Sunday, 30 June 2013

In a Man's Suitcase: Vacation in Europe

The motivation for this post comes from my brother-in-law, Brian B, (yet another Brian in my blogging life) who came to visit us in France and stayed for three weeks. Of course, I started a conversation about packing for Europe from a man's perspective. His first response was, "We often overpack." Some things are universal and genderless.

So here is my brother-in-law's advice - a man who is in his forties, has spent time in the army, works in a hospital, and enjoys food, wine and travel: Try everything on and make sure it is flexible, in good repair, and secure enough.

I must interject and affirm that this is a vacation suitcase, not a business pack. Back to his advice: "Try everything on and make sure it is flexible, in good repair, and secure enough."

1 When buying off the rack, it is possible to buy a pair of pants with loose waist band buttons so make sure you tug the button to check if it is well-sewn or not. If you can give it a tug, a good yank, and it comes off, better you sew it on securely now, than losing it completely on your trip.

2 If you are bringing your Gucci loafers, wear them . . . meaning: if it's important and you would lament losing an item, it should be on your body or in your carry-on. Luggage gets lost, delayed and damaged. Your checked luggage should only have what you don't mind losing and those things that are easily replaced.

What to pack:

3 3 pairs of shoes: runners (for walking and running); casual sandals for walking, casual wear, shopping and sauntering through tourist sites, loafers for walking or going out. Rockports in black would do well here.

4 3 Polo shirts with a collar: one dark, one pastel and one white

5 3 t-shirts: pack dark t-shirts or running shirts; cotton feels good but tech-fibre running shirts which wick away moisture, wash up easily and dry quickly may be a better choice.

6 1 long sleeve shirt: denim for example can double as a "jacket" over a t-shirt on a questionable weather day and May and June in 2013 has been full of "questionable" weather days.

7 2 pairs shorts in lightweight fabric not heavy cotton: 1 pair black and 1 pair beige shorts, mid-thigh- or knee-length, lots of pockets and zippers to carry identification and valuables. Wear them before you go for a trial run or two to make sure that they feel good and can carry everything from wallet to passport.

8 2 pairs long pants: 1 pair dark lightweight dress pants - black or gray linen will work for the summer; and 1 pair of jeans, but not blue, a dark grey or black pair that can be worn on cool days or out for dinner.

9 You'll need at least one: pullover, whether in sweatshirt fabric or lightweight wool. Not many men I know wear cardigans but if that is your preference, at least one.

10 1 belt that you feel comfortable in using with the dress pants and with the shorts.

11 1 Jacket for certain, and 1 other if you need: one lightweight windproof or rainproof shell with pockets for identification and all the superfluous stuff tourists need: camera, lip balm, etc.; 1 lightweight linen blazer (if you intend on dining out in higher end restaurants often)

12 Generally, the issue of packing is dependent on laundry facilities. For the most part, default by bringing enough socks and underwear for your entire stay. Bring night clothes with dual function: "gymnastic pantaloons" lightweight (not bulky cotton sweatpants), blended fabric, dark colours, can be worn on the airplane for the overnight flight or on your way to the toilet in the middle of the night.

13 For the sun: Pack relative to where you are going. And yes men do wear the "casquette" in France, baseball cap by any other name. Of course, they are not as popular as in North America but on a sunny day you would be fine. Just make sure you take it off in a restaurant. I have seen men wearing ballcaps in restaurants in North America, men who should know better, not young kids - but when in Europe, make sure that you are polite when wearing your casquette.

14 Spare glasses and your lens prescription.

15 Also remember that soft-sided carry-ons are a must!

After two weeks and four days to go, he has one t-shirt he has not yet worn.

And so, thank-you Brian B, for your assistance in writing this post. I found a poem that I believe suits him well, insofar as his ideas about clothing, style and anything that comes close . . . with apologies to Charles Bukowski (my additions specific to my brother-in-law are in italics) . . . 
Style is the answer to everything 
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing 
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it 
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art 
Bullfighting can be an art 
Boxing can be an art
(Hunting and fishing can be art; although not essentially dangerous, and so then include cooking, if going beyond the dangerous . . .) 
Loving can be an art 
Opening a can of sardines (or tripe or foie gras or confit) can be an art 
Not many have style 
Not many can keep style 
I have seen dogs with more style than men, although not many dogs have style. 
Cats (particularly Taurus) have it with abundance 
When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun 
that was style 
(I had difficulty including this former line of Bukowski's poem, yet it is his writing, and my brother-in-law likes Hemingway . . . so who am I to play censor?)
Or sometimes people give you style:  
Joan of Arc had style 
John the Baptist 
Jesus 
Socrates 
Caesar 
Garcia Lorca 
I have met men in jail (even in the army) with style 
I have met more men in jail (not in the case of my brother-in-law-in-particular) with style than men out of jail 
Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done 
Six herons (seen while in France) standing quietly in a pool of water, 
Or . . . 
- Charles Bukowski [Henry Charles Bukowski (born Heinrich Karl Bukowski), 1920 - 1994; German-born American poet, novelist, short story writer and columnist.]

You might also want to visit the following for previous posts on style:
What is it to be Chic?
The Way we Dress: What is Chic?
A Style Philosophy

Or visit the following for previous posts on travel and dress:
Style Consciousness when Traveling Abroad
Traveling Europe: Clothing Observations
What to Wear When Flying for 2 Days
Packing for a Two Week Visit in Europe
Business & Tourist Travel Wardrobes

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