How to dress Down Under (clue: not like this)
“Yair mate, y’know this is a barbie, not a business meeting, eh?” Thus did one of my dearest friends greet me, with a sly grin, when I arrived at his house for a pre-Christmas dinner a few years ago. I was hardly rocking a pinstripe DB — rather, I’d worn jeans, a white OCBD shirt, sockless driving moccasins and a navy cotton jacket that resembled a blazer in cut but was, to my eye, more of a workwear garment. Still, this ensemble was clearly considered a bit bloody formal for a Sydney summer get-together. Fair dinkum.
If like me, you’re headed to the Antipodes over the year-end period, you’d do well to remember that while Australia is no longer the land that sartorialism forgot, dressed-down is de rigeur Down Under. Especially during a scorching summer where temperatures often creep into the forties. Besides which, you will be on holiday after all, so it’s okay to relax a little. But I would still argue that navy cotton sportscoat / blazer will come in handy. In fact, in my opinion it’s the core garment your entire trip’s packing should be based around.
A blue cotton sportscoat / blazer / travel jacket / whatever you want to call it is ideal to wear on the aircraft, with plenty of pockets for passport, boarding passes, mobile, headphones and such. Coupled with a fine cashmere scarf, it’s the ideal warmth for onboard air-con conditions, and can be worn super casually (with a polo or tee shirt, jeans and sneakers) or more dressily (with chinos, button-down shirt and loafers) per your whim. Personally, I prefer to dress 'biz-cajh' while travelling, but some insist on testing the limits of informality. If you fall into the latter camp, wearing this sort of jacket with your tee and track pants will ensure you’re in possession of at least a little Club Class decorum.
Never wear shorts on a plane — a rookie move, climate-wise, and aesthetically off-putting for your fellow passengers. But on the ground, you’ll want at least three pairs: light, dark and a swimming trunk. The navy cotton jacket can be worn with all but the last, either when the mercury dips of an evening (like California, in Australia a sweltering day can quickly turn into a brisk night) or when you fancy switching things up a little for lunch at that notable St Kilda or Bondi beachside brasserie. You’ll need some white jeans or trousers, and a dark selvedge jean — again, these will both work a treat with the jacket, plus a Sunspel polo or Armorlux Breton striped number. Pack five or six proper shirts, a selection of more casual cloths, pink and white oxford cotton, gingham, denim or chambray, linen perhaps (though 12-plus hours in a suitcase will leave it with wickedly deep wrinkles). One white shirt in a finer, more formal cotton should suffice.
This is for emergencies, and would be deployed with the plain dark blue suit (in a light Super 100-and-something cloth, ideally) and simple navy tie you should bring to wear to unexpected weddings, baptisms, funerals, meetings, courtroom appearances, or whatever else comes up requiring you to look serious. I’ve had use for this garment on too many occasions to consider it anything less than an essential. Better to have a suit and not need it, than have to find a decent haberdasher open and available to do rush alterations during the Christmas / New Year break.
Socks and underwear, pack per your preference. Many frequent travellers suggest stuffing these inside your shoes, but I prefer to use lightweight plastic shoe trees on anything benchmade — a Cleverley brown suede penny loafer is a versatile choice, you’d even get away with wearing those with the emergency suit. You’ll also need a sneaker, a boat shoe, an espadrille or a driving moccasin. And of course, the national footwear of the Great Southern Land —the thong (a.k.a. flip-flops). TheRake.com stocks some particularly plush variants, so lowkey luxe that no onlooker will be any the wiser you’re a fancy bugger. “You little bewdy,” as they say in Straya.