The American essayist’s rather pious aphorism does not, of course, refer to the garments or accoutrements found on and about the person of globe-scouring voyagers of the age: his observation is existential, not sartorial. But the modern gentleman itinerant who carries beauty within is wont to express it with each and every item about his person. Human movement, after all, has moved on from being the survival imperative it was when some wily Upper Palaeolithic-era Homo sapien fashioned the first sewing needle from a discarded antler or tusk, thus pulling infinitely more than his weight in the Great Leap Forward.
So much has it moved on that, in the modern era, boat shoes, Panama hats, aviators and countless iconic timepiece genres have all been invented with our imperative to go from A to B in mind, while a glance at the early history of Dunhill and the clothing and accessories they produced for Britain’s earliest motorists — a striking highlight of which is a wind-defying Siberian wolf coat — testify to what the invention of the automobile lent to menswear. Plenty of evidence even exists that trousers, or at least waist-to-ankle apparel with each leg separated, won out over robes, kilts and kimonos in various parts of the world due to their being conducive to riding horses.
But where does all this bring us today, now that we travel for business and pleasure rather than survival and conquest? Dressing practically for modern-day transit is a serious business for those who wish to remain classically elegant while on the move, and no amount of moisturising pyjamas issued to first-class passengers will avert that reality any time soon. The prime consideration for most perusing these pages will, of course, be looking the part. This should be an unapologetically nostalgic priority: travelling stylishly as well as in style harks back to an age when changing locations was an inherently glamorous endeavour; when going any distance from one’s abode necessarily meant acting, and dressing, like an ambassador for the self; and when a chap didn’t need to be a member of the jet set to consider arriving at a railway station or airport terminal looking less than his best as unthinkable as turning up to a black-tie affair looking like he was there to bleed the radiators.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Jackets designed specifically for travel — such as Anderson & Sheppard’s military-inspired pieces made from soft cotton drill with exterior and interior pockets, or perhaps Rubinacci’s featherlight yet indestructible high-twist wool basket-weave blazer — are a sound purchase for anyone who spends as much of their working life in the first-class lounge as they do in the boardroom. Alternatively, if a suit jacket or blazer is an imperative for a meeting on the day of arrival — often the case for business travellers — actually wearing a suitable one for the journey, so that it’s either clung about your person or hanging up throughout the journey, pays dividends, as our gentleman traveller pictured on these pages has clearly ascertained. Garment carriers are another worthy solution, with Rubinacci’s — in fine black leather with a silk lining or in Bordeaux deerskin leather — ideal for those wishing to avoid having to turn a hotel shower cubicle into a makeshift steam room straight after checking in.
It’s on the subject of creasing that we arrive at what lies beneath the Ralph Lauren Bear jumper on page 150: a shirt from Turnbull & Asser’s new crease-resistant Journey range. Many, understandably, view creaseless shirts with the same suspicion as they might an upmarket cordwainer who claims to have invented leather shoes that oil, clean and polish themselves. However, the illustrious Jermyn Street bespoke shirtmaker’s contribution to the current wave of innovations in technical fabrics — a tide whose other tributaries include Zegna, Loro Piana and Norwegian Rain — is a worthy one. The fruits of a partnership with British-founded Italian mill Thomas Mason, the shirts were tested by staff at the Ritz Hotel in Paris for two years to make sure they were up to the rigours of industrious environments, and should take a lengthy journey in their stride. Meanwhile, the scuba-style fabric featured in the double-breasted Rubinacci cashmere cardigan, on page 147, as well as the blue Corneliani jacket and orange knitted blazer from Zegna, on page 151, will also offer a crumple-free response to the rigours of modern travel.
While many of the items mentioned above are traditionally formal pieces made hardier and more practical, a fabric that features prominently on these pages — one of the most durable and functional cloths ever invented, but now firmly established in the annals of haute menswear — inverts that concept: denim. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus’s fleet was thrust towards the New World by sails made of the coarse, twilled cotton fabric referred to in France at the time as ‘serge de Nîmes’, but denim’s passage into sartorial ubiquity wouldn’t come until the late 19th century, when a Bavarian migrant by the name of Levi Strauss, the proprietor of a San Francisco dry goods business, teamed up with Latvian-Jewish tailor Jacob W. Davis to create and patent riveted denim pants that would weather the toils of the gold rush and the Wild West.
How the fabric has moved on since then. The denim shirts by Rubinacci (page 151) and Edward Sexton (page 149) serve as a striking reminder that denim’s elevation from workwear to casualwear in the post-war years was by no means the final twist in the fabric’s rich narrative, as do Zegna Couture’s jeans featured on page 147. The Sciamat suit on page 148, meanwhile — the pièce de résistance of an ensemble that calls to mind Lapo Elkann strolling between Milan meetings — demonstrates that denim has now earned its place among dandy-friendly materials such as flannel, herringbone and linen.
Another major draw of denim for travel is its comfort — as long as it’s reasonably worn-in — and it would be remiss, while on the subject of comfort, not to draw attention to the brown Brunello Cucinelli linen suit with pleats and drawstrings (those trousers are a holy grail for anyone who regularly spends long periods seated and being served hearty meals) as well as the ultra-comfy cashmere sweatshirt by the same Corciano-based fashion giants. Cashmere, incidentally, is a saviour when it comes to another consideration on the subject of travel comfort: the air-con in plane cabins can be brutal, and a comfortable sweater — Cifonelli’s beige tracksuit sweater, or a V neck from Fratelli Piacenza, perhaps — will combat the gusts as well as doubling as a pillow.
Of course, it’s not only travel-friendly attire that’s come so far in the past century and a half: 160 years after the first Louis Vuitton trunk was introduced, in grey Trianon canvas, to replace the kind of wardrobe trunks that once had steamships’ hulls virtually ploughing the Atlantic floor, luggage seems to improve — aesthetically, ergonomically and functionally — with each passing month, as those who have had first-hand experience of the Hermès travel bag on page 146, or the suitcase and bag combo (which slot together for convenience) by Mark Giusti on page 151, will attest. Other newcomers to the scene also stretch the luxury luggage gamut, including a collaboration between Paul Smith and Globe-Trotter that will see 120 trolley cases presented at the former’s boutique in Milan during Salone del Mobile, and Bugaboo’s new interlocking Boxer Cabin Case Pure, which is available only from the Dutch company’s Harrods pop-up. The latter is a piece that makes lugging a fortnight’s worth of suits through Heathrow feel like a stroll in a reduced-gravity chamber.
Duffle bags from Frank Clegg or Ludwig Reiter are a non-cumbersome option for the weekend reveller, while Hermès’ and Dior’s backpacks (see page 146) are also conveniently unobtrusive for a short turnaround trip. Anyone who takes luggage and accessories seriously — and those who don’t have picked up the wrong publication — should also cast an appreciative eye over the handcrafted leather goods by Mayfair brand William & Son. The passport holder shown on page 145 — a double-sided piece for the dual nationality itinerant — is a witty and wonderful addition to any peripatetic reader’s box of tricks, as are Ettinger’s leather travel tray with pig suede interior and Manford’s camouflage suede watch roll with a Velcro tie fastening.