Summer is around the corner—yeah! Some of you have planned a vacation or are simply planning to enjoy the summer barbecuing or dining out. It’s time to get light pants and shorts out; your bare legs will once again see the light!
Are you planning to travel outside the US?
Are you planning a vacation in Europe? Or anywhere else in the world? Are you aware of the “Ugly American Syndrome”? The Ugly American is a stereotype that dates from the post-World War II years, when Americans with money began visiting Europe as it continued to struggle back from the ravages of the war. Americans were perceived as loud, demanding, and rude and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t speak English, put ice in their drinks, and more or less do things the way things are done back in the US.
Throughout my travels I have heard that expression over and over again in several countries—and also to my surprise, by other fellow Americans. I tried to look at things objectively and see if there was some truth to it. Interestingly enough, some of these critiques kind of make sense when it came to style! From what I have observed, the European stereotype of the “Ugly American” is embarrassingly true when it comes to wardrobe (and also behavior of a few)!
However, the American tourist is not worse than any other tourist—in every nation, you have the regular tourist who is eager to learn and discover as well as the ugly one.
Bad behavior is inherent to many other tourists from other parts of the world—you just need to go to Mallorca during the summer to see some “ugly German tourists” or the French Riviera for Russians behaving badly. The Irish ranked the British as the worst travelers, and similarly, the British thought very poorly of German tourists…the list can go on and on.
I don’t believe Americans have the monopoly of ugly behavior…there is simply a universal “ugly tourist” that exists independently and gives many countries a bad name!
I’m not going to elaborate on behavior but instead on clothing. While abroad, anywhere I went I was able to immediately spot the American tourist simply by their uniform! Safety should be a key consideration no matter where you travel, and part of staying safe in an unfamiliar place is dressing to blend in or, at least, not dressing to stand out! No matter where you go, you don’t want to stand out in the crowd. If you don’t know what to wear, just keep things simple and avoid the typical “American tourist uniform,” consisting of sweat pants, baseball caps, sneakers (white, lace-up tennis shoes are the calling card of American tourists and the terrifying Velcro sneakers) and fanny packs! Nothing screams more American tourist than this major wardrobe faux pas. Please…leave all this behind!
1. Avoid running athletic shoes
Particulary in Europe (and most countries), sneakers are for sporting activities only. White tennis shoes, Crocs, hiking shoes, Teva sandals, and plastic flip flops are notably frowned upon by the British, French, Spanish, Italians, and many other nationalities. Instead, wear comfortable leather walking shoes in the city: loafers, leather sandals, and the right sneaker (no running shoe, under no circumstances).
Most travel books tell you to wear comfortable walking shoes…but comfortable does not mean wearing running shoes! For most Americans who drive their cars everywhere, generally buying comfy shoes means to go to REI or their local sports store because buying comfy shoes is a mystery to them. If you don’t own comfy shoes that you can walk miles in, please buy some!
NO to all of the above shoes!
What you can wear instead
I am not putting any flip-flops here on purpose….
Flip-flops are a real plague. Wherever I look, I see grown men wearing flip-flops! You don’t wear your bathing suit to go to a restaurant—why in the world would you think it’s okay to wear flip flops anywhere?! You only want to wear these on the beach or in the hotel showers, period!
If you really like your open-toed shoes, Mandals are big for summer 2014—every runway had sandals! Not every guy should exercise his right to bare feet in public, though. Once you find the right pair, it’s important to know how and when to wear them.
I’m ambivalent about sandals—you can wear them with shorts or linen casual pants, but wearing them with anything else will not do you a favor…and please, never wear socks with sandals! I know that this sacred fundament has been shaken lately on the S/S 2014 runway, but please don’t do it! Leave the 70s German tourist look for the models on the catwalks.
If you insist on wearing sandals, you can wear a simple leather one.
2. Avoid patriotic clothes or anything that has to do with America.
In particular, avoid clothing with an American city’s name, the country or state’s flag, or similar printing.
3. Avoid Hawaiian shirts
4. Avoid athletic shorts or pants
Instead, wear well-fitting clothes—the people abroad tend to wear better-fitting clothes. You really won’t find many people wearing “oversized” styles.
During the day, while sightseeing, don’t worry too much about what you look like. As long as you still avoid the things on the Fashion Faux Pas list, wear comfortable shoes and clothing. At night, you want to put a little more effort into your look when you go out for dinner or to a nightclub. But this isn’t really any different than what you’re used to. A well-fitted button up shirt and dark jeans is a perfect and easy nighttime look. Make sure you pack a pair of dressy shoes for the night and always pack a navy blazer with you in case something comes up.
5. Avoid baseball hats, backpacks, fanny packs, and water bottles
Baseball caps and fanny packs SCREAM “American tourist!”—not to mention how unsafe these packs are. It’s best not to carry bags of any kind, and instead conceal your personal effects in your pockets. A flap bag or a backpack may also work. Nothing fancy—the simpler the better!
Carry these bags instead, and if you’re worried about getting sun in your eyes, wear sunglasses instead of a baseball cap. For a guide to sunglasses, read Hunting for the Perfect Shades this Summer? We’ve Got Ya Covered.
6. Avoid white socks
Dressing appropriately while abroad not only helps fit in with the locals and receive friendlier service, but it also protects you from standing out to pickpockets. When in doubt, look at what the locals are wearing.
Be polite and respectful, don’t cause a spectacle or be overly loud, and you should be fine.
Embrace the American—leave the ugly at Home!
Embrace the American—leave the ugly at Home!
Have fun wherever you will be, and as always, if you are interested to become more fashion-forward but need some guidance, or if you are feeling adventurous with your wardrobe and want to step it up a bit, contact Leila at Leila@thenouveaustyle.com.