Illustration by Michael Shaeffer
I was hanging out in a business-class lounge at JFK airport, waiting for my flight, when I saw two women enter, one American, one Italian. Try to tell me which is which:
The first was tall and slender, wearing a fitted puffy jacket, tight jeans, aviator sunglasses, and a pair of high-heeled boots that could have been featured on the front page of Gilt that very day. She looked relaxed, classy, and very rich, like she was about to go to the plastic surgeon’s office for a tune-up.
The second woman was wearing Uggs and gray sweatpants with the word pink scrawled across the back. A mismatched sweatshirt completed the look, topped off by a sloppy bun that looked more like a pile of garbage than a hairstyle. In other words, the American. Revelation, America: Other nationalities make fun of our seeming inability to dress like full-grown adults on airplanes. It’s no secret that, by and large, we look like shit.
“I think every American female I have ever seen on a flight has been wearing Victoria’s Secret yoga pants,” said Naoise, a rather fashionable Irish national. “Yoga pants, a baggy college sweatshirt, and Minnetonka moccasins. This is a thing my friends and I genuinely talk about. Americans on planes dress like they’re going to bed or were recently bereaved.”
In the days when air travel was new and exciting, flying through the sky on an awe-inspiring work of engineering was a special occasion for which people were inclined to look their best. Now flying, for many people, is just the least inconvenient means of conveyance. The TSA doesn’t help matters either, with its insistence we remove our shoes and all of our accessories and skulk through metal detectors while holding our pants up like criminals. It makes people want to dress “comfy,” which is just making this problem worse.
Somewhere along the line, Americans decided that they would rather be comfortable than glamorous. “I think a lot of people take flying as a chance to let themselves go, even if they are taking a one- or two-hour flight,” said Amira, a young lady who’s spent time in both the Middle East and the Midwest. Thus the international stereotype that Americans are slobs who stumble off planes with enormous body pillows, Crocs, and cargo shorts, not caring at all how other people think they look. No wonder everyone hates the United States. If we’re going to keep bombing everyone, the least we can do is not wear pajama jeans in public.
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