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Fashion Advice: How to Avoid Looking Like An American Tourist In Europe

Fashion advice to help you look like a local when visiting Europe.

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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 a “European” look. Just like in America, Europeans wear all styles of clothes and the subtilities vary from country to country.

That said, styles do tend to be a little more “dressy” or “put together” but plenty of Europeans wear a casual t-shirt, sneakers, and jeans wardrobe.

Honestly, there is not a huge difference between what the average 25-year-old American wears and what their European counterparts wear thanks to globalization (i.e. we’re all shopping at similar stores).

This guide will help you “blend in” so you’re not taken for an American tourist from 100 yards away. If nothing else, this guide will help you look like a generic European tourist.

American tourists in Europe

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

A great example of the quintessential “American” tourist outfit (spotted in Barcelona).

Let’s take a look at some general guidelines on what things you shouldn’t wear when you’re visiting Europe if you want to avoid looking like a tourist.

Athletic Clothing

It’s rare to see Europeans wearing head-to-toe athletic clothing—especially in major cities. So you can be fairly certain you’re looking at Americans anytime you see a group of people wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts. The same goes for sports jerseys.

Overtly Athletic Shoes

Europeans wear sneakers—especially cool sneakers.

So yes, you can wear sneakers in Europe! I think you should 1,000% wear sneakers in Europe because you’ll walk multiple miles every day.

But you’ll rarely see fashionable Europeans wearing full-on running shoes (unless they’re doing something athletic). However, even “cool” running shoes have found their way onto the feet of fashionable Europeans.

Nike, New Balance, Puma, Adidas, etc. all make comfortable “athletic lifestyle” sneakers that are both fashionable and suitable for miles of city walking. A pair of minimalist leather sneakers is another good option if you want something a little more fashionable.

In short, don’t feel like you need to wear nice “dress” shoes. Check out my guide to the best travel shoes for men to see some of my favorite travel shoes.

Flip Flop Sandals

Save the flip-flops for the beach.


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 are another trademark of the stereotypical American tourist.

Sweatpants and Athletic Pants

You’ll rarely see Europeans wearing sweatpants in public so I recommend avoiding them.

Athletic pants are also rare so my rule of thumb is to avoid anything that looks like you’d wear to run/play soccer.

However, many companies design pants that use performance fabrics but are still cut/styled like normal pants. These can be a good option if you still want the comfort of “athletic” pants without looking like you’re about to exercise.

American Baseball Caps and Other Sporting Fan Gear

Baseball-style caps aren’t uncommon in Europe but wearing a cap from your local sports team will often peg you as an American tourist. 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.

Other fan gear like shirts and jackets will also peg you as a tourist so avoid stuff like that if you want to blend in.

Don’t Overdress, Either

While this isn’t as common with men, some people completely overdress when visiting Europe because they hear stories that Europeans always dress like they’ve just walked off the fashion show runway.

But this just makes you stand out as a rich tourist… which might attract the attention of scammers and pickpockets. Check out my guide to pickpockets in Europe and common tourist scams in Europe to learn more tips.

What To Wear In Europe

How to dress like a European

Honestly, very few people will care about what you’re wearing so don’t overthink your outfits.

And trying to dress as well as a local (who has access to their closet full of clothing) will only result in you having to haul around a massive heavy 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:

Cool Sneakers

As I mentioned, a cool pair of comfortable sneakers is a top priority.

I tend to stick with “lifestyle” shoes from New Balance or Nike since they’re popular everywhere, comfortable, and come in multiple color combos.

Low-profile leather sneakers are another nice way to look stylish while staying comfortable. Check out my guide to the best travel shoes for men for a deeper dive into my favorite footwear options.

Well-Fitting Clothes

European city-dwellers tend to wear well-fitting clothes so it doesn’t hurt to follow their lead.

Even something as simple as jeans and a t-shirt/button-up looks nice when it all fits well.

Stick With Neutral Colors For Simplicity

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 light easier.

That’s why you can’t go wrong with black, gray, dark blues, and other darker earth tones.

Button-Up Shirts

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.

Layer Up For Versatility

A denim jacket or chore coat layered over a casual button-up shirt is an easy and practical way to elevate your style.

A Simple Watch

I’m a big fan of wearing a sensible watch while traveling since it’s easy to lose track of time and I’d rather not rely on always looking at my phone to see the time. If possible, find a watch that shows military/24h time since most of Europe uses a 24-hour clock—especially train schedules, etc.

Basic Daytime & Nighttime Fashion Advice

Daytime & Sight-Seeing Clothing

Comfort is key during the day.

Think about it… you’re going to be surrounded by thousands of other tourists since you’ll most likely be visiting the same tourist sights as everyone else.

And you’ll be walking for miles and miles.

So you want comfortable shoes.

And you want comfortable clothing that isn’t restricting. You also want clothing that fits the season so light and airy during the hot summer and warm/water-resistant in the winter.

Again, I’m not saying you want to look like a slob or a total cliche tourist, but you don’t need to overthink your outfit.

Nighttime Clothing

Feel free to put a little more effort into your outfit when you’re going out at night but there’s no 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 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 fashion-forward. None of it is practical for backpacking… but it is interesting to look at and it might give you some inspiration.

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.

James Feess
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