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Dear Tourist: What The Hell Are You Wearing?Hat

The Secret Traveller

Clothes rack


By The Secret Traveller

All you have to do is go on a safari.

Seriously, head to Kenya or Tanzania or even South Africa and have a look at all the tourists there. They look like a Kathmandu store has thrown up on them, decked out in their zip-off pants, their baggy, mozzie-proof shirts, their vests with all those pockets, their shiny new hiking boots. It’s ridiculous.

Go on safari and you’ll see tourist fashion at its worst. But the bad news is that you don’t even have to go to Africa to see travellers dressing badly. I’ve spent plenty of time on the road, and noticed fashion crime after fashion crime all across the globe. These are the calling cards of the serial offenders.

Ugg Boots

Ugg boots

Would you wear these things out in public at home? OK, fine, maybe you would, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to rock them once you go overseas. Ugg boots are slippers, and they’re fairly ugly slippers at that. They are never going to look good as normal daywear, especially if you’re in fashion-conscious Europe. In the USA, however, they’re probably fine. Sigh.



The vague threat of DVT has apparently made it necessary for everyone to get onto planes wearing the tightest pants they can possibly force their legs into, making the queue to get on board look like the sausage counter at a local butcher’s shop. Maybe tight leggings really do serve a medical purpose – but that doesn’t mean they look good.

Zip-Off Pants

Zip-off pants

There are very few occasions when you can actually justify these. Say, if you’re going hiking early on a cold morning and it will probably get warm later on. That would be fine. For any other occasion, however, zip-off travel pants pretty much scream, “I’m a tourist!” They look dumb when worn as trousers, and they look dumb when worn as shorts. Better to just leave them at home.



If you actually take note while you’re travelling of what the local people are wearing, you’ll soon realise that pretty much no one wears singlets except for Anglos and islanders. If you crack one of these out in the sub-continent, or in Europe, or even in South America, you’ll either look like trailer trash, or people will think you’re the hired help.


woman wearing a vest

There are many types of vests favoured by the modern traveller. There are the safari-style vests with multiple pockets to store whatever it is you need to store. There are the puffy vests commonly worn by elderly travellers and hip-hop moguls. And there are even reversible vests with shiny and furry sides to suit your current situation. The thing all of these vests have in common is that they look ridiculous. What, is your chest really cold but your arms are really hot?

Hiking Boots

hiking boots

These are extremely handy – even, I would say, necessary – if you’re going hiking. However, I reckon the vast percentage of the hiking boots that cross the counter at those travel stores will never get off the pavement. People wear them just to wander around cities, thinking they need the extra food support for getting up and down the stairs at their hotel. They don’t. Normal shoes are fine, and you’ll look less of a tourist.

Footy Jersey


Nothing says “bogan tourist” like a footy jersey, particularly if it’s from your favourite team back home. It also works as an excellent way to start fights in bars.

Thai Fisherman Pants

fisherman pants

Do actual Thai fisherman even wear these things anymore? Probably not. They wouldn’t want to look like all the tourists who obviously think it’s pretty worldly and cool to don these glorified pyjamas and go fire-twirling on the beach. Or whatever it is wannabe hippies do these days. You could maybe get away with Thai fisherman pants in Thailand. Anywhere else you’ll look like the tourist you really are.


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