All Dressed Up With Somewhere To Go
Everyone is doing their bit in this photograph taken in Venice. The eye is naturally drawn to the figure in the background, who unknowingly adds something extra to the photograph because of how they are dressed.
Everyone is different, I get it. It's what makes the world go round..... Different outlooks, different lifestyles, different requirements, incomes, philosophies, religions, physiques, styles, taste, culture..... and eye, but when we travel, it is frequently overlooked just how much we affect what is happening around us. The traveller is often the difference between hating a restaurant, city or even whole trip - Fork flicking diners miserably hunched over their food will stop us from going into a restaurant, screaming children allowed to run riot through a museum will make us turn around and come back another day, and a tour group of 40 shouting day-trippers following a gruff elderly man with a monkey on a stick so he won't be lost, will quickly make us finish our drinks and seek peace and quiet elsewhere. I have spoken, albeit briefly, about HDT's (High Definition Travellers) and how they can ruin a long haul flight for you, just by the way their bad travel habits, and in what can often be cramped, uncomfortable and stressful situations. The behaviour of HDT's can impact us in other ways too. I know, I know, ... everyone has the right to be themselves, it's a free country and travelling isn't cheap, "I've paid my money, I can do as I please.", but it's not quite a simple as that. The modern way, is to encroach upon others - With noise, attitude, rudeness, ignorance and arrogance. Take talking loudly and inanely on public transport on your phone, for example. It's everyone's right to be able to do so, but why do it? It takes a special kind of person to be ignorant of the fact that their booming, bland conversation is not thrilling and entertaining in any way whatsoever, it is in fact, deeply annoying, and only serves to push the volume levels of everyone's music devices up into the stratosphere of tinny annoyance. I have yet to overhear one conversation on a train that actually had any importance and had to be made at that time. "Okay, keep his head upright and if he stops breathing , slap him awake." Never have I heard this type of conversation whist on the 199 to Highgate Hill. If everyone were to have meaningless phone conversations on buses or trains, fights would break out as we selfishly Shhh to hear our own bleak, dull and droning drivel of annoyance. "I'll call you back, I'm on a bus", often gets applauded, as should the invisible text messages stating the same. The rest, who selfishly blather on with what "She, like, said...", "Then he, like, said..." conversations can go to hell. Dark thoughts go through my head during these moments.... I often hope for much worse than them missing their stop... I cannot lie.
Sucking the energy and joy out of travel. St.Mark's Square and the entrance to the Grand Canal are outside that window.
Forgive me, I have digressed wildly, for the subject of this particular Blog is about dressing for the occasion when travelling. I was in Venice recently, and I was shocked by the difference between the tourist and the Venetian, and how easy it was to spot one over the other. Now, obviously, there were many Venetians going about their daily business. It is a working city, after all. Those unloading boats, emptying bins and selling unwanted and tacky trinkets have no real choice in how well they can dress on any given day, but those who were being social, attending events, seeing the sights themselves or generally just wandering about looking wonderful and being a part of it all, were exceptionally well dressed. By this, I don't mean that they were all dressed to the nine's in expensive finery, but more to the point that obvious thought and consideration had gone into how they presented themselves and fitted in to the glorious Renaissance surroundings. Warm overcoats, leather shoes, brimmed or wooly hats, smothering scarves and kid gloves.... It was winter in Venice, by the way. Meanwhile, the tourist's were shuffling around with their freebie Wild Turkey Duty Free backpacks, old training shoes, faux mountaineering wear, Hi-Vis singlets, American basketball products and the infernal active wear leggings. The black legging is the curse of the modern traveller. The wearer, presumably having heard that black leggings make you invisible from the waist down and hide any multitude of grotesque physical characteristics, must pack dozens of them when they travel overseas, as it's all they ever seem to wear. Now, I know that clothing is about comfort and warmth etc, but what's the point of going to Florence, let's say, standing on the Ponte Vecchio and having your photograph taken wearing a Dayglo Adidas t-shirt, some black leggings and a pair of bioluminescent training shoes? It doesn't fit. When you go to the gym maybe, when you pop to the shops for a multi-pack of Nutri-Bars too, or even if you're meeting up with a friend for a MacDonald's Happy Meal, but it doesn't fit the situation, the location, the atmosphere or enhance the photographic opportunities in any way. Not only that, the 'style pollution' affects everybody else's photographs in the negative.... This chosen style of holiday wear is ultimately turning everyone's postcard of Florence into merely a disposable snapshot, and that's at best. One of the reasons that places looked more beautiful in old photographs is because the women were dressed more elegantly turned out and the men were suited and booted.... and hatted. I realise that suits are often totally impractical, but just imagine that your destination is a film set, and that you are an Extra in some great artistic production. Some of us dress as if we're in it, while others dress as if they are the Sound guy fixing his cables on the studio floor. It's incongruous, out of place and should ultimately be out of shot, unwanted in the final cut. You enhance the scene, you create an atmosphere, you are important. Don't waste the opportunity - Go for it. Your whole holiday experience will be more rounded, your photographs will be better (as will everybody else's, for that matter), you will be happier, and the IT's (Invisible Travellers) will be happier too.
In the photo above, not only is the feature subject (Kati) perfectly dressed for an afternoon in Sorrento, the dapper gent in the background has enhanced the photograph with his style. It may not be your style but it suits, not only the location, but also the photograph.
I've set out above and below, to further highlight what I mean, but simply put, it really doesn't make any sense to dress badly somewhere picturesque and beautiful. needs thought. Imagine... "Ooh, we're off to Capri. What should I pack? I know, I will take my North Face Cagoule in case it rains, my comfy Colorado sandals for walking in, my old black leggings (obvs) and my grey 'Just Do It' sweatshirt. It's doesn't fit, it doesn't work and the atmosphere is corrupted by it. Cotton, linen, whites, pastels, styling from the 50's and 60's when the place was the Hollywood Starlet idyll that it was, and the reason you may be going there in the first place, don't forget, would be a much better fit. I don't mean to be brusque, and you are perfectly free to disagree but I'm right. All these small things can help change a holiday, and all these small things exponentially increase both yours and your fellow travellers enjoyment of a destination. It's well worth the effort.
Not making the cut. These two figures would have to be cut out of the shot as they have gone for comfort and practicality over style and setting. They might get away with it if they were going to the local Garden Centre but Sorrento, really? It does lack a degree of forethought and outlook, if you ask me.
Yes? No? ..... No!
Okay, so maybe this bloke is borderline, but it's still very drab and shiny shiny, but I bet he's got open toed sandals on.
Now, just to make sure I haven't upset anybody; I'm not saying that some of the clothing styles mentioned above aren't wonderful things in their own right..... I'm just saying that they don't fit certain surroundings or holiday photographs. You'd look pretty silly going to the gym in a Crombie overcoat and penny loafers and the same applies to standing in front of Renaissance facades, Baroque frescoes or Gothic battlements wearing FCUK and spandex..... Probably.