Wondering what not to wear in Europe? Worried about looking like a tourist? In this guide we will tell you what not to wear alongside Europe outfit inspiration to help you look like a local.
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How do people dress in Europe?
If you don’t want to look like a tourist in Europe, or even an American, you first need to know how people in Europe dress. So how to people in Europe dress? Well it varies.
In many European countries there isn’t a hard and fast dress code outside of religious buidling such as churches in Italy and Spain such as the Sagrada Familia. However there are some fashion trends and don’ts that tend to be common across Europe.
Overall I wouldn’t say that cities in Europe are more liberal in terms of fashion whereas more remote parts and countryside locales can be more conservative in their dress sense. SO what are the common things of what not to wear in Europe?
What Not to Wear in Europe
High Heels and Stilettos
Europe is a beautiful continent and although the countries and landscapes are diverse you will find that given the historic nature of many of the cities the best way of exploring is on foot. Also as the cities are so old you will come across lots of cobble stone streets and uneven surfaces.
For this reason it is best to avoid high heels and stilettos in many European capitals as it would be easy to injure yourself.
My advice is to leave the high heels and stilettos at home however if you must take them keep them to use in nice restaurants only and be sure to have an alternative pair of shoes with you for walking.
And if you do want to take shoes with a bit of height I would definitely recommend taking a pair of wedges in place of stilettos.
As I said above Italy is a country that is great to explore on foot. But to do this you will need the right type of shoes, and flip flops really aren’t these unless you are spending time on beaches in places such as the Amalfi Coast, Tenerife and Croatia for instance.
Flip flops offer no arch support and if you are visiting cities such as Rome, Paris, London or Amsterdam on a rainy day they will offer no protection against slippery surfaces.
Be sure to leave flip flops at home unless you are spending time on a beach and instead wear a pair of sneakers for sightseeing.
White Socks and Shoes
If there is one thing that can mark you out as a tourist, and more spcifically an American tourist in Europe it is the white sock and shoe / sandal look. Ths is a very American style and you will find that most Europeans especially Italians and Austrians who are renowned for their style would ever wear something like this.
Instead switch out those white socks for sneaker socks or wear sandals without a sock.
Although if you are visiting Europe in the Summer you will need a hat but in large parts of Europes baseball caps are not worn by locals. Particularly caps that are emblazoned with sports teams logos etc.
Instead I would pick a more stylish hat to protect you from the sun and to help you look less like a tourist in Europe.
Hoodies with university names on them scream I am a tourist. Or at best I am a foreign exchange student. Leave any attire with your Alma Mata on at home when you visit Europe.
I would also avoid picking up souvenirs with university names on for instance Oxford University hoodies when in London as again they do look like a souvenir and will mark you are a tourist.
Open Bag / Fanny Pack
As with any tourist place around the world, pickpockets can be a problem in Europe. There are two ways of mitigating your risk of being targeted by pickpockets.
One way is to not look like a tourist. And the other way is to have bags that protect your belongings. WE like to use a travelon anti theft crossbody bag with plenty of pockets.
Also I know it can be tempting to pick a fanny pack to keep your belongings safe and these have been having a bit of a resurgency in America, but we don’t recommend them in Europe. Fanny packs are still firmly a tourist item in Europe and really aren’t seen outside of theme parks in Europe. Therefore to not look like a tourist leave the fanny bag behind in favor of a more stylish anti-theft bag.
Skimpy Outfits (In certain places)
Now while on beaches in Europe you will see lots of revealing clothes including budgie smugglers and thong bikinis, you should have one more modest outfit with you for visiting religious settings in cities.
Normally for churches in Europe you will need to keep your shoulders and knees covered, whether you are a man or woman. Therefore we recommend having one more modest outfit with you or at least a pashmina with you that can be used to cover your shoulders in churches.
Synthetic Fabrics in Summer
If you are visiting Europe in the summer, whether you are in the north, south or on an island be sure to avoid synthetic fabrics.
Europe can be hot in the summer particularly the further South you go. You don’t want to make yourself sweat more than you have to in synthetic fabrics.
Instead opt for light and breathable fabrics such as loose linen trousers and beautiful cotton tops.
Although people tend to associate Europe with smart casual dress, you won’t find many places where you need a formal outfit. So unless you are going to a destination wedding in Italy or elsewhere, or attending Venice Carnival for instance, you won’t need to pack formal wear.
Europe is beautiful and I guarantee you will be taking lots of photographs. However to avoid looking like a tourist don’t wear your camera around your neck at all times. Instead take your photographs and then put it away somewhere more discreet.
Although comfortable and useful with lots of pockets, cargo pants and travel vests are a sure fire way to look like an American in Europe.
We therefore recommend ditching cargo clothes and travel vests and instead wear more tailored trousers such as chinos and use a travel bag instead of a travel vest.
Overly Casual for Dinner
I find that no matter where you are in Europe if you want to go to a nice, non-touristy restaurant, that most people will dress for dinner.
Now don’t go too overboard with formal wear but I think having one nice smart casual outfit for evenings is a great idea to help you fit in more with locals.
For more European dinner outfit inspiration check out these posts:
- What to wear in Paris to Dinner
- What to wear in London to Dinner
- What to wear in Italy to Dinner
- What to wear in Iceland to Dinner
Avoid Slogans, Logos and Graphic Tees
Now in some places in Europe you will see these however you won’t see them everywhere. For this reason we recommend avoiding t shirts and clothing with large logos, slogans or graphics on them as they will mark you are a tourist or an American in Europe.
Instead we recommend packing plain and more neutral tees so they can work as part of a capsule wardrobe and be more in keeping with European fashion styles.
Although when traveling, especially on longer trips over 2 weeks it can be tempting to pack a lot of clothes and travel with a lot of luggage. However we recommend packing light where you can.
That is because lugging large amounts of luggage around will undoubtedly make you look like a tourist. We recommend trying to pack a capsule wardrobe for Europe. This means you pack a mix and match wardrobe in more neutral colors so everything can be reused. These items are also more likely to help you dress like a European too as much of Europe especially in places such as Italy and France will stick to more muted color palettes.
For more European capsule wardrobe inspiration check out these posts:
- Europe Summer Capsule Wardrobe
- European Winter Capsule Wardrobe
- Europe Fall Capsule Wardrobe
- Spring CApsule WArdrobe for Europe.
FAQs About what not to wear in Europe
What to wear in Europe for dinner?
Food is a very integral part to any trip to Europe so you may be wondering what to wear for dinner in Europe. I would say that evenings in Europe tend to be slightly more smart with most people opting for a smart casual attire for eating out than say sneakers and jeans.
Can I wear shorts in Europe
Can I wear shorts in Europe? I don’t know why but the internet has generated many rumours that you can not wear shorts in Europe but this is absolutely not true. You can wear shorts in Europe but just be sure to pack more stylish pairs for cities and not wear anything too skimpy in cities.
Now it is true that Italian women don’t immediately grab the shorts on a hot day but that doesn’t mean it isn’t allowed.
Also remember if you are going to churches in Europe be aware there is a dress code where shorts are not permitted.
Is it OK to wear leggings in Europe?
Yes during the day you can certainly wear leggings in Europe but you won’t tend to see these in restaurants in Europe at night.
Is it OK to wear crop tops in Europe?
Crop tops are certainly fine on the beaches and islands in Europe and in some of the more liberal cities such as those in Germany and London. But in more conservative places these are not as readily seen. For this reason I normally opt to leave these at home for city breaks in Europe.
Is it okay to wear sneakers in Europe?
You absolutely can wear sneakers in Europe and will see people wearing them whether in the cities, up a mountain or in a beach town.
In fact I would say that sneakers are an essential item for your Europe packing list wherever you are traveling.
Can I wear flip flops in Europe?
You can definitely wear flip flops in Europe but this is not something I recommend in cities. Personally I would only bring flip flops if you plan to spend time on the beach.
Do you have to cover your shoulders in Europe?
Now on a normal day in Europe you don’t have to cover your shoulders. However you do have to cover your shoulders in churches and religious attractions.
And there you have it our guide to what not to wear in Europe to not look like an American and to dress like a local. We hope you have found it useful but if you have questions we haven’t covered leave us a comment below and we will get back to you.
Also if you are going to a particular destination in Europe use the search bar at the top and type the country or city along with the month of travel and you will find a bespoke packing list for that destination.