When in Roman, do as the Romans do, and when in Madrid, ah, you get the idea don’t you? Madrid is its own, unique city with its residents having their own, unique sense of style and fashion. It is, after all, Spain’s largest city and has been shaped over time by a variety of different subcultures. While it should be obvious that you should never dress like a typical, unassuming tourist (khaki shorts, sandals, sunglasses with camera around neck— you know what the look is), you can’t necessarily wear what you’d wear around any other city either. So the time has come for you to pack for Madrid. What goes in your suitcase?
Five Great Tips To Adhere To Madrid’s Unofficial Dress Code:
Wear the Right Shoes
You won’t spot many Madrileños (residents of Madrid) wearing worn sneakers or athletic wear when out shopping or grabbing lunch. These stay at the gym or at home. Furthermore, in the warmer weather, you’ll never see anyone wearing socks with sandals. While some Madrid newcomers or visitors may find this style to be comfortable, residents just find it heinous, and worst still— tacky. Don’t let your feet scream you’re a tourist when the rest of you does not.
Bring Scarves, a Variety of Scarves
Whether you are male or female, know that scarves adorn both genders in Madrid. Pack along lighter ones for warmer weather and heavier ones for colder days. Women also have the option of bringing along a wide variety of colors to go with different outfits.
Sunglasses Are a Necessity
Just about every Madrileño owns more than one pair of good sunglasses. These aren’t large, gawdy tourist sunglasses with cheap plastic— Madrid acceptable shades are classy and mix in well with either the sophisticated, chic look or the bohemian one— both of which are found to be prevalent in Madrid society. Great fits for the city include stylish, designer sunglasses, and even certain retro brands and vintage shades. Keep in mind that you may also want to pair your sunglasses up with a newsboy style hat— just not a baseball cap or wide straw hat. These just don’t fit in well.
Mind Your Bag
If you are carrying a bag with you— and if you’re a tourist exploring the city you most likely will need to have a place to store your camera, money and passport— try to make the bag fit in well with what you are wearing. For example, if you are dressed up nicer, you shouldn’t be carrying around a torn up old school backpack. Shoulder bags made of leather (or faux leather, to save money!) or durable, nice-looking cloth work best anyway for Madrid, as do nice purses for women.
No matter what kind of bag you carry though, don’t make it obvious that you are trying to protect what is in your bag. Keep a good grip on it, but don’t hug it in front of you and look suspicious of anyone who breathes in your general direction. All this will do is alert potential thieves that you have something valuable with you— and that you’re a tourist who may not know the city well.
Go Casual, But Not Too Casual
Unlike the cities of the United States, which are notorious for their citizens being spotted wearing sweatpants and even pajamas to the supermarket, this is pretty much unacceptable in Madrid. People do dress nicely whenever they go out in public in general. However, know that this does not necessarily mean wearing your best shoes and a suit. Instead, a nice pair of jeans or pants (without wrinkles or torn up spots), a button-down shirt for men and neat blouse for women, with a pair of nice walking shoes or clean, nice sneakers will suffice.
Of course, if you are planning on experiencing Madrid’s nightlife while visiting, don’t forget to throw in some nicer clothes for dining out and going to clubs. The general rule of thumb for visitors in Madrid is that it is always better to be too dressed up than to be too dressed down.
Keep in mind that you always have the option of buying clothes while you are there. While this may not be wise if you want to save money or space in your suitcase, it can provide you with the wonderful opportunity of exploring Spanish culture while making some great new additions to your wardrobe. Remember, if you’re looking for upscale, sophisticated clothes, you’ll find plenty of retail stores for these all over the city.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can find hip, bohemian styles as well (specifically in El Rastro, the city’s oldest and largest outdoor market every Sunday morning). Have fun!