Knowing what to wear on a plane is tricky.
You need to weigh up factors like the duration of the flight, purpose, and destination to optimize your comfort on the flight and readiness when unboarding.
I’ve chosen the wrong outfit plenty of times, and ended up sweating in the middle seat with my knees smashed into the seat in front of me.
To help you avoid this discomfort, I’ve put together your ultimate guide for what to wear on a plane for men. Let’s fly in.
What to Wear on a Plane as a Man
To make this guide simpler, I’ve broken the flights and destinations into categories, the first of which is international and long haul flights.
International or Long Haul Flights
Depending on where you live, international flights are actually quite short (looking at you, Europe and Central America). In this case, we’re looking at flights longer than seven hours, which more often than not are international.
Seven hours or more is a long time to sit anywhere, let alone in a tiny seat in a metal tube hurling through the air at 500 miles per hour. Thus, you want to dress comfortably, ideally with fabrics that breathe well and wick moisture.
When it comes to tops, layering is the name of the game. The full process from arriving at the airport to departure presents a host of opportunities for your temperature to fluctuate dramatically.
Moving baggage into the airport and checking it is almost sure to break a sweat, as is trying to unpack and repack your carry-ons in the security line without the person behind you audibly sighing from how long you’re taking.
You finally get on the plane but the air conditioning hasn’t kicked in yet, and 180 bodies in a small metal cylinder gets hot quickly.
Then, finally, the air conditioning pumps up, you reach cruising altitude, and little by little you start to get cold.
While this is true of any flight, it’s especially important to wear layers on a long haul flight due to the duration. At a base level, I recommend a cotton-blend or synthetic fabric t-shirt, and light but warm hoodie like the Go-To from Public Rec.
Public Rec are the kings of medium-weight fabrics and their Go-To Hoodie is a great example. The comfortable fit and soft material makes it an easy reach for any plane trip.
A hoodie is easy enough to take on and take off to regulate your temperature, and it won’t take up much space if it’s a light, polyester blend. I also like Public Rec’s Waffle-Knit Hoodie, which looks great as a base layer under a bomber (as per the pic below), is also light and breathable but is surprisingly warm.
Hoodies are great for long haul flights since they’re comfortable to sleep in, and the hood can help block out excess light and noise.
If you’re looking for a solid sweatshirt that’s warm, neat, not bulky, and great for a variety of situations, Public Rec’s Waffle Knit Hoodie checks all the boxes with ease. The relaxed, athletic fit makes this perfect for layering beneath a jacket or wearing it by itself, and the waffle-knit fabric has thermal properties that will keep you warmer than you’d expect.
When it comes to bottoms for a long haul flight, it’s again important to prioritize comfort. I’ve made the mistake of wearing jeans on a ten-hour flight before and don’t think I’ll ever make that mistake again.
Swap out the denim you were planning to wear for a synthetic fabric pant like a jogger that will stretch and breathe well. These kinds of clothes are Public Rec’s bread and butter, especially their All Day Every Day (ADED) line.
This line includes the ADED Pant, ADED Jogger, and the ADED 5-Pocket Pant. Each pair is made from a blend of nylon and spandex, and the best part is that they look like chinos.
If you’re prioritizing comfort and want a casual look, go with the ADED Joggers. If you still want comfort, but want to look slightly more formal, the ADED Pant and 5 Pocket Pant are excellent choices as well.
If you’re going to get joggers, choose quality. The minimalist slim fit design on these joggers hits an excellent balance between comfort and performance.
For footwear, I recommend anything that’s breathable and easy to slip on and off. My go-to choice is a pair of athletic sneakers like the Wolf & Shepherd SwiftKnit Loafer featured below, but casual loafers or slides are a great choice too (I like the Mahabis Breathe—here’s my review).
I recommend wearing socks to keep your feet warm at cruising altitude.
Avoid boots and dress shoes here, if possible. As much as you might want to wear your Doc Martens on the plane, you’ll be much more comfortable with light, breathable shoes.
Despite the fact that smartphones automatically switch time zones when you land, it can still be nice to have knowledge of the current time at your destination before flipping your phone out of airplane mode.
Thus, a GMT watch is a great accessory for long haul flights. A GMT watch allows you to track the time of two different time zones, which in this case would be your departure and arrival time zones.
While I love the Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi, she of course ain’t cheap. For a budget pick that’s something of a homage in blue and red, I’m a big fan of the Timex 38 mm Q Timex Reissue—it’s sleek, timeless, more affordable than the competition, and quartz so you can rely on it not stopping on you somewhere over the Atlantic.
Easily one of our favorite quartz GMTs under $150, this is a fantastic budget travel watch with a very wearable 38mm case size. The bracelet isn't anything to write home about, but it has a lot of charm and is perfect to throw on and hit the airport without having to set the time or worry about knocking it or losing it.
Short or Domestic Flights
Short flights are generally under 5 hours in duration or less. For these flights comfort should still be your top priority, but the long-term comfort matters less as you likely won’t be trying to sleep.
There’s less of a necessity to wear something light and breathable here, so button-downs, quarter zips, sweaters, and cotton t-shirts are all recommended. You’ll still need to be mindful of temperature fluctuations, so layers are again encouraged.
I’ll often wear a light coat on shorter flights. The extra pockets are helpful when organizing my travel documents, phone, wallet, and keys, and it’s an easy way to warm up or cool down. Vuori’s Palomar Insulated Jacket is a great choice here, as is Public Rec’s Crosstown Bomber.
Similar to the tops, there’s less necessity to wear loungewear or athleisurewear bottoms when it comes to short flights. Jeans work well here, as do chinos and slacks.
If you want to maintain the appearance of chinos in an outfit but would prefer to be more comfortable, you can’t go wrong with Public Rec’s ADED 5-Pocket Pant. The nylon and spandex construction makes for a comfortable and stretchy fit that won’t make you overheat.
Belt loops, a zipepr fly, and 5-pockets elevate Public Rec's bestselling pant to a more formal level. They're kind of like comfortable chinos and won't look out of place in an informal business meeting, but you can dress them down pretty easily too.
When it comes to footwear for short flights it’s a matter of personal preference. Many people stick to simple slip-on shoes and sneakers for the security lines alone, as it’s a hassle to lace up boots or untie sneakers.
For a short flight I like to pair Chelsea boots, like my New Republic Suede Sonomas, with blue, darkwash jeans and a crisp button-down. It’s clean, timeless, comfortable enough, and has me ready for anything when I step off the plane.
After a lot of wear, I’ve concluded that the New Republic Sonoma nails the shoe trifecta of classic style, affordable pricing, and quality construction. I’m a fan.
I tend to opt for less accessories on flights since it’s one more thing I’ll have to take off in the security lines, but that’s just a matter of personal preference. But if you prefer to wear a watch, the Timex GMT again would suit well.
Or for a more versatile option, a field watch like the VAER C3 is a really good choice here. It’s not overly expensive so you don’t have to worry too much about taking it off in security and it has a really legible 3-6-9 dial for getting a quick read of the time while you’re scurrying to your terminal.
Domed sapphire crystal, USA-built quartz movement, assembled in the US, and a 36mm case. Where else can you find those specs? This field watch is built for everyday wear.
Whether you’re traveling for vacation or holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s best to keep in mind where you’ll be headed once you get off the plane.
If you’re headed to spend time with family on Thanksgiving or Christmas, stick to sweaters and button-downs as you’ll want to look nice for any potential family gatherings.
If you’re heading to the beach, a fitted short-sleeve button down or henley t-shirt are great options as well.
It’s good to keep in mind the formality of your final destination, as well. For example, athleisurewear is seldom worn in Paris, and although it might be the most comfortable option on the flight there, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb in Paris.
You can always change at the airport, but it’s best to ensure you’re following the local custom of wherever you land.
Stick to jeans and chinos when flying to a formal destination or you have a family gathering. Your flights likely won’t be too long, so you shouldn’t be too uncomfortable for a short duration.
If you’re headed somewhere warm and don’t want to sweat when you get off the plane, chino shorts and dress shorts can be appropriate.
Steer clear of basketball or athletic shorts, though, unless you plan on pumping iron during the flight.
They look like standard chino shorts. But they have---wait for it---nine different pockets. Only four are showing. Can you guess where the other five are?
This is a great time to break out leather dress sneakers and boots, especially for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m a big fan of leather Chelsea boots for planes since they’re easy to get on and off, and keep my style in check as well.
I’d stick with a sleek, clean watch here and keep it at that.
I’ve worn maybe a dozen different Vincero watches, and while I liked certain aspects of each, the Argo is my favorite. I like the simple stainless bracelet and the uncomplicated dial. Plus it’s an automatic diver with an exhibition back that can go down to 200 meters, which is pretty impressive.
Business Class Flights
Business class flights are usually intended for those who are traveling for work, but not always. Either way, business class has a more formal connotation than coach, and your outfit should reflect that.
Should You Wear a Suit?
Unless your job warrants business formal attire, a traditional suit isn’t necessary. Wearing slacks, khakis, or chinos with a button-down and blazer is encouraged, but this will be a more casual vibe than a classic suit and tie.
If you want to wear a suit but don’t need to for work, I’d leave the tie out to give the suit a more relaxed look and to preserve your comfort.
Bluffworks makes a line of 100% polyester suits that are intended for travel. They’re wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking, and can be thrown right in the washing machine, which makes them a perfect choice for travel.
A comfortable button-down is the best choice here, but non-baggy sweaters are also appropriate. If you’re going to layer, pair your button-down with a casual, sporty blazer.
Stick with slacks, chinos, and khakis here to best complement the button-down or sweater you’re wearing on top. If you’re going to wear jeans, aim for a smart casual ensemble and keep them dark-washed and neat, preferably slim cut.
Dress shoes, dress sneakers, and dressy, leather boots all work perfectly here. I recommend Beckett Simonon’s Reid Sneakers—they’re custom made and stylish enough for a host of outfits. Stay away from athletic sneakers or casual shoes.
I like the Beckett Simonon Reid for its overall quality and construction, and its price is phenomenal. The biggest downside to Beckett Simonon is that, because they make their shoes to order, it can take up to two months for you to actually get them. But they’re the best value-for-money pick you can get in the minimalist sneaker arena.
I would personally avoid a tie here, for comfort, but that decision is up to you. A dress watch and belt are usually enough to make a good business class outfit, which is what I would stick with here.
3 Key Things to Consider When Dressing for a Flight
Dress for the Destination
It’s important to consider your destination when deciding your outfit for the plane. For example, if your destination is going to be hot, make sure you have a t-shirt or short-sleeve button-down as a base layer to help cool off.
It’s also good to be aware of local customs, especially when flying internationally. Just because you love wearing athleisurewear doesn’t mean it’s appropriate everywhere. If you’re not trying to stick out like a tourist, pack a quick change of clothes so you can be comfy on the flight and appropriate when you land.
Prioritize Comfort on Long Haul Flights
Any flight over 7 hours requires comfortable clothes to get through. Synthetic fabric joggers and pants, like Public Rec’s All Day Every Day collection, are perfect for keeping you cool and comfortable no matter the situation.
Build Your Outfit with Layers
Building off the point above, having layers to your outfit is essential. Moving baggage and getting stuffed onto a plane can bring on the sweats, and being able to strip off a top layer can go a long way in keeping you comfortable.
Jet Off, You Stylish So and So
As long as you keep these considerations in mind, dressing for a plane can be a breeze. With these tips you shouldn’t have any difficulty traveling in comfort and style, which will make your trip all the better.
If you know someone who regularly wears a giant puffer jacket on a plane, share this article with them. They’ll thank you when they’re flying in comfort for hours on end.
If you’re a fan of understated essentials, high-quality design features, and being legs-up comfortable at all times, you’ll be a fan of Public Rec.
Should men wear shorts on a plane?
Men can wear shorts on a plane if the shorts are neat and dressy, like khaki shorts. Men shouldn’t wear basketball or athletic shorts on planes.
How can a man look good while traveling?
A man can look good while traveling by sticking to simple, layered outfits. Pair a clean white t-shirt with a shirt jacket, slim-fit jeans, and dress sneakers for a timeless, put-together look.