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Summer 2016 What I Saw Europeans Wear - Switzerland (with a comment on London)

I just returned from the Best of Switzerland tour with an initial three days in London. Here are some observations on what I saw Europeans wearing. This is not an extensive list but focuses on items tourists sometimes have questions about.

  • Shorts
  • Short Shorts - observed on both men and women, though the elderly man on the train to Zurich airport surprised me
  • Knee pants / capris
  • Zip-off pants (to make shorts)
  • Muscle shirts
  • Flip Flops
  • White sneakers
  • White socks and black socks - also seen with sneakers including white sneakers
  • Baseball caps or similar
  • Knapsacks and day packs - including by some elderly folks
  • Fanny packs - worn primarily in front
  • Board shorts
  • Leggings
  • Keen type sandals
  • Skinny jeans
  • Regular jeans everywhere

In London, I took a London Walks tour. The guide wore a baseball cap, a madras shirt, khaki shorts, and neon blue sneakers. None of these were in similar colors. He said he lives in London.

I list these items for folks who may question whether their choices will fit in with clothes worn in Europe. I do not have photos or videos to share. On the Fodors European forum, sometimes videos are posted that may be helpful. Also, I found the websites of European department stores useful in checking out what is current. Hope this helps some folks who have questions.

Myself, I wore mostly black capris and long pants, print t-shirts and short-sleeved tops, dark colored light-weight sweaters, an LL Bean water-proof jacket, Merrell hiking sandals, Bernie Mev maryjanes, a Baggallini sling bag, and a hat I bought at Manor in Luzern.


Posted by
1 posts

With all the rumors and warnings out there about what not to wear in Europe it is good to hear from someone who recently traveled there and can report on what they actually saw.


Posted by
3833 posts

Last summer man-capris were all the rage in Croatia. My husband wouldn't wear them here or there, so go figure. To each his own.

Posted by
3551 posts

In Zermatt this month I saw many wearing North Face outer wear, levis straus t shirts, Timberland products, merrill shoes and plastic molded shoes also worn in US(forgot the name).
Trainers or sneakers seem to be less popular than in yrs past.

Posted by
362 posts

Same in Lisbon & Porto late May, lots of short short & sneakers. Also plenty of jean jackets, flowered skinny jeans/leggings & long skinny skirts.

Posted by
13931 posts

I love your report!

Do you remember who your London Walks guide was, by any chance?


Posted by
1226 posts


It was the Marylebone walk on Saturday afternoon. Of the two male guides listed on the website, I am thinking it was Brian.

I really enjoyed the walk and followed it up by doing some shopping on the Marylebone High Street - a long way from the crowds at Oxford Circus.


Posted by
2705 posts

We were in France and Spain this summer and experienced pretty much the same. I think the advice regarding men in Europe not wearing shorts is very outdated. Certainly older European men tend to wear long pants, but, we saw many in shorts. Jeans are everywhere but I find them uncomfortable and impractical for summer wear. After six trips to Europe I wear what feels comfortable and takes up the least room in my one bag. Do I look like a tourist? I'm certain of that. Do I care? No.

Posted by
2527 posts

"Last summer man-capris were all the rage in Croatia." Maybe I need to update my wardrobe. :)

Posted by
138 posts

JS: Did you mean Crocs for those plastic molded shoes?

Posted by
11613 posts

Men in shorts all over Italy once the weather got really hot - capris, too. Locals as well as tourists.

Posted by
360 posts

When we were in Paris last year, I could honestly not tell the difference between the French and American tourists just by looking at what people were wearing (North Face jackets, Nike shoes, converse, jeans, Gap sweatshirts, etc.). And it was pretty similar in Italian cities, too. Though I do think tourists will stand out as tourists anyway, it's not because of the shoes or pants you wear (there are plenty of other giveways!) -- dress however you want, unless there's a dress code.

Posted by
2454 posts

I did notice fanny packs and similar belt/waist purses in Antibes and Nice last summer, including men.

I think that all the men that were doing so were what we might consider put-out-to-pasture or
past their prime. Either they were older or they were severely married. Maybe both.

Posted by
420 posts

Last Summer I saw a lot of "booty shorts" around Europe. The girls I saw wearing them in Italy were definitely Italian.

Posted by
1194 posts

I don't doubt that you saw all these things. As someone that analyzed data for a living, I think I do need to raise the issue of data skewing. This happens when you sample the data in a non-random way. Or continue to sample in the same place while ignoring others.
So what am I saying? You may or may not be seeing a trend. What you saw could be affected by:

  • Location - Were you traveling exclusively in areas frequented by tourists? If so, then you are looking mostly at tourists, not residents.
  • By the same argument, you could be looking at a huge sample of North American tourists (the dollar is doing fairly well this year). You could be seeing a disproportionately large number of NA tourists to residents depending on time of year.
  • Using single sample points to determine a trend (such as your guide).
  • How could you tell they were European Vs US? The only easy discriminator I can think of is language.

I do believe that the fashion trends are changing. With that said, I can't tell what is "real" based on your post (not enough information). Also, the goal isn't about "fitting in" as much as not standing out as an American. Because Americans usually carry expensive goodies and are targets of petty theft. You will be accepted wearing your US logo T shirt. But know that the same T shirt makes you a larger target for theft.

Posted by
1226 posts

Hi. I did check for language, although I am sure some North Americans could have snuck in there. Yes, what I observed may be representative of Europeans at leisure or in employment touching the tourist trade. I saw few corporate types. Of course, there are many factors to consider. BTW, I saw many t-shirts with logos, not to mention baseball type hats, on sale in department stores. I was tempted to buy a shirt with a Shakespeare quote at Manor in Lausanne, but decided against it.

This post represents some of what I saw, certainly not all, and my locations are somewhat defined - see the Best of Switzerland map. Anyhow, I was happy with what I wore.

Posted by
32735 posts

There are getting to be a few more printed shirts and hats, but a significant difference is that most US hats promote actual groups and sports teams related to the owner's home it seems to me that most in western Europe and the UK are either made up, to do with the maker, or to US colleges or companies which sound good, but with no connection to the individual.

One other interesting thing is the number of poorly printed ones, and counterfeit ones.

Posted by
3517 posts

Thanks for the post.

I have always worn polo shirts, khakis and jeans while traveling to Europe and over the past 15 years have never felt out of place. I have noticed changes in what the Europeans are wearing, getting closer to the way Americans dress, but they do seem to look nicer than the average US tourist even now. :-)

Posted by
5697 posts

Noted a lot of heavily-distressed jeans this spring, seemingly on local residents. Many of them over 40.

Also gray jeans in France -- perfectly fitted, of course.

Posted by
14 posts

Posts about what to wear/not wear always make me laugh a little (I'm not laughing at anyone) because there seems to be a lot of angst for some folks and it never crosses my mind (other than in the regular sense of what outfits do i want to wear). Europe is no different then North America, in my opinion. Made up of all sorts of people and individual styles. Wear what you wear at home. If you're visiting sacred places, don't dress like you're going to a club - No different then you'd do at home (one would hope!).

Thanks OP for giving a run down of what you observed on your recent trip! I'm sure it will help to ease the angst some feel about their wardrobe choices.

Posted by
1226 posts

Thanks, Sadie.

My angst prior to this trip was whether my new Merrell All Out Sieve hiking sandals would be sufficient for this trip. They were! A lot of tour members wore some sort of hiking sandals, often Keen. My new Merrells are tremendously light weight and worked for the very light hiking we did. And, even though I packed lighter than ever, there were still items I did not wear. I am taking the Munich, Salzburg, Vienna tour in December with a goal of packing 2 pairs of pants, 2 sweaters, and 2 sets of silk long undies. Not sure if in the final count down I will let myself go that minimalist :-)

Posted by
489 posts

Interesting topic and certainly subjective. After being in Amsterdam to Budapest this May, I was very observant of clothing both on tourists and locals. If you are a young man the clothes are tighter both tops and pants, with very European style footwear. I think Sarah Murdock is right on that you can really tell if someone is European or American/Canadian from the footwear.

The Europeans of my generation (50 something) are stylish but many are practical (remember most of my trip was in Germany, haha)

Personally, when it is super hot most style is discarded (like flipflops or shorts) for comfort.

Totally agree with the idea, be aware of the countries unspoken way of life. I was just planning on the tour with RS to Turkey and was looking for conservative clothes (no shoulders visible) and head cover, but that trip was cancelled so now I'm looking at what to take to Croatia, where we'll be on the touristy coast with a very different way of life. And wondering just how hot it will be in Croatia in mid September? I saw that Dubrovnik yesterday was in the low 90's and that is what we have here in Michigan. As well, I see that the forecast for the fall to be warmer than most... I wonder if this is the same forecast for Europe? Anyone know?

Posted by
1194 posts

@staynsavor - the "better looking" Europeans get their clothing tailored. Of course tailoring will benefit a heavier person more, as off-the-rack-clothing is usually designed with a thinner person in mind.
Off-the-rack clothing fits no one. A few dollars tailoring makes a world of difference in fit. Better fit means better grooming means a classier look. Several people mentioned that the clothing fit tighter on the young people. That's tailoring.
BTW - according to the website you referenced, Germany is almost as overweight as USA.

Posted by
524 posts

Go to "pantheon live webcam" in will give you an idea of what tourists wear right now. It's a little grainy, but you see a lot of shorts.

When I was there ladt Seltember, I recall seeing more dresses/skirts on women, but the younger generation were back at school. My husband DH Eire long shorts during the day. I talked him into colors and not just Khaki. He looked very nice and updated.

Posted by
41 posts

It's hard to be an up-to-the-minute fashion clothes hoist when you're trying to travel light.

But really, in all honesty - who wants to wear skinny jeans and denim jackets in summer !

Marylebone, and the Marylebone High Street are really nice areas.

Posted by
488 posts

In general, Europeans are picking up more and more American dress habits. Biggest one is the athleisure trend for women, I'm talking about leggings and tanks, maybe a running zip-T/sweatshirt. Decades ago, Europeans were much more conservative in dress, the introduction of the Euro and it's strength against the dollar, the increased popularity of schooling abroad (for both continents) and of course social media has resulted in cross pollinated style trends.

The big city residents are going to be more fashionable, the rural areas residents will be more conservative however, wearing shorts or, capris/manpris is pretty widespread despite what some guide books mention. T-shirts and ball caps are a lot more common than before, flip-flop sandals are more common instead of multi-strap. Interesting to see so many young Italian guys wearing only Yankees ball caps, not to mention a lot of the teenagers are sagging their pants now. Most Brits and Germans look like American's; the Brits will wear a lot of their favorite football team gear, the German's will look like they walked out of an REI.

Posted by
20 posts

We've been going to Europe yearly for about 20 years and have never had trouble of any sort no matter the clothing, however once when traveling with my cousins THEY were pickpocketed even though we were standing together, and on business I've had others hit but not me. After some analysis the only thing I can say is move through crowds like you're going some place and in train stations, shift positions to watch around you.

As to travel wallets and this other stuff, if europeans don't have it neither should you

Posted by
19092 posts

As to travel wallets and this other stuff, if europeans don't have it
neither should you

I don't buy that. It's not the probability of being a victim of pick-pocketing, it's the consequences. If a European has his wallet stolen, he just goes home, makes a couple of local calls to cancel his cards and goes to his bank to get more cash. It's not so easy for us. We have to make international calls (aand maybe deal with a time difference) to cancel our cards and can't use cards until we get others sent from the US. And if you lost your ATM card, you can't get more cash for things like food until you get it replaced.

I think most banks now allow to block the card via online banking. There also supposed to be 24/7 phone line allowing to do so.

Posted by
1194 posts

As to travel wallets and this other stuff, if europeans don't have it neither should you

I'm joining Lee on this one. In logic this fallacy is called a "false equivalence". It is treating two things as equal when they aren't equal. Go Google it. Similarity is not the same as equal.

If I lose my credit cards I let my credit union know and they mail the new ones to my home address. Did you get that? My home address. If I'm not home this gets to be a problem.

I don't need my passport when I'm at home. I need it to travel when I'm on vacation.

So a European is not the same as a traveler. In the US the European would be the traveler and face the same issues as we do in Europe.

And as Lee said, because the two are different the consequences are different.

Posted by
2527 posts

Europeans looking like Americans, with American tourists trying to look like Europeans. I am so confused.