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As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, trends and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off semi-formal air travel.

Peruse, for a moment, this picture from Midway Airport circa 1956. The gentlemen in question are wearing suits, hats and pocket squares—formal even by the standards of the day. They’re dressed for an occasion, an event. In other words, for taking part in the miracle of industrial flight.

That was 50 years ago, when the idea of flying through the air seemed like one of the more exciting things you could do. Even now, we’re only a little more than a century removed from the Wright Brothers, but the idea that it’s something worth dressing up for—never mind something technologically miraculous—is thoroughly forgotten. Planes look like buses and airports look like malls, so it’s no wonder a few of the passengers feel like they can get away with sweatpants.

The good news is that unlike your pat down, you’re free to opt-out—especially when you find yourself laying out your wardrobe for a holiday trip. We’re not mandating a suit and tie for every flight (although you could do worse) but if you grant yourself a little more dapperness, you’ll be surprised what it does to the experience.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom