#39: Polo Swimwear

Dear Ralph,

I didn’t end up taking the Weekender with me to Greece. I opted instead to take a pseudo-military style backpack from a Canadian outfitter called World Famous, a brand that would be a little cooler if it wasn’t intimately associated with thrifting teens and slouchy middle-aged men who have to make sure their satchel bags will hold an LP. You know the type I’m talking about.

It was the backpack instead of the Weekender for a number of reasons, but first and foremost – if you can believe it – was utility. We had planned to do quite a bit of light hiking to secluded swimming areas, and a backpack just made sense. We had to carry water, hats, sunscreen, towels, beach cover-ups and our bathing suits.

For my beach cover up I took a linen shirt in white, with a light herringbone pattern, two pleated chest pockets and epaulettes. For my swimsuit I took this:


I know. The length leaves a little something to be desired, but other than that I have to hand it to you: these are fucking great trunks.

I brought a lot of other Polo shit as well. I wanted to craft a vacation look that resonated with Greece, something somewhere between the tweedy intelligence of Arthur Evans, the refined ruggedness of Bruce Chatwin and the authentic earthiness of a Cretan shepherd. If that seems like a tall order, imagine that somewhere in the back of my mind was a mix of the luxe yachting lifestyle of Aristotle Onassis and the louche bohemianism of Leonard Cohen.


I think, with a lot of help from you, I did ok.


The only problem was the bathing suit; the cut was too American; the pattern was too Caribbean. But if I learned one thing from looking at other men on beaches in Greece it was that European beach style is a country I just might not be ready to visit.

I couldn’t help but feel a little more foolish than normal when it comes to dressing on vacation. Even in our selfie-saturated age, there is never a time when we are photographed more and there is never a time when it takes such concentrated effort to look good. But beyond that, the brief exposure to the broader wonders of the world should be sufficient to shame our vanity. Outside our door stands the Parthenon; here we stand before the mirror debating the merits of a shirt.

What do we want from travel? Surely something more than just a few well-curated outfits for social media. We want to have our vision of the world expanded, and for us to be expanded with it. So this morning, as I sat down and got ready to write you a letter about bathing suits and suitcases, I was reading little bits and pieces about Patrick Leigh Fermor, a man who walked the length of Europe and may be the most exemplary traveler of the 20th century.


Guess what he packed?

According to wikipedia he took with him “a few clothes, several letters of introduction, the Oxford Book of English Verse and a Loeb volume of Horace’s Odes.”

Sometimes things broaden our vision just by showing us how circumscribed our perspectives are to begin with.



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