What should I wear when sailing?

A young couple and older couple stand on a boat deck wearing linen summer clothes. There is ocean and an island in the distance.

If you’re at the beginning of your sailing journey, or even setting sail as a visitor, it’s natural to wonder what to wear. We’re not talking about cruise ships here! Sailing is a mixed experience of the practical and the social. So while it’s important to think about body temperature and durability, there are also times when you’ll want to look the part. So from sultry summertime to winter winds, we’ll look at the best sailing attire for each season. Of course it’s not just about function – the most stylish choices will balance comfort with elegance!

Dressing for weather

While there’s really no need to dress on the assumption that you’re taking to the high seas, it’s worth thinking about the impact of weather at sea. Importantly, remember that weather is changeable, so it’s important to have options! While different seasons tend to follow their own weather patterns, remember that nothing is impossible at sea! 


Winter sailing isn’t the time for cotton. Instead, choose synthetic fabrics that will keep you dry and warm or for under layers, invest in some high-quality wool. The sun appears in winter too, so remember a light scarf or buff to add warmth while staying breathable.

Insulated Sailing Jackets: High collars and hoods will keep out the worst of the weather, and hardy outers keep you dry.

Fleece-lined Gloves: A step above standard gloves, fleece lining really stops the wind from cutting through. So your hands will stay warm and mobile while handling ropes.

Base Layers: Merino is your friend here! A long sleeve T-shirt will mean that you’ll need fewer subsequent layers to stay warm. 

Beanie Hat: Cosy and cool, a beanie hat will keep you warm without the risk of it flying off in the wind. 


While the heat of the sun means that you can certainly enjoy fewer clothes, you may still need waterproofs. Breathable cotton will keep you comfortable, and lightweight long-sleeve tops especially are great for fending off UV rays. 

Breathable Tees and Polos: These athleisure fabrics will dry quickly and won’t stick to you in the heat.

Lightweight Deck Shorts: Designed for movement and functionality, with plenty of pockets, these are an ideal summer wardrobe staple.

Classic Deck Shoes: Leather or canvas boat shoes with non-slip soles are secure and practical.

Swimwear: Even if you don’t intend to swim, it’s nice to have the option, so it’s worth packing swimwear!

Cover-up: Take a wrap around or loose cover up or shirt to protect your skin from sunburn if you’re in swimwear.

Transitional seasons

These seasons can be tricky to forecast, as they can switch from cold wind to toasty sunshine in the blink of an eye. Layering is key, but avoid getting too bulky. Practical accessories for all seasons are helpful. Both a beanie hat and sunhat, for example.

Hybrid Trousers: Easily convertible from full length to shorts, these are ideal for variable weather.

Waterproof Jacket: A breathable shell that can withstand a drizzle and double as a windbreaker, although there’s no need for excessive thermal padding.

Overtrousers: For wetter, windier days on the water, these can quickly be put on for protection.

Layer-Friendly Garments: Merino wool or synthetics will trap warmth and feel soft. When you take off outer layers, they’re breathable enough to let you cool down.

Dressing for style

Maybe your sailing trip is for a party, or you might just simply not want to choose the practical over the stylish. As with any other interest, there is room for elegance and fashion on board a boat. These ideas will keep you looking fabulous without causing a risk to health and safety! 


Stay practical with a nod to trends by looking at t-shirts, polos and jumpers with prints. Nautical stripes are a classic and timeless look, while animal prints and neon colours are extremely current. Of course, designer brands are as as desirable in sailing as they are in other walks of life. Classic brands like Helly Hansen, Henri Lloyd or Gill are a good place to start.


While oversized sunglasses may feel like a fashion statement, they’re also pretty practical, since they’ll give you more extensive protection from glare. Be careful when it comes to sunhats. While a wide brim may be appealing, it’ll catch the wind. On trend options that might work better would be a large peaked baseball cap, or a bucket hat.

Practical principles

As important as the clothes that you choose for a sailing trip is how you wear them. These practical principles take into account the nature of the water, weather changes at sea, and the different activities that constitute a sailing excursion. 


Since conditions change so quickly, layers really are the only way. Start with a base; long sleeved merino for winter and short sleeved or sleeveless cotton for summer. Your layers should be easy to get in and out of, so you can quickly adapt to the conditions. It’s worth including something waterproof, whatever the season! 


Even in the heat of summer, it’s important to remember to bring spare clothing on a boat trip. As well as ensuring that you always have something dry to put on, this guards against clothing that gets grimy, sweaty or dirty. Or even splashed with wine! 


Moving about a boat will always be far easier if you are comfortable. In colder conditions, try not to let your layers become too bulky as this means that it may become harder to operate the vessel. Similarly, when it’s warm, think about sun exposure. Make sure you have enough high SPF sunscreen and thin layers to protect your arms and shoulders. 


Of course, not all time on the boat is at sea. For multi-day cruises, or even at the end of a day trip, a stop at the marina can be a bit more of a glamorous time. Whether you’re hosting drinks on the boat or stepping ashore for dinner, you’ll need to pack something elegant to wear. 

Being comfortable and stylish on your boat can mean more than simply outfit choice. With bespoke, high quality boat cushions, boat seats, and yacht upholstery, your boat will look as elegant as you do! Contact us to make your boat a stylish, cool backdrop.

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