This week I went to the airport for the first time in seven months. Typically I fly 200K miles per year - I'm Diamond with Delta and crisscross the world constantly - so I have a standard routine for dressing and packing. In the past this was mostly trying to figure out the fewest number of clothing items needed such that I could use my LL Bean carry-on and never need to check a bag.
But this time I felt different because of COVID. I was both excited and anxious getting ready to head to LAX. Standing in my room I realized I started to think about two questions over and over: What would be the safest thing to wear on a plane filled with a hundred people for several hours? When I land, should I change my clothes immediately?
What I Wore to Fly - Before COVID
Before COVID-19 my routine was the same, but the questions were different. I had a travel uniform (my perfect travel clothing) I wore each flight, whose purpose was to be versatile for the plane and the immediate activities after arrival. Primarily I wanted to be comfortable (not too hot or cold), look good, and ensure I could carry all the things I need securely.
It looked like this:
- The softest, most cozy inner shirt possible (long-sleeve or short sleeve depending on season) that would withstand armpit sweat staining and stinking after several hours crammed in my seat
- A light outer sweater, hoodie or jacket (depending on season) with 2-3 pockets for carrying headphones/earpods and other random items. This would be a layering piece to use while getting on (typically when plane is cold) and later in the flight should the temperature be adjusted down. It is foldable and lightweight so it fits easily in my bag.
- Black "all-around" pants with zip side pockets to hold my phone, passport, wallet, business card case and boarding pass. These pants could be worn a few different days/times. Very important that these pants be long enough to come right down to the top of the shoe or boot to prevent cold air around my ankles
- Thick, soft calf-length socks, pulled up to prevent my feet and ankles from getting cold. Wool socks with some cotton or polyester for softness are my favorite.
How COVID Changes The Travel Wardrobe
COVID has been such a dangerous disease because of how easily and how long the virus exists on surfaces. Scientific evidence has shown that the virus can live for days. A lot of procedures to combat this involve wiping down or sterilizing surfaces, which is fine for dealing with seats, chairs, and countertops. But what about you!?
From the moment you leave your house, there are limitless ways to bump, rub, touch, or otherwise come into contact with particles in the air, water, or surfaces around you. Whether it is the transport to the airport, the airport itself, or the aircraft, your clothing will be in constant contact with foreign and potentially infected surfaces. Other than washing your hands (which make up only 2% of your body's surface area), what do you do to continuously reduce the risk of the virus surviving on your clothes?
The answer is to start choosing clothes that can reduce the ability of the virus to survive - clothing with antiviral or antimicrobial characteristics. If the fabric surface is less hospitable to the virus, it will not survive as long. In other words, the chance of touching the clothing and then unwittingly touching your mouth, nose, or eyes to get infected is reduced.
What I Will Wear to Fly - During/After COVID
Coming back to my travel preparation yesterday, the safety challenge of COVID has simply added to the requirements of my original travel uniform. I want fabric that is naturally antimicrobial or artificially enhanced to provide such an effect.
Bamboo was the obvious choice for my inner cozy shirt. Bamboo's many hygienic benefits combine with its superior performance as a fabric - softest possible feel, stain resistant, wrinkle-resistant - to make it the very best travel shirt possible, for men or women. Since it was not too chilly I went light on the layering piece with a bamboo silver ion long sleeve t-shirt. For pants, I reached for the prototype of our Airway Travel Pant. It is a super lightweight 4-way stretch woven fabric with a certified anti-viral finish. This antiviral finish was developed by HEIQ.
In summary, travel as we know it has shifted to a new reality. Adventures can now return, but travel safety now includes health itself as part of the experience. Just like any other professional who has a uniform for utility and protection, so too must any traveler be outfitted the right way to stay safe.