Europeans often say you can tell an American tourist a mile off: the cargo shorts, T-shirt with a sports team logo and sneakers are dead giveaways. Meanwhile Americans say you can spot European tourists in the U.S. because they wear socks with sandals, know how to tie a scarf and never smile at strangers. Generalize much?
We can say this: While Americans will dress up at times, they usually don't. They put a lot of value on comfortable, functional clothes, like yoga pants, running shoes and loose-fitting tops — especially when traveling. Europeans are known to prefer tailored, form-fitting clothing, often in muted colors. In fact, some travel blogs insist that the American tourist who wishes not to stand out in Europe should avoid common wardrobe staples, like brightly colored jackets, running shoes and oversized T-shirts [sources: Polla, The Savvy Backpacker].
The advent of casual clothes stateside can be traced back to the addition of sportswear, then shorts into American wardrobes in the early 1900s. Women later began to don comfortable, all-purpose unisex clothes, like jeans, cardigans and T-shirts, further encouraging a shift away from binding, uncomfortable clothes.
Fashion historian Deirdre Clemente wrote in a piece for TIME, "To dress casual is quintessentially to dress as an American and to live, or to dream of living, fast and loose and carefree. ... But for all the hours and articles, I've long known why I dress casual. It feels good."