think about the way people are dressing (or not!) on airplanes it makes you wonder if there ought to be rules about how people dress in public.

    And now sleeveless shirts, tank tops and flip flops shouldn’t be worn on planes or in public at all.

    No, you don’t seem *bothered* about anything at all.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    So… your columnists don’t have to respect your audience? We’re just supposed to come here to accept your finger wagging? You should float that theory to your advertisers, see how they like it.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Actually, I’m not. I wanted to raise some questions and the responses seem to indicate that it was successful. Not everyone thinks along the same lines — and that’s a good thing. Thanks for your input.


    I have only mentioned clothing choices to a fellow passenger once. The woman in question wore a rather thin top without a bra. She did not seem to notice or care that even though the top was black, the fabric was so thin that nothing was left to the imagination. She ignored me but not the flight attendant who said cover up or leave. Other that that I simply ignore the fashion choices made by others as I hope they ignore mine.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Clothing norms are interesting to me. I recently saw an old baseball photo of either Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio at the plate. In the stands behind him it’s rather striking because A) The crowd is nearly 100% adult males (very few women or kids in the picture) and B) The huge majority of men are wearing ties with more than half in fedoras and other sorts of dress hats. Nowadays, it blows my mind anybody would choose to wear a tie to a baseball game.

    It’s also funny how the various sports treat the coaches/manager apparel. Basketball coaches tend to dress in full suits like they just came from a business meeting. Baseball managers rather bizarrely dress in uniforms identical to the players, as if the 60-year-old guy with the potbelly might insert himself into the game if needed. Football is about halfway in between in that coaches tend to wear team apparel but not uniforms and not business suits. (Though that wasn’t always the case as some all-time great coaches like Tom Landry wore suits and dress hats while coaching.)

  • Pirossalma

    Despite all the myths, as a fellow Californian, I can attest, that there is no correlation between financial status and dressing up/down. (See the posts suggesting that less fortunate/ former Greyhound riders flying now – causing the problem.)
    No, there is no correlation between age and dressing up/down either. PPl from the golden age dress down as much as youngsters.
    As for the pj-s. First class passengers on long haul flights are provided pj-s. What is wrong if ppl on economy class change to sweatpants/shirts?

    P.S.: Around here, in (South CA) the only ppl wearing suits even for work are (used) car salesmen.

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeInOn

    I appreciate as an airline employee that we do have to adhere to a dress code. Thankfully, only in recent years have the airlines loosened the dress code that formerly did not allow for ANY denim, T-shirts or casual clothes of any sort in any cabin. Then they finally allowed “dress casual”, of which I’m fine with. Currently in the past 2-3 years they have now said it’s okay to wear denim and T-shirts – even if you clear non rev into F-class. … “neat” denim jeans, no tears, holes, patches and of course still no short shorts, flip-flops, revealing or offending graphics, etc. Personally I just prefer dress casual internationally and jeans/blouse domestically. Though the airlines frown upon employees changing mid-flight, I will still do that on long-haul international flights. I’m sorry but the blouse and dressier pants get replaced with softer, looser materials; even the makeup comes off !. I’m not flying 14 hours to Tokyo looking like who knows what when I get there. I will then clean up and change 1-2 hours before landing into my “traveling as a non-rev” clothes.
    Back to the original question. It’s probably a waste of time to tell people how to dress or even to change their clothing (with very few exceptions if totally offensive). My take is that if some idiot wants to be looked at as such, so be it. On the other hand, I might take pity on them and make the suggestion to spare them of complete humiliation.

  • shannonfla

    I don’t care what anyone else wears except when it comes to safety. High heels on a plane? Ridiculous. Any clothing that might get caught and impede my way to an exit? Bad news. Highly flammable clothes are not ideal either

  • emanon256

    What bothers me the most are the people who smell. And it’s rarely BO, its usually heavy cologne/perfume, or cigarette smoke. And the one time the guy next to me started clipping his toe nails, it did bother me. Typically I don’t care what other people wear. I do agree that people seem to dress really poorly these days, but it doesn’t bother me.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yes, but the world in general is a more casual place than it used to be. You mention finding somebody to promote your book. Depending on the type of author you are, it might not be advantageous to be dressed to the nines. In some cases that look might have the opposite effect in that it would go totally against the image you wanted to convey.

    And while people still like giving the impression of wealth many go about it much differently than in the days where wearing a suit and tie was synonymous with being an important businessman. I know very few people who would wear business attire outside a business setting to demonstrate wealth or importance. Maybe an accessory like an expensive watch, but not traditional dress clothing. They’ll wear high-end casual clothing to demonstrate they have some money.

  • Uniall

    I agree whole heartedly that today’s public dress code is inappropriate. But, I must hold the line at an attempt to dictate a dress code unless it crosses the obscenity line.

  • emanon256

    I can’t wear flip flops or sandals, I just can’t imagine putting my bear feet on the TSA floor. I tend to stick to loafers.

  • emanon256

    Oh wait, now what happened to the new Alan Gore?

    And I agree, I get treated so much better when I dress up. And when I grew facial hair, people started treating me even better. That one I still can’t figure out, but I’ve kept the facial hair for 6 years now.

  • emanon256

    AHHHH!!!!!! That one really bothers me, I forgot that in my earlier comment. It bugs me when people put their feet on the bulkhead, especially bare feet!!! Ive also seen people put bare feet in the seat back pocket.

  • emanon256

    I have a phobia of bare feet, I have no idea why, it just really freaks me out to see them. However, I don’t tell people they can’t wear flip flops, I just try not to look.

  • emanon256

    I keep comparing my flights to bus tickets just out of curiosity and air fare is routinely much cheaper than bus.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That’s a neat post in that it’s just interesting to me how everybody has their own set of rules. Not judging at all because on the one hand I see your logic. Yet on the other hand it seems to me that in the premium cabin fine dress would be even more important, yet that is where wearing socks and pajama bottoms is okay with you.

    And again, not making fun because there is a sort of logic I see: You’ve demonstrated your social status by being in the premium cabin and there is a bit more room around you so the casual attire won’t be so in the face of the other passengers. But still kind of amusing that the poor guy stuck in coach couldn’t do the exact same thing as the guy in first class without being judged.

  • Hey folks, we’re getting an awful lot of flags on today’s comments. Just a friendly reminder about our comments policy. Thank you.

  • This comment has been flagged. I fail to see how Stuart is being disrespectful.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    I should have said your columnists don’t have to write for your audience. Maybe he wasn’t disrespecting the readers directly, but there are ways to write an opinion piece on airline attire that doesn’t talk about drawing attention to a young girl’s breasts and making negative comments about Greyhound bus clientele.

    Also, so what if a comment is flagged? If someone flags a comment that automatically means the comment is wrong or that opinion isn’t valid? I’ve noticed that you warn people a lot that a comment has been flagged. How would you suggest that people avoid having their comments flagged by anonymous internet readers? Is there a clique I can join or something that will make my opinions the popular ones?

  • Nathan Witt

    Thinking that you can dress however you want, smell however you want, or take up however much room you want without considering others is pretty self-centered, in my opinion. But thinking that you can tell those people how wrong they are and that they should be living according to your standards is pretty self-centered, too.

  • TiaMa

    I dress for the weather and my destination. If I’m flying to Cancun and know it’s going to be hot and humid, I’ll wear shorts on the plane. Not to mention selection of footwear plays into consideration when going through security and if I have to remove my shoes.

  • shannonfla

    I get so cold on planes I can’t imagine how people are able to wear shorts. I guess my Florida blood will always be with me.

  • Mike Z

    You can partially thank the TSA for the current wardrobe. When they make everyone remove their shoes at security and then subject them to body scanners, metal detectors, and other searches, then people will wear what makes it easier for them to get through security. Flip flops, crocks, pajama pants, yoga pants sports bras, etc.

    And if the airline is going to cram people so close together that you can rely on each other’s body heat for warmth, then you don’t need button up shirts, blazers, and other clothing that would only add to the heat. (think Doritos commercial)

  • MarkKelling

    Where I grew up, males past the age of about 13 didn’t wear shorts unless you were at the beach or actually playing tennis or other sports. Didn’t even wear shorts to school, no rule against it, just didn’t happen. Even now I just don’t feel comfortable in shorts in regular social interactions because of my upbringing.

    But I have nothing against anyone who wants to wear shorts, provided they are not so short that they don’t cover the necessary bits. ;-)

  • Ward Chartier

    Yes, you have the right, but not the right to expect compliance. And be prepared for an argument or a surly response. The point of saying something is to influence behavior in the desired direction. Confrontations with strangers, even if polite, stand a very good chance of causing an argument, and the desired direction gets lost in the flaming rhetoric.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I never said ‘breasts.’ My actual quote is, “a top with some intended-to-be-read writing emblazoned across the chest area?” — a phrase that I didn’t think offends anyone. If you’re offended by it, my apologies to you.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I guess you don’t change what works for you!

  • flutiefan

    personally, i make that announcement every single time i work the gate, so you must not be on my flights.

  • flutiefan

    i feel this post is not directed towards simply wearing shorts or Juicy pants, but wearing inappropriate clothing on planes, such as Daisy Duke-style shorts or see-through tops. perhaps attending to personal grooming on the plane — clipping nails, picking at feet, etc. Maybe even just being so sloppy that it’s embarrassing that someone left their home in that state: belly hanging out over their pants, exposed; stained shirts; ripped clothing that wasn’t made to be that style.
    just check out the FB page “Passenger Shaming” to see what i mean. some members of the public are inappropriate and i wish more people would say something.

  • Brooklyn

    What airline do you work for? I’ve been flying in denim, T-shirts and casual clothes for the past 40 years and I was certainly not alone. No one has ever said a word.

  • An Even Newer Alan Gore

    Yesterday when I logged on to that thread on automated road tolls, I was treated again to that dreaded “Verify your email” question. As before, it contained that email address I abandoned five years ago and just like last time, there was no way to change it to the right one. I have no idea where Disqus keeps finding that ancient email address. So I created a third new account so I could use my current email.

    Note the funny-looking avatar image. I used the same picture as last time, but now it insists on using a tiny randomly-selected corner of the self-portrait, with no opportunity to change it to the full picture.

    I don’t know why Disqus hates me, but I’m thinking it must have been bought out by an airline.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    Oh, ok. I didn’t realize you only look at the flat chested young females whose fathers should be dictating what they wear.

    I was about 60-40 on the side that you were intentionally being over the top with your examples trying to be ironic or if you really believe your own hype. I decided that it doesn’t matter, because denigrating Greyhound passengers because of their mode of transportation and shaming young girls because of the placement of text crosses a line. You could have made your point without many of your disparaging statements.

  • bodega3

    The airlines have a dress code for employees and TA traveling on special tickets that don’t apply to passengers.

  • Brooklyn

    Back in the day that the author seems to be recalling, charter flights were one way of saving money; however, there were long delays and you spent a lot of time sleeping in airports. I used to fly in slip-off sandals and a full, floor-length skirt so I could lie down on the floor or across a few seats, wrap my skirt around me and sleep until it was time to fly. Since regular travel today is as fraught with stress and delays as charters used to be and since I still plan on sleeping most of the time, I tend to wear soft, comfortable and preferably-knit clothes that will then become pajamas for the rest of my trip. As long as people don’t smell (perfume or body odor), I don’t care what they wear.

  • bodega3

    Dressing like a slob started well before 9/11. Just look how people dress to go to the grocery store or Walmart.(basing this on all those Walmart shopper photos).

  • Stuart Gustafson

    Again, my apologies to you.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I might be on your flight (I don’t know your airline), and it’s nice to know that some airlines are doing the size check. Thanks for your work; as a very frequent flier, I appreciate everyone who works at the airlines and airports!

  • Globetrotter6969 .

    Experienced travelers dress for comfort not only for the flight but for the ability to get through screening easy. While I have never worn sweatpants or flip flops on a flight I am not offended as long as passengers are wearing something….and don’t stink too bad. The lore of wearing suits and formal wear on a flight has long passed.

  • LFH0

    It is an unfair insult to single out bus passengers as the standard against which to compare poorly dressed airline passengers. In years past, it was common for people to dress properly when going on bus journeys–just look at the old Greyhound Lines advertisements. The decline in bus passenger dress corresponded to the decline in air passenger dress. The comparison is unfair because it relies on an assumption that people who travel on a bus are innately inclined to dress poorly.

  • sofar

    Fair enough! I can appreciate that some of the language in the blog was probably deliberately chosen to inspire discussion, and it is heard to judge tone from writing.

  • LFH0

    As noted, the Constitution protects the right of the people to be free of government restraints on speech, not private business restraints. However, common carriers and hotels have long been held to a higher standard than other private businesses, and provide service to all those willing and able to pay the requisite fee, up to the capacity of the vehicle or hotel, and subject to reasonable regulations. I don’t think it is reasonable for a common carrier or inn to deny service merely on the basis of a person’s expressions that are not objectively-disturbing of the peace. If a person wears clothing that exhibits political speech that disagreeable or offensive (but not obscene), that person should have a right to express that thought as a passenger on a common carrier or as a guest at an inn.

    But it is also important to note that a “right” to an activity does not imply that the activity should be undertaken. Simply because a person has a right to dress offensively does not mean that people should so dress. We can, and should, condemn people who don’t dress properly, and through peer pressure create a more pleasant environment for all; yet we must be prepared to be confronted by people exercising their right to not be civil. Anyone unwilling to do so should avoid common carriers and instead travel by private transportation.

  • LFH0

    The same here as to not wearing shorts. Nonetheless, it amazes me when I travel by cruise liner into Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America the number of Americans invading the ports with shorts. I shy away from them, trying my best to blend in (difficult as it may be with my very fair complexion and height).

  • Stuart Gustafson

    That is one (not the only one!) thin that is tough in online discussions. Tone can be misinterpreted or the entire purpose isn’t understood — they’re just words that can take on a different meaning depending on the reader’s frame of mind. My point in the weekly article was just to ask a question. And the votes are certainly in favor of “No.”

  • LFH0

    Admittedly, I don’t really like having to wear a suit and tie, and I prefer a regular long-sleeve or polo shirt, long pants, and lace-up shoes. Nonetheless, when traveling for business, I may wear suit and tie on the train (I gave up flying years ago). And when I do so, I receive the best treatment from both the carrier employees and from other passengers. There’s nothing like walking into the railroad dining car dressed in suit and tie, getting a good table and great service, and super conversations from the other passengers.

  • Jim

    Chris, how did you get a picture of me on my sofa!?!?!?

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    I find it ironic that you’ve expended so much effort to remove snark from the comment section, yet this column passed your editorial process.

    I’m just going to say this, and then I’ll be done.

    I find the paragraph about “younger females” to be highly offensive. As I’ve said in my other replies, the idea that girls, who Mr. Gustafson things should have their clothing approved by their fathers are doing something wrong by wearing writing on their “chest area” or “buttocks area” is nothing more than slut shaming with carefully chosen, cautiously guarded wording.

    By labeling it “intended-to-be-read writing” you’re blaming these “younger females” for something that you’re judging as wrong. What makes it wrong? Is it the feelings seeing the writing on their “chest area” stirred in you? Well, obviously it’s their fault, they intended for you to look there by their clothing choice! Their own father wouldn’t even approve!

    Christopher, if I recall correct, at least one of your children is a “younger female.” How will you feel in a few years when she is judged for wearing a shirt with “Disney World” across her chest because she wants to remember your last vacation. Or what if she chooses to go to the teen club on your family cruise wearing track pants she got from playing on her school volleyball happen to have letters on the “buttocks area.” Are you really going to tell me that you’d be ok with someone telling your daughter that her choice of clothing forced them to examine her “chest area” and that you’d take that to mean anything other than her breasts because that person used the word “chest” instead of breast? Really? If you are anything short of disgusted by 1. the sentiment behind that paragraph and 2. Mr. Gustafson’s explanation that his sentiment isn’t offensive because he used the phrase “chest area” instead of the word “breasts” then I truly feel sorry for the future that your daughter is headed towards. She’s already forming her body image based on your thoughts, your actions and your words. Not because of words on her clothing.

    I’m sure you’ll give me a warning about this post because I used the word slut, and people will flag it. Go right ahead and tell yourself that my choice to use that word invalidates what I’m saying about the problems with this column, and your responses.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    It sounds as if you had a good upbringing, Mark. I do think there are places for certain types of clothing, and some where it might be “:okay,” but like you — I just don’t do it.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I speak on cruise ships about 3-4 times a year. You can tell who are the American’s by the clothing they wear on shore. Yes, they’re comfortable, but it’s not what the locals wear. I’ll not blend in either, but I do believe there is something for acknowledging the local customs.

  • bodega3

    This happens all over the world. Go to Fisherman’s Wharf in SF and you can pick out the European tourist right away. Go to the wine country and city people stick out like a sore thumb with their city clothes. In London, locals were in jeans at the theatre. In Paris, locals were wearing shorts and flip flops. Times have changed.

  • Simonyves Camilien

    I try not to judge people by what they wear. I think what they say, how they act, and how they treat others is much more telling. Wear whatever you want on a plane so long as you practice basic personal hygiene and basic modesty – same as you would in any other situation where you have to share space with the public.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Yeah… sure…. First, there was “Alan Gore,” then “The New Alan Gore,” now “An Even Newer Alan Gore”?! I’m not buyin’ it. Someone needs to check Alan’s basement for pods. :-)

  • Daisiemae

    Woohoo! Skating on thin ice now!

  • Mike Z

    People weren’t dressing nearly as bad on flights before 9/11. The TSA wasn’t requiring you to remove all your shoes and they weren’t feeling you up either. People were able to pack toiletries of more than 2oz in their bags and their bags actually were included in the cost of the ticket. There was room for your legs and feet and even shoulders on most seats. Sadly that isn’t the case on a lot of planes anymore. In the past I would see maybe a couple people on a flight that had flip flops on but now it seems like every other person is wearing some type of slip on shoe, even in the middle of winter here.

    We must have a high class walmart where I live because I’ve never seen anyone that resembled a person in the photos.

  • Stuart Gustafson

    I don’t think I am; I’m just telling an anonymous person that I’m sorry if he (or she) was offended by the very neutral language I used. I think if you read my entire article and all the comments that I’ve written, you will see I am quite middle of the road. My whole point was to generate discussion, which it did.

  • LFH0

    My best story in that respect was the time in port in Belize. As part of the travel to our destination wedding in Mexico, my then-fiancée and I had made advance arrangements to visit the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha, and were well-prepared with long-sleeve shirts and long pants, hats, and insect repellant (think “Indiana Jones” apparel). Perhaps not quite what the locals within Belize City were wearing, but appropriate and not disrespectful. On the other hand, a pair of young women, apparently having decided on the spur of the moment, joined the expedition, each attired in dresses with high hems and flip-flops. As would be expected in a jungle, the insects were out and hungry, the women were constantly batting, and as my fiancée put it, were getting bites where no one would want to get bitten. In this case, appropriate dress is dictated by the activity, and bad choices in attire were dealt with appropriately!

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeInOn

    I’m assuming that you are not an airline employee ? If not, then of course you may well have been flying in jeans and T-shirts for all those years.
    The very relaxed dress code has only come into play in the last 3-4 years for airline employees flying non-rev. Before that it was dress casual – all cabins, and before that it was business attire (suit, tie, jacket) for men and the equivalent of “office” attire for women.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    So now you’re implying that the people who wear shorts had a bad upbringing? Curious, does any of this ever become a foible of yours or is it always the other people’s problem because they weren’t raised well or aren’t as couth as yourself?

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’ll take skimpy-dressed folks any day over the ones who don’t bathe. Ugh. DEODORANT IS NOT A CHOICE!

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeInOn

    I once had to check in a gal traveling on a buddy pass (not my pass) but she was dressed horribly. Picture this – a slinky tank top (too tight), torn short-shorts frayed at the ends and under the shorts some kind of “peek-a-boo” leggings. I was very diplomatic. She was young (like 18) and probably her first time traveling alone. I quietly asked her if she had any other outfit to change into, that as a non-rev, etc., the gate agent would not allow her on the flight. She was good enough to change into “normal” jeans and a regular T-Shirt.

  • taxed2themax

    I think that there is an overall right to “tell” someone about their dress.. While I am a strong believer freedoms, I must always balance that against the collective good. Speaking to air travel directly, as that is a shared space situation, I do think there is some “right” for the carrier to impose some limits on dress..
    I don’t think that this “right” should be used as a defacto means to censor freedom of expression or to ban something someone else may not like due to it’s content.. but… I do think it’s ok for a carrier to establish some standards.
    Yes, it’s a slippery slope – I agree…. but even as it is with freedom of expression – there’s some limits; you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.. So, in line with that idea, I don’t have an overwhelming disagreement with the establishment of some minimum standards of dress when in or using a shared-space common-carrier transport.

  • Nancy Nally

    Don’t forget that back in the day when people “dressed up” to fly, seat pitch and width was also much more humane than it is today. As airlines do more and more to take away every last bit of our comfort and sell it back to us at gouging prices, passengers have to do what we can to try to get a little of it back. And sometimes that means flying in sweatpants on that cross country red eye flight so we can be comfortable enough to try to get at least a little sleep.

  • Bill___A

    You have the right to expect that the carrier enforce a proper code of dress. If they don’t, I believe the problem is with the travel supplier (airline etc.) to deal with it.

  • Brooklyn

    I hadn’t realized that you were talking about a dress code for off-duty airline personnel; I thought you were referring to something more general.

  • Randy Culpepper

    As a passenger, do I have the right to tell someone to dress up? No.

    I also don’t have the right to tell a person to: check his carry-on baggage, travel without children, not bring smelly food on the plane, not get drunk, close the window shade, not recline his seat…I could go on. I may not like these practices, but none of them will ruin my day.

  • Thank you for taking the time to comment. This is Stuart’s column. If you’d like to write a rebuttal, please contact me. We welcome a diversity of opinions on this site.

  • TC Hollis Wagenstein Hurturk

    People have the right to dress as stupidly as they desire. But, as you so rightly point out, they have no right to expose you to their bodily odors and unsightly personal attributes in close quarters, especially if children are in view. Buttock cleavage, bare feet, open armpits (IMHO for both sexes), exposed breasts, and the like are “too much information” and have no place in a public situation where the “victims” CANNOT walk away, at least until the plane lands.

  • Daddydo

    Of course you have the right to tell somebody to take their smelly feet out of you face. You have the right to duck when that mis-fit throws a punch at you. You really have no rights today in public when it comes to dress. Grin, laugh out loud, embarass the crap out of them, and it will still do no good. We have become a world of traveling bums. BTW, when I fly this week, I will be in slacks, ties, and sport coat.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    About all you can do is give them a look of disgust and move away, or laugh at them like I do. Frankly, loud talkers are far more offensive in public than the slobs. The men especially seem to think that if facial hair is in style, so is looking like a bum. Oh well.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Well, I just made a comment about men looking like bums, so maybe we’re even?

  • Andrew Smith

    I don’t care what other people wear, as long as it doesn’t directly affect me — the tank top and sweaty armpits come to mind. But in a sweaty-armpit situation, I wouldn’t ask the person to dress better, I’d ask him to put his arms down. If he won’t (which I imagine is fairly likely), I’ll ask to be re-seated — but of course, good luck with that on today’s crammed planes.

    My solution lately has been to not fly often, and when I do fly, I pay for business class. The seats are (usually) more comfortable, it’s quieter, and worst-case, you get to deal with a better class of boor.

  • pauletteb

    Your story reminds me of the Sounds of Silence dinner my daughter and I attended in Yulara, near Uluru in Australia. The dinner was held in the dessert, and most people wore appropriate footwear. A couple very overdressed women kept falling when their high heels sank into the sand . . . providing immense entertainment to the rest of us.

  • Daisiemae

    My comment wasn’t made to you. It was made to disqus_wK5MCy17IP when he/she questioned how people could avoid having their comments flagged by anonymous internet readers.

  • ctporter

    I was thinking of this particular column on my flight home last night. Yesterday was one of those “fly in – work – fly out” days for me at a manufacturing facility doing inspections/evaluations. I was wearing my Arc rated FR gear (jeans and thick hoodie over long sleeve polo style shirt) with work shoes. Very different from my travel clothes when I am a speaker which are dress/smart casual pants and tops. However, both manners of dress have one thing in common – comfort while traveling which does include getting through TSA checkpoints without fuss and bother and warmth. Obviously my attire started out clean, but you could tell I had been working by the end of the day due to dust streaks on my hoodie and jeans. When I see guys in similar work apparel I assume they are equipment techs that do a lot of start ups in factories which means they travel a lot. We tend to trade stories of getting through TSA with our tools and the experiences we have had.

  • LonnieC

    I have no problem with casual clothing, although it can certainly be overdone (On occasion I’ve been quite entertained by what folks wear in public.)
    What hasn’t been mentioned here, however, is that when one dresses in professional business attire (men: suit, tie, dress shirt, women: business attire) there is a tendency to get better attention and service that when casually dressed. It may be unfair, but if I have a problem of some sort (a return, bad service, etc.), I’ve found that wearing a suit nearly always gets the response I want. Of course, being polite and acting professional also helps.

  • Ianto Jones

    I understand the conversation you’re attempting to have here, and have my own circumstances to put forward.

    For me, it *does* come down to the post-9/11 security procedures.

    I am paraplegic, oxygen-dependent, and utilise a powerchair for mobility. (Previously, I have also used a manual wheelchair.)
    I also wear KAFOs (thigh-to-foot “long leg braces”), made of titanium and carbon-fiber, as well as “push-gloves” (fingerless hand protection) of leather and nylon mesh.

    The security procedure is nightmarish for me.
    By law, the TSA can’t require me to remove my KAFOs, but they *can* thoroughly inspect them, both manually and with the chemical-testing swabs.
    Since they run from my hips to my feet (inside my shoes) and encase my legs fully, this involves an extremely intrusive manual examination.
    I am unable to stand unassisted, and they are not allowed to assist me or allow my caretaker to do so, thus the examination involves me leaning forward as far as possible in my seat as they feel around my hind-end and under my thighs, then leaning back while they palp ate my groin and legs thoroughly.
    All this while being repeatedly instructed to keep my arms straight out to the sides and not touch my chair arms or the agent (which is impossible, as I need to hold on with one hand or the other to keep from falling over).
    They also give a very thorough pat-down of my torso, which is often bandaged to hold medication patches and gauze cushioning in place (I have very painful keloids across my entire chest, and the friction of a shirt can be agonising).

    They also swab the chemical-testing pads forcefully over several points on my leg braces, shoes, and gloves.
    All this while jiggling and examining my (FAA-approved) breathing apparatus, and mandatory extra batteries, etc., which is understandably nerve-wracking (there are several somewhat-fragile connectors etc., not meant for rough handling).

    All that, and then I am frequently “requested” (they can’t demand, but they can strongly request) to transfer from my powerchair (which grants me independence, and by law is supposed to be mine at least to the gate) to one of the airport or airline’s manual chairs.
    These chairs do have push-rims, but the large wheels are set too far back for realistic self-propulsion- they’re designed for someone to be pushed in, not to push themselves (and sometimes have a large “safety/anti-theft” pole blocking the area an elbow would need to use in self propulsion).
    Not to mention they are nearly twice as wide as my chair (to accommodate the largest range of clients – I’m the size of an average 12-14yo), with no positioning to keep me from falling- and that width also interferes with self-propulsion (for reference, sit in the widest recliner you can find, then try to reach a point halfway to the floor over both arms, *simultaneously*, without leaning to either side; bonus points for a suitcase or duffel in your lap or a large backpack on).

    Again, by law, if they move me from my powerchair to their manual, they are supposed to provide a transporter, who is supposed to not only get me from security to my gate, but is also supposed to let me stop for the restroom or to grab a snack en route.
    The catch is, of course, that there are seldom any available, and if one does come, they are running full-tilt to get me somewhere near the gate desk and then take off full tilt (occasionally trying to transfer me to a lounge seat first, as they “need the chair”).
    Since I routinely have to be at security at least two hours before check-in (to allow for the issues above, and any discussions about my equipment etc), often three, plus an hour or so at the gate, and from one to eight hours actual travel time (if no delays, and if my powerchair hasn’t been smashed at any transfer point), and you can imagine that’s a bit long without relief or refreshment?
    I realise it could be said that I should have a helper if I have this many challenges, but in my own chair, I don’t need one…
    And don’t get me started on the time United had a *Steep* outside ramp way (so steep I had to go up backwards or I’d’ve tipped over backwards), at the top of which was a five-to-ten foot section where the handrails left too narrow a path for my chair, so I literally had to drag myself onto the plane…they did send a 98-lb 70-yo to try to help me up the ramp, but I spent more effort trying not to harm her, than any assistance she provided…*no*, it never crossed my mind to sue! Though I was in pain for days afterwards, I wasn’t _injured_, though my trip was severely impacted, and it really made me imagine what would’ve happened if I’d been quadriplegic!

    Anyhow. To bring this back on topic re: dress code – due to the security screening, I have taken to wearing the shortest gym shorts my modesty can abide, with leggings under, and yes a tank top (though I carry a button-up shirt and a lap blanket for after security), as it shortens the process dramatically if they are able to push my shorts completely aside to visualise the entire leg braces, and to pull the tank outward enough to examine the gauze.
    I already forfeit any rights to personal space, so modesty comes second to practicality.
    And yes, I am embarrassed- particularly because I am among those who find no added sense of safety in exchange for such intrusions.
    I don’t want to attract unwanted attention by discussing that aspect further – I do _need_ to fly occasionally!

    I did fly frequently before 9/11, and can strongly attest to how dramatic the changes have been!
    I don’t know if this post has been more informative or inflammatory, but it was what came to mind while reading this article.
    I realise my tangent, but it feels relevant to explaining my own choices of attire for flying ?

    As for feet-on-the-bulkhead — I do usually sit in the (Southwest) front bulkhead window seats, and I do sometimes extend my legs forward (locking the knees of my braces, legs straight out) as my only means of stretching during the flight. I don’t infringe on anyone else’s space, and don’t recline my seat. But even as short/slight as I am (5’5″, 108#) I barely fit in the provided space.

    Just intended as a perspective on why (beyond laziness/self-centeredness) someone might dress down to fly?
    Thanks for the microphone,

  • AH

    that’s exactly what i do on long flights… wear something “nice” to go thru customs or checkpoints, but have an easy change of clothes so i can be comfy during the flight.
    less hassle going thru check points, but some comfort during flight.
    even back in the 80s on my first international flight, looking neat and tidy vs sloppy going thru customs made things much easier.
    (and btw, i grew up in the 60s when dresses or at the very least, nice slacks, were de rigueur when flying.)

  • mugg$

    This is more than what the article headline claims. This is all really boiling down to a breakdown of society, if you will. The mode ‘o’ day seems to be “do your own thing- to he## with everyone else!”. The reason why our parents and grandparents dressed properly was not to impress, but to show respect toward their fellow man. That’s right: respect. We don’t chew with our mouths open because it offends the witnesses. Dressing in a manner that offends, or embarrasses the viewer, tells the viewer that “we don’t care about you OR your societal norms!”

    This morning I had the TV on, one of those “19 kids & more” reality shows- one of the subjects of the show was in Washington DC, wandering the city while her husband was away at a meeting. She was pushing a stroller with two children in it, she was in the middle of the city and taking in the sights etc. What did she have on? FLIP FLOPS. In Washington DC. In the middle of the city: Flip. Flops.That is beach-wear, or gym shower wear. She was improperly attired. She may as well have been in her jammie-jams.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.