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Clothing in Europe-Preventing the Tourist Look

Clothing in Europe-Preventing the Tourist Look

Apr 6th, 2004, 12:56 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 397
"Before I read that list, I hadn't realized how "all american" my 14 year-old daughter is. What's the dress code for those under 25 who want to blend with the crowd?"

My own 14YO daughter, raised in Milan, would recommend the following: very low-slung jeans (but no butt crack showing), close-fitting, midriff-baring top (T-shirts are fine for this age range), a belt around the hips, stylish sneakers - ie not big, clunky, or white, must be clean and new and preferably expensive! Anything designer is fine, including American labels such as Tommy Hilfiger (not much seen here, but admired).

If you're passing through Milan and your daughter would like to see where the trendy kids shop, get in touch privately and I'll ask Ross to give her some pointers.

best regards,
Deirdré Straughan

DeirdreStraughan is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 01:55 AM
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scoobydoo writes: "From my past travels to Netherlands, Ireland and England, I have learned that white tennis shoes scream tourist. What types of clothing would not make you stand out as an American Tourist?"
Let me begin by saying I am an American septuagenarian male who travels to Europe (mostly Spain & Portugal) often. Black tennis shoes (or cross trainers) are also frowned upon when you wear them in lieu of dress shoes.

I never worry about people thinking I am an American Tourist: in the summer, I like to wear 'cargo' shorts and a short sleeve shirt with pockets and a collar. Golf shirts are 'out' like white tennis shoes. I often wear Nike hikers (shoes, that is). I always wear a cap (or a hat) for protection from the sun but never a 'baseball' cap. I have been taken for a German and for a 'local' (i.e., people coming up to me and asking for directions). I don't go out of my way to avoid being taken for an American tourist: Who cares??

People in the 3-countries you mention dress more 'American' than people in Italy or Greece, Spain or Portugal, for example.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 02:21 AM
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Who cares? It is a myth that you can pick out an American tourist. I have lived here for 6 years and believe me, the Germans and the Brits look "more American" than most Americans. It is not a big deal What will mark you as an American is whether you are loud (and I still can be...esp after 2 glasses of wine!) and if you tip.

Now, having said that...the only thing that still may hold true is khaki shorts hitting at mid-thigh. It is the only thing that I have seen consistently. The women generally don't wear shorts out and about.

I have also seen the other extreme...the youngish American woman trying desperately to look European with the end result that she looks more Euro than the natives.

I guess whatever floats your boat...

SloJan is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 02:56 AM
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Obviously some people don't want to look like tourists - and presumably that means American tourists.

So what, precisely, do they want to look like?

If, for instance in London, the answer is "well, just Brits", then the next question (apart from the really obvious one: "why"?) is "which Brits?"

Young black rappers? Middle-aged white slobs like me? Bhangra Princesses? Fashion victims? Expatriate Japanese matrons? Forex traders at lunch? Essex wide boys? Essex girls?

The list will go on forever. All would be gobsmacked at the thought of being a fashion role model for some otherwise sensible American.

And just what is it that worries people about being spotted for what they are?
flanneruk is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 03:52 AM
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When fitting in requires that we ridicule others for how much they weigh or what they wear, I have to ask if fitting in is all it's cracked up to be.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 03:57 AM
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The German and Italian tourists we saw on our last couple of trips to Europe weren't dressed much different from American tourists. Of course, the German men tended towards VERY tight shorts rather than looser American style shorts. German men also seemed to like shiny shirts with bizarre patterns.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 04:04 AM
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What really amuses me is the number of people who come here to get an instant education in style. THE ONLY WAY TO NOT GET PEGGED AS A TOURIST (at least, an unattractive one) IS TO DRESS WITH STYLE! Good luck finding that here, especially with no sample pictures to back up what people are saying.

The simple answer to Clifton's "why" is the French and Italians are well-known style-conscience cultures. These folk take pride in artistic design and in looking good. They've had centuries of practice and they do their best to keep this tradition intact. Paris/Milan/fashion design have had a unique and significant marriage for a very long time.

Now, I understand that style is elusive and very difficult to define in words but, believe me, people who have it can spot someone else who has it a mile away, and this gets right to the point of people's insecurities. Even with a language barrier in France and Italy, if you show up anywhere dressed with easily recognizable style, you will get better treatment. This I guarantee.

But, if you don't have much style-sense to begin with and never did, chances are, you're not going to suddenly get any by picking up a tip here and there on a travel forum like this. It takes a certain amount of study and exposure to learn good individual style and anyone who lives outside of cosmopolitan areas will have a very difficult time trying to achieve a "uniquely chic" look. Unfortunately, the name of the "style" game throughout most of America is don't look too different from your fellow neighbor for fear of being ridiculed. When is the last time you saw a Republican politician with a great haircut?
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 04:28 AM
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Makes sense what you say about France and Italy being different than other places. Of course, that defines (some of) the French and Italians, not the Americans en route to their countries.

That certain comfort conformity brings back home, do you think that need for "fitting in" in Europe is just an extension of that? Safety in conformity? Or to try to impress the French and Italians?

Still though, it leaves me wondering why not the rest of the world? Too foriegn? Not worth impressing? Figure those parts of the world wouldn't know the difference? (leaving me to wonder who style is for anyway - the wearer or the imagined viewers).

Or is more about the personality difference in the Europe-only traveler vs those heading to more exotic places?
Clifton is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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I like bright colors. Bright colors are in all the stores. They make me feel good. I find dark colors boring.

Let's see, wear colors I don't like and look like an American tourist in dark colors or wear colors that make me feel good and look like an American tourist who is happy and feels good about what she's wearing...

What a decision....
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 04:55 AM
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I'm taking my first every trip to London in May & and at first I was going to buy an all new wardrobe in order to not look like a tourist. I came to my senses in time & realized it was hopeless unless I could go for an entire week without speaking to anyone. A gentleman from Birmingham, England was having car trouble in Houston & I stopped to ask if I could help. He asked me, "do you speak English?" Thanks for all the good advice that has been posted on this board by Ben Haines and everyone. This is the trip of a lifetime & I'm going to have a wonderful time.
Jean_Houston is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:07 AM
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For the record, the "American Tourist" look isn't bad per se, it is bad for city travel, which is what many people touring Europe do.

Even here in my hometown of D.C. (commonly known as the nation's frumpiness capitol) tourists stick out because they walk around the city wearing the white tennies, souvenir t-shirts, etc. It isn't about wearing black or dressing like a Parisian, but dressing for the setting. A sleek, all-black fashionista outfit that would be perfect for a nice lunch in any city would look ridiculous for hiking in the Alps.

I think the American tourist look got its start because often tourists think of places they visit as theme parks ("The Olde Country") not real places where business is being conducted. They (we?) dress in "playclothes" because we are there to relax, not go to business meetings.

Dressing appropriately isn't being ashamed of being American, or of being a tourist, it is showing that you understand that you are visiting a real city, not a make-believe place for tourists. I think the mind-set that leads people to try to blend in by wearing all black is the same one that leads them to try to learn phrases in the local language and adhere to local customs. It's about respect, not expecting the "natives" to put on a show for you. That's why the fanny-pack set are often the ones you read about who ask the same question over and over in English, instead of realizing that the Italian shopkeeper really doesn't know what they are saying. It isn't Williamsburg; he isn't insisting on speaking Italian just to keep up the "act" of local color.

Wow, I though this would be a short post, and it's turned into a sociological treatise! My advice, wear your appropriate American clothes proudly! One of my fondest travel stories is of the time an incredibly fashionable French woman stopped me to rave over the dress I was wearing, asking me who the designer was, etc. I didn't speak French well enough to explain to her that I bought it at TJ Maxx for 24 bucks
BlueSwimmer is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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I can't speak for anyone else but it has never been about "fitting in" for me. I'm a competitive woman by nature and it's more about "I can do this, too." Once you do it and succeed, you get to have tons of fun because unforseen doors open more naturally.

Of course, it helps that my mother was a regal beauty and her mother before her. My mother took all her fashion cues from Grace Kelly and let me tell you, in Ohio, that was quite daring. Even though she's gone and sorely missed, there are still members of my family who hang on to petty jealousy and say that my mother was too showy. The fact is, my mother stood out in any crowd no matter what she wore. She couldn't help it. She was tall, beautiful, and gifted with a bright smile and enormous presence and her choice of clothing merely strengthened her impact. It should be noted that she was the only tall, slender woman in her family and some of those other girls were huge (and still are).

I'm sure for many it's safety in conformity. America never had a Renaissance or a Michelangelo. Individualism struggles as an acceptable concept worth nurturing in many aspects of American culture. Outside major cities like NY, it's very difficult for people to express themselves uniquely, especially with clothing. The younger you are the more difficult it is.

Peer pressure for young kids is overwhelming (which is why I'm all for school uniforms in EVERY school, right on up through 12th Grade). I think this fashion fear starts early in America and festers as we get older and more lazy. This fear doesn't exist in Paris or Rome. A young girl grows up knowing what style is from a very early age. The subject is addressed in schools all the time. How can you go wrong when you live in a city that's a virtual museum of all things beautiful?

I guess some Americans are out to impress but I think these folk are very transparent. They're a dime a dozen in America and usually have "tacky" written all over their foreheads. Style is just a mere costume if not worn with natural flair.

As for the rest of the world, you can find reasons for every countries relationship to fashion and much of that comes from historical context. I haven't yet figured out Tokyo's affinity for beige and black except for the fact that chic Japanese women look damn good in this combo...and it's EVERYWHERE. Maybe it has something to do with an all-black haired culture.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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If I get this correct from previous posts -- Europeans supposedly dont wear white tennis shoes, baseball caps, shorts, or ponytails.

My response -- Not true. They wear all the above -- and my response is based on having lived for a period outside of London and having traveled numerous times to Europe. What you wont find typically on Europeans is some of the brands favored by Americans (Polo, Hilfiger, Nautica, Ambercrombie-Fitch, etc).

Having said the above, if you are in a tourist section of a town, most will figure you to be a tourist (how often do you go to the tourist areas of your own towns?). Also, the carrying of cameras and maps is a good indicator.

Finally, can I offer an alternative to the fanny pack that some still seem to like to wear -- cargo pants.
toddrobert is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:18 AM
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A fanny pack and cargo pants, why aren't you writing for Vogue?
m_kingdom is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:37 AM
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m_kingdom, where do you get your copies of Vogue - from trash cans at your cleaning lady job?
CafeBatavia is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:37 AM
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I confess to making the mistake of jumping in without doing a search on the question of what to wear and for that I apologize. Now that I HAVE done a search, I find that the question of what to wear seems to stir up quite a lot of anger, often rooted in the presumption that anyone asking the question is either ashamed of being American or (another version of that) trying to emulate the "fashionable European" (as if "fashionable American" doesn't exist outside of New York City).

Why the anger? Perhaps the question is simply pragmatic - based on situtations not unlike my own: I am a single woman traveling abroad for the first time with my two children. While that alone is enough to justify caution, adding in the current political situation should eliminate any question as to why I (or any other reasonable person - Scoobydoo, for instance) would not want to stand out as "an American Tourist".

I want to thank those of you who come to this board to offer tips, rather than a critique. Your generosity keeps the true spirit of this board alive.
mberry is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 05:55 AM
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1. scoobydoo has been around long enough to know better than raising this issue again. The pooch was baiting and a lot of you fell for it.

2. This is, at root, a class issue. There are slobs in every culture who are clueless about appropriate dress period. So the question is really : How can I look "not like them" -- i.e. "upper-class.
sfowler is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 06:02 AM
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If the world situation is frightening to a traveller, I would suggest not travelling for a while. What you wear never stopped a bad person from doing something horrible. For instance, did those people on the train in Madrid dress differently?
All the many times I have walked down a street in Europe, I have never been threatened or felt threatened by anyone walking down the street also. And it never mattered what I wore, have you seen some of the get-ups other people wear?? What country do you think they are from?
All of this worry about looking good is fine, more people should care about how they look ( considering that too many young ladies think looking good means showing everyone their navels and more).
But try to keep the ideas seperate that how you look will keep you safe while you travel.
perhaps the Japanese thing is because they too like to be part of a group. There are groups in Tokyo where the young people only dress like Elvis or schoolgirls. There are young matrons in Tokyo who wear a different Chanel outfit each day. I don't think it really matters what color your hair is or even what country you reside in, everyone dresses according to their current trends and needs. JMHO~
Scarlett is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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I've been to Europe plenty of times, and honestly I think most Europeans can pick out Americans even if we do dress to fit in. Even if we do fit in, the moment we open our mouths the truth is going to come out anyways. Plus if you are hanging around major tourist attractions, doesn't that pretty much give it away anyways? I don't understand why its such a shame to look like a tourist or an American? Certainly I don't walk around Europe with USA printed in huge letters on my shirt, but when I go to Europe I do a lot of walking and want to be comfortable.
tcreath is offline  
Apr 6th, 2004, 07:13 AM
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If you are American you will struggle very hard not to look like an American. Some Americans (mostly those from large urban areas such as NYC and LA will blend in much more than others if not completely). This is because Americans buy most of their clothes in the US where fashions are a little different. Only in places like New York in American are there opportunities to buy labels from many of Europe's leading designers.

But, we Europeans have the smae problem in the US. When I go down Jermyn Street to my shirtmakers I can't buy a shirt with a collar that hides the tie like that often sported by Michael Dell. Why? Because British people don't wear shirts with such badly shaped collars!!!!

So when I am in the US on business i stick out. But I enjoy sticking out. I enjoy people coming up to me and asking me where I bought my shirt or suit. Even when I am in the US on holiday I enjoy the ayttention my different clothes attract.

Even if you buy all your clothes in Europe you are still going to have that accent so who are you kidding???

wealthy_backpacker is offline  

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