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Are T-shirts too casual

I having a disagreement with one of my friends who also travels.

I keep my wardrobe simple while traveling: Polo shirts, jeans, sneakers or black walking shoes. I take one pair of black pants in case I want to go somewhere "fancy." Lately, I've started to mix it up and take solid, dark color t-shirts because they are very comfortable, pack tighter, and easy to care for--they dry overnight. I have never had anyone say anything to me even when going into a casual restaurant. (I'm a firm believer in wearing what makes you comfortable.)

He says, T-Shirts mark me as an insensitive American who shows no respect for the locals.

Your opinion? Except for really fancy restaurants, and maybe the theater, do people think I'm right or my friend is right. I will show him the responses.

Posted by
9057 posts

In my book T-shirts with logos/advertising can be too casual in some situations. But plain T-shirts with just solid colors are fine in most all settings. A lot of high-end clothing companies make stylish t-shirts for a pretty penny. I'm a big fan of Orvis T-shirts, they ain't cheap even at their factory outlets. How does your friend feel about the locals wearing t-shirts advertising the local soccer team????

Posted by
5719 posts

I’ll throw out a compromise; my husband packs a black and a navy tailored-fit T-shirts in quick-drying fabrics that look really nice on him, along with some collared shirts. I usually wear dresses or nicer shirts, and we look like similar level of “formality”.

But, it’s your trip at the end of the discussion.

Posted by
40 posts

Just for myself, you understand, not judging -- but I have been known to say to my husband, with love, "You're a grown-up. Put on a shirt with a collar." ("Please" is in my tone!) I just think that, aside from a beach resort, t-shirts are to be worn in public by youngsters. Or Mark Zuckerberg. Or in "Miami Vice," topped with a linen jacket.

Continuing to think here . . . aren't some polo shirts, those that are marketed particularly for golfers/athletes, in the quick-dry category?

I say pack one or two fewer t-shirts and wear a shirt with a collar :-)

And thanks for all your travel tips, Frank II!

Posted by
125 posts

I tend to agree with Michael. I'm not a fan of t-shirts w\logo's on them. There are some nice looking t-shirts out there and, being a woman I can dress the T up with a scarf. I don't think it's showing disrespect at all, unless you are wearing pants with holes and all frayed with a sloppy, illl fitting T, which seems to be the norm of the teens where I live.
I take pride in my appearance! You are judged by your appearance first, as wrong as that may seem.
So I wear what I would at home; nice jeans or slacks, proper fitting tops, I always have my hair done, and I never leave my house in my pajamas or slippers.....hehe. Had to throw that last part in.....went to Wal-Mart today......

Posted by
2827 posts

Did you ask your friend if T-Shirts mark locals as insensitive Americans?

Personally, I have no problem with T-Shirts as long as they are clean and don't say something stupid - like "Official Bikini Inspector".

For myself, I prefer light-weight three-quarter sleeve tees.

Posted by
1353 posts

I do all the picking out and packing of clothes for my husband. Shirts are always 3 tshirts - plain with no logos, 1 polo and 1 long sleeve button down and 1 short sleeve button down which can be worn over a t-shirt if desired. We stay pretty active and tshirts are perfect for everywhere except a fancy restaurant / concert.

Posted by
2765 posts

T shirts are fine. Solid color or striped/common print ones that fit well shouldn't call any particular attention to you, they are perfectly normal on a wide variety of people.
Baggy ones with weird/tacky illustrations or slogans don't look good on anyone so I'd avoid.
Ones with team logos from home, college names, or names of common tourist sights mark you as a tourist. That might not be an issue, some people care and some don't.

One thing I've noticed is that many older Europeans (maybe 65+?) dress more formally. You are unlikely to see a 72 year old local in just a t-shirt and trousers - he will have a blazer or sweater or collared shirt. But that 72 year old man's 42 year old son is running around in a t-shirt, jeans, and converse. My husband, who is 40-ish fits in fine in solid color Banana Republic t-shirts and jeans. An older man might stand out a little more, but it's not offensive or disrespectful, just a fashion choice (except at places with a dress code or expectations like fancy meals or theater).

Posted by
3866 posts

Frank II, I think you're right.

I'm a woman, so I probably don't get it, but I see no difference between a plain T-shirt and a Polo shirt, except that Polo shirts often seem to have some kind of emblem that obviously indicates a higher income level. Perhaps yours don't. I've always really disliked any kind of brand label on anything.

When my husband was traveling with me, he always brought dark T-shirts, both long and short-sleeved. Sometimes they had some kind of picture on the front. No sports teams or anything USA obvious. Still, I'm sure your friend would think he was a disrespectful American.

Wearing a well-designed black Joe Bonamassa T-shirt one morning at our hotel in Nafplio prompted a discussion with a German tourist who'd recently been to a concert. A favorite is black with a white design featuring the progression of a primate through the stages of walking upright to being a mechanic, working on a car on a lift. It always gets a smile, no matter who sees it.

The one time he dressed up for a dinner on a Seine River cruise, most of the men were not dressed up any fancier than a long-sleeve knit shirt or sweater of some kind and dark jeans. BTW, we heard no English spoken around us on that boat. He had to lug that jacket, shirt, tie and nice pants all over France. He said never again.

I haven't been to a restaurant, the theater, an opera or a concert anywhere that dressing up was expected for over 40 years. Of course, some people dress to the nines, but in my experience (TX, OH, OR, WA, AZ, Europe) they have been a distinct minority.

Posted by
7749 posts

Frank II, IMO, it somewhat depends on how you look in them. Fit and trim with python-like biceps, you're probably OK - Dad bod with chicken neck, maybe not. I like to be comfortable too, but I'm not comfortable without a shirt. I prefer always a long-sleeve shirt over a t-shirt, as you can roll the sleeves up, or take it off in some outdoor activity, yet look more dressed up if you end up somewhere less casual. So I guess I prefer versatility over comfort. Respect for locals doesn't enter.

Emma, we Americans always assume Europeans are more cultured and civilized, and of course, a British accent always implies taste and sophistication. Onslow being the exception.

Posted by
3151 posts

As others have said, it could be an age thing. My husband 60 years young, always wear a collared, button-down shirt. He never wears t shirts, even at home. But, he wears shorts in the hot weather. Other men would scoff at that. So whatever your preference, as long as your tees are neat and clean and not offensive.

Posted by
3493 posts

I would avoid anything printed on the t-shirt. But that's me. I don't like visible logos either on my clothes (why would I provide free advertising?). Otherwise, go for it. I saw plenty of people on my last few trips to Europe wearing t-shirts that definitely were locals.

Posted by
6113 posts

Few places in Europe have dress codes, so wear what you are comfortable in.

Most British males over 40 tend to wear polos or shirts rather than t-shirts unless they are heading to the beach. It maybe something to do with the average physique!

There certainly isn’t a dress code for theatre in London - jeans or work clothes is the norm.

Posted by
5819 posts

A lot of European locals pay extra for T-shirts with printed football insignias. (They pay even more for "authentic kit" shirts). Insensitivity would be wearing the "wrong" football T-shirt and celebrating if the home team is defeated.

Posted by
4962 posts

Most British males over 40 tend to wear polos or shirts rather than t-shirts unless they are heading to the beach. It maybe something to do with the average physique!

You've sussed us Jennifer! Yes, polo shirts are more forgiving on the expanding figure than t-shirts.

I'm also with Emma. There sems to be so much consideration given by Americans about what to wear in Europe that it really isn't worth overthinking. However, in the same breath, I'm currently in Spain and I knew immediately the nationality of the two couples on an adjacent table because they were all wearing proper sports trainers. Wearing a pair of New Balance running shoes with visable shock absorbers wuth a pair of jeans and a smart jacket is not a good look.

Posted by
367 posts

Wear clean, neat and comfortable clothes appropriate for the venue. I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt and a pair of jeans to the opera but I would touring around and to casual restaurants. Put another way, in the US, would you walk up to someone visiting from another country and tell that person their outfit is not appropriate because it reflects the style of clothing from that person’s country, and is not the style worn in the US? I think not.

Posted by
2643 posts

I am pushing 70 but I keep in good shape. I wear the same solid color polyester T-shirts I wear to the gym. They are Nike, Champion, Under Armour and the like. There is a small logo usually on the front, occasionally rear collar line. They stay cool, wash in the sink, dry in 4-6 hours on average. I bring collared shirts for evening meals pretty much. Insensitive American? Eh, I don’t think so, plenty of folks with T shirts in Europe. I’ve seen this sort of criticism surround nearly every article of attire Americans favor. Shorts and athletic shoes come to mind. Then you get to Europe and everyone is wearing them! Wear what is comfortable and easy to care for.

Posted by
1399 posts

I have several FILA t shirts that are light, dry fast and they are comfortable. Unless you know a bunch of people in Europe who are going to dis you about your clothes, wear what you want. What is all this concern about blending in as a local. Pickpockets will hit locals as well as Americans. Pack light and be comfortable. Europe is hot in the summer too.

Posted by
614 posts

There are only a few months in Michigan where you find a good number of men in tees....the other months we are quite happily wearing collars and sleeves! So, wearing tees would feel rather odd to me. I think of Simon Cowell - tees are quite revealing! Does anyone really aspire to look like him? I suppose Harvey Levin is a little more acceptable...barely.

Posted by
1179 posts

It’s highly dependent on cut and color.

T-shirts in general are very unforgiving. They expose every bump, lump, and sag. Cheaper T-shirts stretch out and bag. If you wear a loose T that is untucked you’re going to look like a slob. That, or someone thinks you’re there to repair something.

A good fitting tailored T in a dark color works if you have the body for it. T’s with interesting art-like graphics may also work. But it has to fit.

I do want to point out one logic fail. “No one said anything” so it must be OK. Nope. People don’t like confrontation. They may think you’re dressed inappropriately and never say a word. That’s especially true if you are the client. I’ve seen a few cases where no one said anything until it got to Walmart at midnight bad.

I also see another logic fail. The belief that only casual is comfortable. I see people using that as an excuse to not dress better. It takes more work to find dressy comfy clothing but it is certainly out there. You can do both.

As others have pointed out it is also age dependent. Younger people have the bodies for it. Some older ones do too but can come off as mutton dressed as lamb. In general, the older you are the higher the expectation that you dress up.

Posted by
271 posts

I live in a beach town and wear t-shirts 344 days of the year. For my three weeks in Europe each year, I go with collared shirts. I don't want to be too obvious as a tourist even though I'm sure the locals have a pretty good idea.

Posted by
4333 posts

As said, fit can make the difference between looking sloppy or presentable. Even throwing a collared shirt over a T isn't going to make the ensemble 'presentable' if is is unbuttoned, untucked, and oversized. I may get flamed, but I can tell the American in Europe from the UnderArmour and poly T shirts that belong in the gym (male and female). I get why they are practical and comfortable, but there is no fooling others of what they are meant for. There is a sporty young jock type everywhere who will wear them but for street clothes, there is no faking it.
Consider investing in silk or linen knit Ts in neutral colours. I see these in Europe. under linen (neutrals, not Miami Vice icecream colours) and sports coats.

Posted by
2050 posts

I agree with you. If wearing a t-shirt means I am a sloppy American, then I am guilty as charged. In fact, when I travel, t-shirts and (if the weather is cool) turtlenecks, are pretty much all I pack for the shirt department. While I pack a few other colors, there are usually at least three long-sleeve crew neck black t-shirts in my rollaboard. For a more formal night, I'll wear a black t-shirt with an ankle-length black JJill cotton knit skirt and dress it up with a multi-stand pearl choker, and if a cool evening, I'll toss a shawl over my shoulders for warmth (and a splash of color, and that same shawl will often double as a scarf with a pair of SoftSurroundings Metro Leggins). Black ballet flats are also my formal travel shoes. So, guilty, guilty, guilty I am. But, I'm tall and thin, so I really don't have the lumps/bumps Cindy referenced. I think a heavy person can pull off the same look, but I would suggest a heavier tunic type t-shirt.

My spouse, on the other hand, NEVER wears t-shirts, so he's not about to begin doing that for travels. He finds the neckline restricting, and he has to have a shirt pocket and a button-down collar.....that's his thing. So, for travel, we pack the no-iron long-sleeve, button-down Brooks Brothers shirts. I often have people ask me if I iron them every day, he looks so crisp......I don't. But, those type shirts work great whether paired with chinos and a blazer (for nicer dinners) or with a pair of (what I call) Columbia fishing pants (which are great for really hot-weather destinations).

We both wear long-sleeve shirts primarily for sun protection.

But, Frank, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing nice, long-sleeve t-shirts for travel (and even certain short-sleeve ones) if they are a decent quality. I personally wear either LandsEnd (they come in talls) or Target (which oddly also have long-enough sleeves for me).

Posted by
8495 posts

Frank, where did your friend get his information? Another travel forum? The same one that says white sneakers or jeans brand you as an American? None of that is true. People all over Europe, with a complete range of ages, wear t-shirts, sneakers, jeans and polo shirts. There are no special fashions anywhere, anymore.

Pick a city, any city, maybe even one without a big tourist attraction that would draw Americans and look at a webcam. See what people are wearing. This is the easiest way to find out what is average clothing for the area or country.

What is this deal about showing respect for the locals by what you are wearing? The only places this might be at all valid is the opera, theater, top class restaurant or a place of worship and then it has nothing to do with locals, but with the venue.

Posted by
1179 posts

There’s another factor in the T shirt debate. I believe most men’s T-shirts are crew neck and short sleeves. V-necks are also available but I think it looks sloppy.

Womens T-shirts have a much broader spectrum. I have some linen tees that have a ballet neckline and elbow sleeves. I have others that are scoop neck and flutter sleeves. These are much dressier than the classic crew neck shirt sleeve. The cut is also much more flattering. And as I said previously, it’s all about the cut and fit.

It’s really about how it lays on your body. You’ll need a great body for clingy thinner fabric. If your body is less perfect then you’ll need a flowy cut or heavier fabric. The flowy cut won’t work for men.

I’m an outdoorsy person so am used to seeing T-shirts. They are acceptable in many places. But I also believe men should lean toward a collared shirt in dressier places.

Posted by
546 posts

Wear what you want. But don't come back and complain about how you were treated on occasion. In my experience dressing appropriately and nicely can be just as comfortable as a sloppy, saggy, sweat-stained T shirt and get you better treatment in many cases.

There are any number of great looking lightweight collared, non tuckable, stylish, fast dry shirts out there. No one should have to wear a T shirt. I have a number of them in subdued prints and great fabrics that are appropriate almost anywhere.

However a Black or dark color Silk T under a nice sport coat is never out of style and will carry you through any number of situations.

(But then again as a little boy my Mother dressed me in a Bow tie and sport coat to go out to dinner at age 8)

Posted by
391 posts

The whole 'European dress-code' debate gets overblown and exaggerated. Go to any vacation spot in Southern Europe and there's plenty of European's wearing t-shirts for evening wear, they're just not the over-cut block like we see here in the US and they're not adorned with sophomoric statements/images/logos. In general, t-shirts are ok, provided you look neat and put-together. If you're showing up with a basic over-cut cotton crew neck with Carharts, you're gonna get turned away at the door. Show up with your dark denim, maybe some leather shoes or, Jack Percell's you'll look stylish and nobody should care. Body type also is a consideration, if you're of a trim, lean frame, a t-shirt is pretty unassuming; if you're overweight, more wide than tall, got a boiler pushing things out, a t-shirt isn't a good look.

Posted by
13056 posts

I've decided to stick with Polo Shirts. The ones I've been wearing for years are quick drying. Unfortunately, it looks like they are being replaced with a new "model" that seems to wrinkle easier.

Any suggestions for a non-tucked collar shirt for a larger guy?

Posted by
5697 posts

If you can find 32 Degrees Cool shirts, they are light, wicking, pack small. Collared polo-style looks nice. Goes up to 2XL.

Posted by
57 posts

Last year, before a 2 week trip I was obsessing about what to wear. When I wound up in St. Petersburg it was maybe 70/30 tourists-vs-Locals in the part of the city I was staying in. It was the locals who were wearing US-centric T-shirts and baseball hats for the Yankees (always the Yankees--ugh), or else the All Addidas Look, with branded sweatpants, hoodie and socks and flip-flops (more ugh). No doubt something about a football club, I suppose. I see that a lot in New York, too, and it instantly brands the wearer as European tourist in my eye, probably to the same degree as a person of size wearing name brand jeans and $200 New Balance sneakers on the Champs Elysée would instantly identify a Yank.

I'm a larger person and there's no way in heck would wear a t-shirt out in public, plain or otherwise. Not because it's "American" but because I look positively wretched in t-shirts. My shirts-du-jour are invariably polos or button-downs. Now that said, when I'm out on my deck making barbecue in the summer with a cigar and a glass of Scotch, yeah, T-shirt it is!

Posted by
971 posts

Frank I see you are planning a trip to Scandinavia. You will probably find that the sweeping generalisation that all europeans are formal dressers are not quite true. Scandinavians tend to dress more casual and unless you work in a prestigeous law firm or bank, dress codes are pretty laxed. Unless I am going to an external meeting, you can bet I will be rocking the office in jeans and a t-shirt.
T-shirts is not going to out you as an American, but slacks and a shirt will probably mark you as an American cruise tourist.

Posted by
1179 posts

It’s been inferred but not stated. US T-shirts are cut differently than European T-shirts. It makes a huge difference in the look.
If you want to get the same look with a US T-shirt you’ll have to get it tailored.

Posted by
2243 posts

I'm really into counter-programming -- more than a decade ago now, a colleague and I played hooky from a session at a business conference in San Diego and went strolling around Balboa Park in business suits, and the experience was a hoot and a half. You feel like a celebrity. And then there's the opposite move: go to a special evening affair in Dickie's painters pants (rolled) and a chambray mailman's shirt to show how your fame from Pirates of The Caribbean hasn't gone to your head.

Give a version of this a try when you're traveling in Europe -- maybe you'll be treated like a Russian criminal, whether you're in a tracksuit or a one-size-too-small Italian ensemble.

Unfortunately, this kind of shenanigan has a higher chance of positive outcome when you don't have the RS convertible carryon on your back.

Posted by
2014 posts

My husband could probably lend you one of his Tommy Bahamas. Seriously, I do encourage him to wear one of the plain-colored ones when we travel in Europe. They're comfortable, so he's co fortable. No one in Paris seemed to mind last summer. He does the dry-fit polos for his daytime attire and casual evenings.