I am not a fashion expert and the point of this guide isn’t to teach you how to look “European.” In fact, there isn’t really a “European” look. Just like in America, Europeans wear all styles of clothes and it varies from country to country. That said, styles do tend to be a little more “dressy” but many Europeans are moving toward a more casual, t-shirt, sneakers, and jeans wardrobe.
In fact, there is a huge difference between what the average 22- year-old American wears and what their European counterparts wear. Anyway, this is a guide to help you “blend in” so you’re not taken for a tourist from 100 yards away. If nothing else, this guide will help you look like a European tourist (as opposed to an American tourist).
HEY LADIES! We’ve created a guide to women’s fashion in Europe with female fashion tips and advice. The guide you’re reading now is geared towards men’s style.
What Not To Wear In Europe
Here are some general guidelines on what things you shouldn’t wear when you’re visiting Europe so you don’t instantly stand out as a tourist.
It’s rare to see Europeans wearing athletic clothing—especially in major cities. So you can be fairly certain you’re looking at a group of Americans anytime you see a group of people wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts. The same goes for sports jerseys.
Some of Europe’s “seedier” people wear a lot of tracksuits (and similar clothes) so avoid those if you don’t want to be mistaken for a troublemaker.
Overtly Athletic Shoes
Yes, Europeans wear sneakers—especially cool sneakers.
But you’ll rarely see fashionable Europeans wearing full-on running shoes (unless they’re doing something athletic). However, even running shoes are starting to find their way into fashion so opt for a more subtle pair if that’s something you’re into.
You also won’t see people wearing flip-flops outside of the beach.
In short, don’t feel like you need to wear nice “dress” shoes (in fact, I highly recommend against wearing uncomfortable shoes), but you should consider a pair of minimalist leather sneakers or a fashionable pair of sneakers. Check out my guide to the best travel shoes for men to see some of my favorite travel shoes.
- A note about shoes: Deciding on shoes seems to give many travelers a lot of problems. You absolutely want to bring comfortable shoes because you’re going to be doing a ton of walking — I can’t stress this enough. Many athletic shoe companies (Nike, New Balance, Puma, Adidas, etc.) make comfortable causal sneakers that look cool and are great for city walking.
While Europeans don’t wear shorts as frequently as Americans, you’ll find plenty of Europeans wearing shorts throughout the continent—especially in the warmer regions. The key is to avoid athletic shorts. Khaki cargo shorts is another trademark of the stereotypical American tourist.
Come on, this is Europe — not your 8:00 am Freshman History class. Avoid sweatpants.
Baseball Caps (with American Sports Teams)
Baseball-style caps aren’t uncommon in Europe but wearing a cap from your local sports team will often peg you as a tourist. As an alternative, I recommend wearing a plain hat or one that’s not branded with a sports team.
On the other hand, Yankees hats seem to be one of the most popular fashion accessories among Europeans so that’s always an option.
What To Wear In Europe
In all honesty, very few people are going to care about what you’re wearing so don’t overthink your outfits. And you’re never going to dress as well as a local who has a full closet full of clothes when you’re living out of a suitcase.
That’s why my ultimate goal while traveling is to be put together enough that I don’t look to be a clueless tourist in the eyes of a potential scammer.
Here are a few fashion-related things to consider when choosing what clothing to pack for your trip to Europe:
As I mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid of wearing a cool pair of sneakers because you’ll find plenty of fashionable Europeans wearing them in every major city. I tend to stick with “lifestyle” shoes from New Balance, Nike, etc. as they’re popular, comfortable, and come in multiple color combos.
Leather sneakers are another nice way to look good while staying comfortable.
European city-dwellers tend to wear well-fitting clothes so it doesn’t hurt to follow suit.
Stick With Neutral Colors
You won’t look out of place by wearing color but it’s easier to stick with darker colors because it hides stains and wrinkles better than brighter colors. And darker colors are easier to match so it makes packing easier. That’s why you can’t go wrong with black, gray, and other earth tones.
A button-up shirt can be just as comfortable as a t-shirt but they give you the versatility to be dressed up or be worn more casually.
A denim jacket or chore coat layered over a casual button-up shirt is an easy and practical way to elevate your style.
Basic Daytime & Nighttime Fashion Advice
Daytime & Sight-Seeing Clothing
During the day, you’re going to be visiting the sights with a million other tourists. Don’t worry too much about what you look like since you’ll blend into the crowd. The key is wearing comfortable shoes and clothing.
You might want to put a little more effort into your look when you go out at night but there isn’t any real reason to go overboard unless you’re hitting up super swanky places.
A well-fitted button-up shirt paired with a dark pair of jeans and minimalist leather sneakers is a great nighttime look for 99% of the places you’ll want to go.
Men’s European Fashion Inspiration Websites
Here are a few websites that will help give you an idea of what many Europeans are wearing/buying.
- Topshop & Topman: British chain of clothing stores that operates in more than 20 countries. Geared toward the “hip” 16-25 crowd.
- Zara: A Spanish retail store that sells fashionable clothes. They’re located all over the world but have a heavy presence in Europe.
- H&M: A Swedish clothing company that is popular all over Europe and in the US. They are known for being fashionable and fairly inexpensive.
- Urban Outfitters: Urban Outfitters has spread across Europe and can be found in many European cities. A lot of the stuff there should work well for many twenty-something travelers.
- Abercrombie: Abercrombie has gone through a rebrand over the last few years and now much of their stuff has a cool American/European urbanite vibe.
- The Sartorialist— An amazing Instagram that features photographs of “real life” European fashion. A lot of this stuff is really fashion-forward. None of it is practical for backpacking, but it is kind of interesting to look at.
Fashionable Travel Clothing
I’ve been a nerd about travel clothes since my first trip to Europe back in 2006—now I have a closet full of travel pants, shirts, underwear, and jackets. It’s been refreshing to watch travel clothing evolve from hideous outdoorsy gear to stylish clothing made from high-tech fabrics.
Do you need travel clothing? No. But adding a few pieces can be nice. Here’s my guide to the best travel clothing and brands if you want to learn more.
More European Travel Advice From The Savvy Backpacker
Heading to Europe soon? Here are some more helpful articles I’ve written to help you plan your European travels.
- Click Here To See ALL My Travel Packing-Related Articles
- Guide To Using Data Plans and Smartphone Phones In Europe
- How To Buy A SIM Card and Mobile Data Plans in Europe
- The Best eSIM Data Plans For Europe
- The Savvy Backpacker’s Guide To Hostels in Europe
No Funny Business
The Savvy Backpacker is reader-supported. That means when you buy product/services through links on the site, I may earn an affiliate commission — it doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support the site.
Thanks For Reading! — James