How to dress like a Spaniard
Spain, like the rest of Europe, is known for its fashion and pretty people. If you’re visiting, you may want to get a helpful tip or two to give your wardrobe a breath of fresh air; you definitely don’t want to be caught dead in an oversized Micky Mouse sweater, old jeans, and overused sneakers, unless you want some unsightly stares from the locals. Having a great sense of style is probably the number one rule of how to dress like a Spaniard, but don’t forget these!
Wear shoes like you mean it
We all have our go-to shoes, and I’m just as guilty of this as you are! While there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, shoes that we wear every day tend to get…used. They get dirty, stretched out, and just gross in general. Gross does not equal fashionable. Dressing like a Spaniard means getting serious about fashion, and a fashionable Spaniard wouldn’t let a crappy pair of shoes ruin their outfit.
Your shoes also need to be prepared for the Spanish terrain. It’s an old country, so you can expect most of the roads you’ll be walking on to be cobblestone. Girl, those stilettos are great, but you’re going to break an ankle walking down La Rambla! If you must wear heels, many Spanish women opt for boots with thicker heels that won’t get stuck between the rocks. They’re not my personal taste, but they get the job done!
One last note about shoes: ditch the flip-flops. My fellow Floridians will tend to pack one pair of shoes – they’ll work for tropical Spain, right? Well, first of all, not all of Spain is tropical. If you find yourself in Northern Spain, your feet will drown in the constant rain! Second of all, it’s just not fashionable. If you really want to show off your pedicure, get some nicer sandals, or maybe peephole flats. Generally, though, toes are not a common sight in Spain – get some nice boots, instead!
Prepare for variable weather
Before packing, it’s wise to check the weather forecast of the cities you’ll be visiting, because this will determine the clothes you need to pack. Northern Spain is rainy and chilly – Southern Spain is a tropical paradise. And, depending on the season, the weather may fluctuate heavily from morning to evening. Fortunately, Spaniards have mastered the art of dressing for all seasons all at the same time. Layers are king!
One of a Spaniard’s favorite accessories is the scarf. You can find one for any outfit, and they can take your average T-shirt and jeans and really make your outfit pop! You’ll find Spaniards wearing them all sorts of ways, depending on their style and the weather. You might think some of them a bit thin for a fall look, but you’d be amazed how warm some light fabric on your chest can be. You can also find more heavy scarves that are great for the colder winter looks in cities like Madrid, where it doesn’t usually snow.
There’s more to layers than just a scarf, of course. Clothes to wear in Spain include cardigans, tights, thinner long-sleeve shirts, and more. Unless you’re visiting for the winter months, you can leave your heavy jacket at home, and just pile on all the accessories! This makes great fashion but is also a great strategy for being prepared for whatever kind of weather Spain decides to hit you with that day.
Leave gym clothes at the gym
I’m absolutely guilty of wearing yoga pants and a sports bra wherever I go. However, if you want to dress like a Spaniard, this is a BIG no-no. Unless you go inside a gym, you’ll never see Spaniard wearing athletic clothes, because it’s just not fashionable! You may find some wearing nicer sweatpants, but you better believe they’re never worn inside the gym. The athletic look is definitely a look, but think of those days where you wake up in the morning, shower, and put on new, cleaner pajamas.
If you’re spending a significant period of time in Spain and want to go to the gym, pack yourself a gym bag and wear nicer clothes on the way there. You can get dressed in the gym, shower, and then put your outside-wear back on before you leave. This includes everything, all the way to your sneakers. Remember, don’t wear your crappy shoes out and about! You need to dress to impress!
A winter coat in 70° weather? You bet!
I’m not sure why this is, but a Spaniard will always dress for the season, never for the actual weather. Prepare to find yourself in a hot, crowded subway in 75° weather with a whole bunch of Spaniards still in their winter coats with no interest in taking them off. Spaniards really commit to the outfit they left home in. Hard. This isn’t to say you can’t take off your sweater when it gets too warm and you get too sweaty, but if you’re wondering what the weather is like outside, don’t look at what the people are wearing!
Also a strange idiosyncrasy: shorts in winter. Shorts with warm tights is generally what to wear in Spain in winter. This is an easy outfit to pair with boots, flats, or chunky heels, as mentioned above, as well as a great way to be comfortable in the variable temperatures. Though it might be an outfit combination that you’re not used to seeing very often, there’s a reason Spaniards will generally choose this over jeans, and if you’re spending more than a couple weeks in Spain, you may want to follow suit.
Keep it skinny
One of the first things most Americans realize when they first step foot in Spain is how skinny everybody is. While traditional Spanish food is all fried and loaded with carbs, Spaniards do a lot of walking. That being said, everything they wear will boast how thing their bodies are: skinny, skinny, skinny! Skinny pants, skin-tight tops, small men’s bathing suits…you name it, it’s tiny! If you’ve been afraid to wear it at home, don’t worry – tight clothes are what to wear in Spain in summer!
Unfortunately, this does mean that those with larger builds will have a hard time finding clothes for themselves, so you’ll need to prepare for your trip back home. This shouldn’t be difficult as the fashion that the Spanish wear so well doesn’t come from local Spanish stores but largely globalized ones. With the right eye, you can take any clothes that you find at most any store and, so long as it’s fashionable and well put-together, you can make it work in Spain.
Quick-to-dry is best
There is a good reason why jeans aren’t necessarily a favorite in Spain: they don’t dry quickly. While this isn’t to say you’ll never find a Spaniard wearing jeans, it’s not the most convenient for somebody who probably doesn’t have a dryer at home. In Spain, the locals (and now you, if you’re visiting) air dry their clothes. This is partly due to economic reasons, as dryers use a lot of energy, which means they’re expensive, and many Spaniards don’t have the money to spare when it comes to living costs. Therefore, you can bet jeans are not what to wear in Spain in winter.
This is also due to the weather – it’s easy to dry clothes outside! Depending on where you stay, you may very well have a clothesline readily available to you. If you’re staying in the right regions, you can let Spain’s warm, dry climate take care of your drying needs for you. It will take longer than using a dryer, so be prepared to not be able to wear the clothes you’re washing for a day or two (give jeans a few days, as long as it doesn’t rain), but it’ll work just fine.
And, if you are in this climate but would still rather use a dryer, you can find a laundromat and splurge a few euros. It’s not entirely common, but it’s common enough that there is a large chain with clean buildings and free wifi for you to sit and wait for your clothes to dry. Tip: if you use a laundromat, don’t leave your clothes too long, as there are probably only 3 or 4 washers and dryers available! You won’t need any supplies for these machines, just your clothes and some cash (as you should be able to make change there).
How to dress like a Spaniard: be daring!
If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with your fashion sense, Spain is the place to do it. Whatever your style is, you’ll blend right in with the locals as long as you work it. Got some neon pants that you could never wear? Do it. Been dying to wear some thigh high heels? You’ll be in good company. As long as you can put it together as one cohesive ensemble, you’ll probably bump into another Spaniard with your fashion sense. It’s not about comfort around here, it’s about looking good, no matter how you go about it.
For the men out there, if you’ve been interested in fashion but realize that men aren’t really “supposed” to be fashionable in the US, Spanish men are the most fashionable of all! Bring out the metrosexual in you and rock it. Men are no less fashionable than women, and I don’t mean just jeans and a button up. Get some short shorts (or even capris!), a v-neck, and a really nice pair of shoes and you’ll fit in just great. You’ll even be able to rock some nice scarves in Spain. Don’t be afraid to dress your best, because that is exactly how to dress like a Spaniard.
In the end, as long as you make an effort to look good, you’ll fit right in. If you want more ideas of what to wear in Spain in summer, winter, or spring, check out a fashion magazine! You don’t need to necessarily splurge hundreds of dollars, but don’t be afraid to freshen up.