When Airports Were Runways for the Stylish

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All photos courtesy Rizzoli

Airport style – it didn’t use to be an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp.” After being grounded (like most people living through the pandemic) for an entire year, I recently hopped a flight to Miami and was beyond appalled at what passes as suitable traveling attire among the hoi polloi.

Lady Gaga at Los Angeles International 2015 GVKBauer/GriffinGC Images

Celebrity airport style is as different as only the pampered can be. These days read as those who aren’t subjected to the invasive TSA protocols stopping just short of an anal probe. Award-winning creative director/photo editor/writer and 30-year veteran of Rolling Stone Jodi Peckman has compiled “Come Fly With Me: Flying in Style,” featuring 80 color and black and white images that she’s collected over the years.

Paul and Linda McCartney at London Gatwick 1971 Central Press/Getty Images

“My interest in these kinds of images started with a photo of Paul and Linda McCartney arriving at the airport in the early 1970s. I loved everything about it. A look at a famous family in such a public space; they seem so natural. They are not posing, they don’t look overly self-conscious, and their style is terrific,” she says in the preface.

Marlon Brando Paris Orly 1959
Photo: Roger Viollet via Getty Images

The book presents in non-chronological order. I leafed through to find that the two oldest photos are from 1959 –a B&W image of Marlon Brando walking through Orly Airport carrying what must have been the souvenir tiny Air France bag in one hand and a trench coat in the other.

The other image features a B&W shot of a fur coat clad Marilyn Monroe posing on the steps of an American Airlines jet at LaGuardia. The most recent color image of Chloe Sevigny is looking very Gallic in a striped mini/navy blazer and white socks and sneakers, a straw hat tied to her neck behind her arriving in Nice, 2019.

The Supremes at London Heathrow 1965 Evening Standard Stringer

Other amazing shots include The Supremes landing at Heathrow in 1965 dressed to the nines (Motown employed an image consultant who taught them how to dress, sit and speak); Mick Jagger in a black and white checkerboard suit with Marianne Faithfull, London City Airport, 1969; and the Jackson Five, Heathrow, 1972 are just a few that first caught my eye.

Muhammad Ali at London Heathrow1967 Pictorial Press Ltd Alamy/Stock Photo

Back in the day, men traveled in crisp, sometimes 3-piece suits – see shots of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. Muhammad Ali wore a light-colored suit and tie, Prince sported a windowpane checked suit and dark shades,

Paul Newman at London Heathrow 1977 AP Photo

Paul Newman wore a turtleneck, and Elton John traveled in mink and a top hat. Old Hollywood, new Hollywood, sports figures, music, fashion, comedy (Jerry Seinfeld), and religious figures (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with Mia Farrow; Pope Francis) all get their well-earned place in this 144-page compendium.

Miley Cyrus at Sydney International, 2014 Splash

Women don everything from a white mini skirt suit and black ballet flats (Jackie Onassis, JFK, 1969) to pink Juicy Couture and flip-flops with a giant Murakami LV duffle (Kim Kardashian, Hollywood-Burbank Airport 2007). From Miley Cyrus in a unicorn onesie carrying a stuffed unicorn (Sydney, 2014) to Taylor Swift in hot pants and over-the-knee boots (LAX, 2014).

Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull at London City, 1969 William Lovelace Stringer

Peckman mentions that her favorite shot is of the Olsen twins at LAX, 2014, discovered while looking through thousands of images for Rolling Stone Magazine’s” Random Notes” section. “It stopped me in my tracks,” she continues of the paparazzi photo featuring Mary-Kate and Ashley stealthily moving through the airport as “one unit, constantly dodging the cameras that stalk them.”

Dolly Partonat London Heathrow 1976 Photo Bettmann

Old Hollywood, new Hollywood, sports figures, music, fashion, comedy (Jerry Seinfeld), and religious figures (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with Mia Farrow; Pope Francis) all get their well-earned place in this 144-page compendium. Couple style, families, and musical groups are all represented here as you sift through the myriad of iconic images.

Cindy Crawford at Los Angeles International 1991 Ron Galella Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Interestingly, Peckman told Vogue that she never really set out to chronicle airport fashion for the past 60 years. “In fact, I hate traveling, and I’m really afraid of flying, so it’s funny that I have a book with airport images,” adding that she was attracted to the way people walk through the airport and present themselves to the camera in “that snap second.”

Frank Zappa at London Heathrow, 1975Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / AlamyStock Photo

Throughout the book, there are scattered quotes from Diana Vreeland, Andre Leon Talley, Nicolas Cage, Parker Posey, Jane Birkin, and others. My favorite has to be the closing quote by Carine Roitfeld: “Sometimes when you go to the airport and look at the people, you see the worst looks – but the worst looks can give you more ideas than the best looks.”

I’ll try to remember that the next time I see someone walking through the airport in old, ratty sweatpants, I wouldn’t use them as drying rags on a freshly washed car.

Laurel Marcus
Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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