Choosing an outfit to sit in on a plane creates about ten minutes of annoying anxiety and frustrating thoughts. I know the seat will be small. I know I won't have enough leg room. Who will sit next to me? I know the food will be terrible. I know I will be uncomfortable. With all the things I know, I still have to get on the plane and take the trip.
The last time I traveled I made a point to look around to take note of the outfits people were wearing boarding the plane. I can say I saw every type of clothing possible for men and women. To name a few there were: the baggy sweats, jeans and button down shirts, baseball caps, t-shirts, shorts, flip flops and a guy in a suit and tie. What was even more interesting were the people getting off the arriving flight I was about to board. Their clothing styles ran the gamut, but they mostly looked crumpled, disheveled and tired.
What is one to wear to stay comfortable on a flight and still look descent when you arrive. To give a technical answer to these questions without just speaking about my own airline wardrobe, I'll begin examining what fabrics fair best to being sat on and sat in for hours at a time.
There are many choices to choose from in terms of what fabric to wear when traveling on a plane for an extended time period. A favorite is denim or jeans. Jeans are a staple piece of clothing in American society. One hundred percent cotton denim jeans have that worn in feeling, but as a rule denim is not very breathable or soft. Denim also does not have that give and take that may be needed when sitting in the same position while on a plane. Denim doesn't move with you. It is rigid in most cases. Cotton pants would be a good choice. Chino material is made from a brush cotton making it soft. Some chinos are heavier cotton than others and I would recommend the lighter weight as opposed to the heavier twill brush cotton sometimes found in chinos. The main drawback here is the wrinkle factor. 100% cotton will definitely be wrinkled for sitting in for even a short amount of time. That is the nature of cotton. This also holds true for linen pants and shirts. Both will be badly wrinkled and stretch out very easily. Linen and cotton do not get back into shape until after you dry clean them. When they lose their shape they will not look presentable when disembarking after traveling on a plane for any amount of time. Wool is certainly breathable, comfortable when light weight and is a fiber that holds it's shape under stress.
What would I choose?
I cannot wear sweats. They are just too hot for me on any day, let alone wearing them on a stuffy airplane ride. I also could not wear them when arriving at my destination if I had anything work related to accomplish. I do wear jeans most times when traveling on a plane. The type of jeans I use have three to five percent stretch in them, usually elastin. They move with you and give where you need it when sitting for a few hours at a time, in the waistband and the knee area. Being six foot three inches my knees come close to the seat in front of me so the stretch denim doesn't constrict my movements. I also like to wear light weight denim shirts when traveling on a plane. They are soft cotton and most have pockets to hold a passport or plane tickets while going through security. It looks clean tucked in and comfortable in your seat on the plane. Sometimes I add a navy blue blazer. I like it for the pockets. A blazer usually has two large interior pockets, a cell phone pocket, a pen pocket, in addition to the usual exterior pockets. Everything can fit in. Sunglasses, plane tickets, luggage claim tags, pen, passports, smart phone, chewing gum and an aspirin.
Most importantly, whatever you decide to wear while traveling on a plane, always remember to retrieve your clothing items you may store in the overhead compartment. I have heard all too often people leaving their coat, blazer, hat or backpack up over head and having to replace their favorite travel pieces.