How to Dress like a Spaniard

Look like a local as you stroll Madrid’s Gran Via. Photo: Tom Meyers

The day has come. You’re packing a bag for your trip to Madrid, Spain’s largest city. Seeing that lugging three rolling suitcases is neither savvy nor cost-effective, you have to be choosey with clothes, shoes and accessories.

2. Pack scarves for color, variety and warmth

When a friend came to visit he told me that “real men don’t wear scarves, or eat quiche, or wear pink.” While this may have been true in his part of the world, it is not so in Madrid.

Scarves are in year-round (especially on women) and will give you Euro-flair and something warm around your neck when the cold spring rain beings to fall (and it will fall). Also, bringing a few scarves in different tones and textures will spice up your wardrobe if you’re traveling light.

If you don’t have any scarves, don’t fret, you’ll find an abundance of them for sale here.

Buying sunglasses on the streets of Madrid. Photo: Enric Archivell

3. Consider hats and sunglasses.

Every local has at least two pairs of shades. You need them in Madrid for those long strolls through Buen Retiro Park and lunches on sun-drenched plazas.

Hats are also in, but not so much the baseball cap or cowboy hat. I’ve seen many locals donning newsboy hats which work for hiding a bad hair day and keeping the sun off your nose. In the summer months those with sensitive skin should wear a hat, as the Spanish sun is fierce. However, most locals do not.

4. Keeping it casual?

For the most part, people do dress nicely when they go out, and Madrid is not a “sweatpants” culture. This does not mean you need to wear your best dress and high-heels (unless you want to) or a suit. Instead, a pair of ironed jeans or slacks, a button-down shirt, a pair of stylish sneakers (not bright white Nikes), and perhaps a sweater or jacket will work for guys.

More informal? Jeans and a t-shirt will work, too, depending on where you are planning to spend your time. Ladies: Do pack a dress or two for a night out. Jeans and sneakers also work for girls and can be dressed up with the right blouse or sweater. I’d go for flats or sneakers any day over heels simply because there is a lot of walking in Madrid.

Overall, dress up rather than down for this sophisticated city.

5. Accessorize!

I see many visitors on the Madrid Metro wearing their backpack in front of them. While this is a clever way to not get robbed, it makes you look like a tourist. To which you may respond, “But I am a tourist!” And there is nothing wrong with that. I’d sling the backpack over one shoulder and keep a good grip on it. I’d also tuck the camera away if you’re not using it, as nothing screams “I just got off Delta” like a dangling Nikon.

Instead, wear your favorite watch. Spanish men (I’m generalizing) add fashion “bling” with fancy-pants watches and nice belts. If you’re a lady, show your style with a large handbag that has a million zippers (making it impossible for anyone to rob you on the bus).

Your fashion tips for Madrid

Have you been to Madrid? Tell us what you like to wear during your Spanish vacation.

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