10 Clothing Items You Shouldn't Wear on a Plane
Style and health experts share their top dressing tips for travel.
When you dress for a flight—especially a long one—comfort is key. But if you're singularly focused on which clothing items to don on a plane, experts say that it's time to look at your packing list from a new perspective. Nailing a successful travel outfit is just as much about the pieces you decide not to wear in the air. Wondering which clothing items are causing you more misery than they're worth when you fly? Read on to learn the 10 items you should never wear on a plane, according to both style and health experts.
Tight pants—including stiff or slim-cut jeans—are best avoided when you fly, says Patrick Kenger, a personal stylist and image consultant for men.
"These restrict movement and can quickly become uncomfortable, especially if you tend to experience bloating when traveling," Kenger explains. "Opt for something with a little give to accommodate your movement and comfort. Choose jeans that have three to five percent elastane for added comfort and stretch. Stylish joggers can be a good option here too."
Leah Wise, the personal stylist and travel blogger behind Crash Gal Couture, agrees that tight pants are a mismatch for long-haul flights. "Because you're sitting for such a long amount of time, the waist and button can dig into your stomach. I would opt to wear something more breezy and flowy like a long skirt or a maxi dress to be comfortable and unrestricted," she tells Best Life.
"Shapewear is typically designed to hold you in and make you look slim and smooth. While that might be great for a night out, it's simply not comfortable on an airplane," she tells Best Life. "Not only can the tight fabric restrict your breathing, but it could also dig into your skin during long hours of sitting or even standing if there are no seats available. Instead, opt for breathable materials like cotton, so you can remain comfortable and have some breathing room while you fly."
High heels and other dress shoes
High heels and other types of dress shoes are also better left at home when you head to the airport. "Avoid heels, lace-up boots, or shoes with lots of straps and buckles. While these can be wonderfully stylish, they're likely to be more of a stressor when navigating security lines and the airplane aisle," says Kenger.
Instead, he recommends trying close-toed, slip-on shoes, such as loafers or flats. "If you must wear something dressier, ensure the shoe has a rubber sole for comfort and traction," he suggests.
In a 2021 TikTok that went viral, flight attendant Tommy Cimato detailed a handful of things people should never do on a plane, one of them being wear shorts.
He pointed out that you don't know how many people have wiped their hands on the seat or what has touched it. "You never know how clean it's going to be, so if you have pants, you're going to have fewer germs," he explained.
It can be difficult to find just the right outfit to ensure that you're comfortable in the climate of both your place of departure and arrival. However, when you're in the air, it's a pretty safe bet that the air conditioning will be pumping at full volume—so you should plan on staying away from sleeveless tops and other skin-baring styles.
"If you do opt for a sleeveless top, be prepared to layer. Make sure that you have a sweatshirt or a jacket to wear over it," says Wise.
Bulky jewelry or accessories
According to Kenger, you should avoid large and heavy accessories if possible. Besides being uncomfortable to wear on a plane, bulky metal jewelry may also set off airport security alarms and hold up the line.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends keeping any jewelry you may bring in your carry-on baggage to minimize the risk of loss or theft which can occur in checked baggage.
Wise points out that claw clips for your hair come with a drawback of their own. "Claw clips are super trendy right now but I would not recommend wearing them on a flight because you won't be able to rest your head on the headrest and it'll be uncomfortable," she notes.
Tight dresses or complicated rompers
Airplane bathrooms are cramped and inconvenient, so you should plan on wearing an outfit that won't further complicate the experience. In particular, Kenger says to avoid tight dresses or complicated rompers.
"Anything that's hard to get in and out of is going to make it vastly more difficult to use the bathroom on the plane, as space is extremely limited. Opt for things that are comfortable and easy to slip in and out of," he suggests.
Next, Jason Rubin, DPM, a podiatrist with the Rubin Foot & Ankle Center in Naperville, Illinois, advises against wearing flip-flops on a plane.
"These are an accident waiting to happen. If you are sitting in an aisle seat and someone needs to get past, you are giving yourself no protection against the individual who accidentally steps on your foot while trying to make their way to the bathroom," he says.
Wise agrees that flip-flops are inappropriate and impractical for air travel. "There are several reasons why you should never wear sandals on a plane. The first is that if you don't have TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry, you're going to have to take your shoes off, which means you're going to have to walk barefoot on the airport floor," she says, noting that this is unhygienic. The second reason, she says, is that your feet are likely to be cold on the plane.
Similarly, backless shoes such as mules or slides can also pose a problem on a flight, Rubin says. "A trip to the airplane bathroom may lead to some unsanitary accidents if you do not have the proper protection around the entire foot," he tells Best Life.
You may also be tempted to take these off while in the air, but the podiatrist warns against this. "Please don't take off your shoes during a flight! In an emergency you may be stepping on things you didn't bargain for," he says.
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