In England this time of year is Party Conference season. As a newly enlisted member of the lobbying fraternity, for me this means attending all three big conferences -12 days in three different cities in under a month with meetings from early morning to late at night.
Few things are quite as undignified as travel, and modern travel even more so. Oh for the age when one could send one’s man on with the baggage in the style of Bertie Wooster.
But there is an art to travelling well, and it starts with travelling light.
I shudder to compare myself to any of history’s great dressers, but we do at least share a common bond. I, like many of them, abhor the idea of lugging heavy bags and suitcases around. Even the advent of the wheeled suitcase only marginally improves things.
Sadly a study of the manner in which these great men were able to waft elegantly and unencumbered across the globe yields few helpful tips. For example, the late Duke of Windsor got around the problem by permanently depositing wardrobes of clothes in his favourite hotels around the world.
Cary Grant was another of the great dressers who liked to travel light. His minimalist approach was certainly more practical than that of the late Duke. One trick of his that sticks in the mind was the habit of wearing women’s nylon knickers which he could easily wash at night and wear again fresh and dry next day.
I’ll confess that despite an abhorrence of travelling with vast amounts of stuff I’ve rarely managed to practice what I’ve preached. I invariably over estimate what I need and suffer the price on route to my destination. I’m determined to lick it, and in much the same why that I’ve cracked the art of simple dressing and a pared down my wardrobe, much of it is down to mindset and learned behaviour.
Suits and business wear
My conference jaunts are business trips so suits are the order of the day. One suit for a four day conference is a bit manky, but one suit jacket with two pairs of trousers I think is fine. In this regard the blue suit is your greatest ally, because it offers you the chance to take one grey pair of trousers and treat the jacket like a blazer, giving you an entirely different look. I know that some folk baulk at using navy suit jackets as blazers, but I think that’s just pickiness for its own sake. If it worries you designate one of your navy suits as a travel suit and have brown buttons fitted. Ultimately the success of your navy suit jacket and grey trousers combo comes down to how you wear it. Which brings me on to…
Shirts and ties
I’m afraid I draw the line at economising on shirts; one for each day is a minimum, unless you can be confident of a quick turnaround with regards hotel laundry services. However, when travelling your greatest asset is the navy knitted tie (wool or silk) which will set off your navy jacket grey trouser combo and make you look current and clean cut with a suit. The knitted navy tie will go with just about any shirt.
Business trips are not the place for leisurely breakfasts in your hotel room. Take a clean, tidy t-shirt and sleep in your boxers. You don’t need your Derek Rose jammies and robe. You’ll be working/drinking late and up early. You don’t have time for wafting around in nice nightwear, in which case it’s just dead weight. Get your arse in the shower and be down to breakfast before your boss so as to be found perusing the papers.
This is a tricky one. Shoes ought not to be worn two days running, but they do take up space. If you only take one pair I’d personally go for black suede. They sit with the navy suit and suede adds a touch or the informal if you’re required to undertake an informal occasion.
Pack one, either a fine navy blue merino wool or fine cashmere gauge. Not only can you substitute your jacket for the jumper if you’re required to engage in relaxed social settings while away but it allows you to ditch a heavy wool coat in favour of a rain coat.
A raincoat is a must for travelling. They will keep you dry and they dry far easier than wool coats. There’s nothing worse than wandering around a convention with a damp wool coat. Also, if you follow the advice above and take a jumper with you, you can wear it under your suit adding a layer of warmth if needed. Raincoats are also easier to fold up if you need to stick it in your case.
So that’s my kit list and as such I’ve managed only to be taking one small 17inch by 13inch case and the compulsory laptop bag.