Illustration by Mr Seth Armstrong

EPISODE 34: THE FLIGHT OF FANCY

Our nine-year-old son is still at an age when jet travel is a novelty, and he always dresses for the occasion. Had you been standing on our corner when the Brodie clan escaped the brutal New York winter for the Bahamas, you would have seen Nicholas hailing a taxi wearing little more than a seersucker blazer, a blue guayabera shirt, white jeans and a straw pork pie hat. This outfit was not an accident, and the reactions that I experienced as the travelling companion of a well-dressed young man made me reflect on my own jet-set style.

The power of wearing decent travelling clothes was evident from the moment we arrived at the airport. The baggage handler informed Nicholas, "I like your style." Moments later, a TSA agent pulled us out of the security line riddled with the infirm and the suspicious and then whisked us through some express check-in.   

The magic continued: despite dad's frequent flyer status recently being downgraded from Global Ambassador to Galactic Tight Wad, Nicholas was able to vamp us into the Admirals Club by greeting the stone-faced gatekeeper with just a proper handshake and the judicious use of "Excuse me, ma'am". Had his father refrained from blurting out, "Is the Bass Ale complimentary?" the boy might have actually upgraded himself to business.

Had his father refrained from blurting out, 'Is the Bass Ale complimentary?' the boy might have actually upgraded himself to business

"So tell me a little bit about how you decided what to wear today," I asked Nicholas as we changed planes in Miami and boarded the puddle jumper for our final destination. Bright sun and turquoise water glistened in the porthole behind him as we chatted.

"Well, I knew I'd need a hat for the beach, and the weather is summery in the Bahamas, so that's why I'm wearing the seersucker. The white jeans are very Miami, and I knew we'd be passing through..." responded my son.

"And the guayabera? That's a pretty bold statement. Where did that come from?" I asked. (Like vice and Las Vegas, the guayabera is a look we "chalk people" should probably let stay in the Caribbean basin. The only time I've ever seen it look sharp on a fellow honky was at a black-tie wedding on a summer night at a Napa Valley vineyard. The father of the bride ditched his usual dinner jacket in favour of a bespoke guayabera-style tuxedo shirt. Against his tan skin and silver mane, this "Mexican wedding shirt" made my host look like a member of the Iberian nobility.)

Nicholas didn't miss a beat: "The shirt came from Mexico. Remember Mummy bought it for me on one of her business trips? And the Bahamas are kind of Latin American." Like many nine-year-old boys, Nicholas' facts are not always properly sourced, yet he will defend his position as if he is batting a tennis ball back across the net. 

 "Ah, Nicholas, the Bahamas are not really Latin American in their culture. They were part of the British Empire until the 1970s..."

"OK. OK. OK!" he replied, and then gave his annoying inquisitor's outfit the once-over - blue blazer, gingham-checked shirt, khakis and chukka boots. "You know, Dad, those desert boots can really slow you down in security. You should travel in loafers like me." The last line a blistering forehand. He did have a point (and not just about the boots). There was a moment in my life when I put more thought into my travel dress. From an early age I was cognizant of its powers.

If jet travel were still a Thunderbird-worthy miracle I might try a little harder not to resemble a pre-castaway professor from Gilligan's Island

My parents were divorced, so on school vacations my mother would dutifully drive me to LaGuardia airport and put me on a flight to West Palm Beach to visit my father. I would always wear a coat and tie because I wanted to impress the old man. My affection for travelling sharp continued when I was working at GQ's Los Angeles bureau and would often fly back to New York and go straight from the airport to the office.

But like many men, my travel style began mirroring the downward slide of the friendly skies. I am just old enough to remember when flying Concorde to Paris was not an unreasonable perk to look forward to if your career didn't go sideways. If jet travel were still a Thunderbird-worthy miracle I might try a little harder not to resemble a pre-castaway professor from Gilligan's Island.

As we walked down the old-style jet stairs onto the tarmac in the Bahamas, I turned back to look upward at Nicholas. He exuded the vintage glamour of Mr Frank Sinatra from the Come Fly with Me album cover or Sir Sean Connery from Dr. No. I envied his crisp tropical look and vowed that the next time we travelled south together that I'd up my game. I'd probably never be the guy who could rock a guayabera, but I'd try to be the one in the ultra-light grey suit and blue Oxford cloth shirt - even if I'd never make it from the airport to my hotel with the schvitzless aplomb of 007 in Kingston.

To read Mr Brodie's previous columns, click here. Follow Mr Brodie on Twitter @jbrodieny

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