I wasn’t always very good at packing for excursions. In England, I usually traveled the Country House circuit with black tie and white tie on top of my extensive Brideshead Revisited-worthy wardrobe but, then, we all packed heavy. My friend Phoebe once sighed, as she shoved my cases into the boot of the car next to her shoes, “Life would be so much easier if I wasn’t Imelda Marcos in my spare time,” which was much funnier in the early 90s. And I remember once forgetting to bring black tie to Phoebe’s cottage in Wales and I threw such a fit — foot-stomping brat that I was at the time — that we changed the outdoor barbecue to white tie and tails. How times have changed.
It’s an odd feeling, almost one of irony, one might say, to be discussing fashion after spending five days in a convention center on the outskirts of Dallas. If the Gaylord Texan’s overpriced little boutiques are a true indication, the overriding idea of what is fashionable there includes delicate, sparkly chains to decorate your cowboy boots and ample amounts of pastel fringe to put up top. I don’t recall seeing many of the ladies frequenting those shops, though, as we all rushed from coffee fix to general session to cocktail hour, reeling from the news of the new products and astounding bonuses the company is implementing and I don’t blame them. I never imagined I’d be involved in anti-aging skincare but if that’s how I’m going to pay for all the houses and clothes and polo ponies I want, I’m all in! (You can sign up here, by the way.)
This all got me thinking, though, of how to successfully pack for one of these things because I got it all wrong at the Las Vegas event in the spring. For that one, I thought that, above all, I should look “cool” so into my bag went some faded skinny jeans, T-shirts, a vest, a rocker-ish sport coat and my old Tod’s Chelsea boots. I may have looked like I just walked off the John Varvatos runway but it wasn’t quite right. I needed to be seen as a leader for our team there rather than the rebel-outsider that I aspire to be, even though I’m really a don’t-squeeze-the-toothpaste-in-the-middle kind of guy at heart, which is more the person people want in those situations. I also realized on that trip that, between my Armani leather duffel, my outrageously impractical off-white canvas one and my gorgeous Valas backpack, I was carrying six or seven thousand dollars worth of bags. And not one of the fucking things had wheels!
For Dallas, then, I decided to go with classics without being fussy. I took only solids in basic colors so that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I had to repeat something and, in fact, I could recombine tops and trousers for different looks. A navy Armani suit worked great as trousers with a navy shirt during the day and dressed up with the jacket for the evening awards session. Slim khaki pants went with a short-sleeved olive sweater and then a white cotton shirt and the shirt doubled as a top over my swim trunks for Sunday’s massive pool party.
Aside from Abercrombie sandals for the pool, I only took a pair of brown Armani lace-ups in the footwear department. I’d planned to wear the same shoes in black with my navy trousers but Scott had forgotten to take the white tasseled loafers that were the highlight of his Saturday “White Party” outfit so I squeezed those in for him instead. For my look at that party, I’d brought along some off-white cotton Gucci trousers and put on that same white shirt. Our friend Shannon decided to go all out and do drag with the company branded merchandise and a whole lot of lipstick. I was a little worried for Shannon at first because we were in a Dallas suburb at a conference with a strong Christian contingent, but he was such a huge hit that it still makes me a little misty to think of how totally accepted we are by this new family of ours. And I’m still wondering how he got that huge hat home.
So, here are my tips for extended business trips or conferences of three days or more:
- Pack classic pieces in solid colors. Even the subtlest prints are noticeable the second time you wear them.
- Take quality items that fit you well. You’ll stand out only in the right ways.
- Narrow down your shoe selection. Shoes take a lot of room and you can get by with one or two basic pairs—try a brown and a black Oxford.
- Bring extra socks and underwear. They don’t take much room because you can stuff them in your shoes.
- Don’t forget a belt. Nearly everyone does. Roll it up and stuff that in your shoes, too.
- Let the hotel take care of the shampoo. And body lotion. And the coffee.
- Speaking of coffee, if they’re charging you five bucks for the coffee that you make yourself in your room in the equivalent of a blow dryer, you should stay somewhere else.