The best way to ease through airport security is to dress for success. Certain garments and accessories could get you flagged for extra screening, slowing down your progression through the airport.
What Not to Wear in the Airport Security Line
Want to roll through the security line like a pro? Avoid wearing the following attire.
Shoes That Are Difficult To Remove
We advise travelers to wear slip-on shoes in the airport security line. You’ll have to take your shoes off and put them in the screening bin before walking through the metal detector, and flyers fumbling with tangled laces or strappy sandals could hold up the line. Plus, if you’re in a hurry to catch your flight, slip-on shoes will be easy to put back on and thus will hasten your transit from the end of security to the terminal.
Note that children under the age of 12 and adults ages 75 and older may leave their shoes on during screening.
Jewelry or Piercings … or Anything Metal, for That Matter
If you set off the metal detector, you’re in for additional screening—or at least a little extra attention while other travelers stream past you. Everything from metal fasteners on clothes to body piercings to keys in your pocket could cause alarm in the security line.
If you are wearing metal body piercings that cannot be removed, you may request a private screening in lieu of a patdown.
If your pants fall down the moment your belt comes off, don’t wear them to the airport. You can probably imagine why. Flyers must remove belts before walking through metal detectors, so choose a belt-free outfit, or at least be prepared to remove your belt if you want to wear one.
Belts aren’t permitted through airport security because their metal clasps set off the metal detector. However, even if you are wearing a belt without a metal clasp, an agent might request that you remove it anyway. It’s standard procedure.
Coats and Jackets
It’s airport screening 101: Travelers must remove coats and jackets—this includes outerwear like hooded sweatshirts, vests, and such—before going through the metal detector. It’s perfectly fine to sport a jacket in a chilly airport. Just remember to take your outerwear off and put it in a screening bin before proceeding through the checkpoint.
Offensive clothing may get you kicked off a plane, but it could also draw extra attention from TSA agents (though it’s more likely that airline staff, rather than an airport security agent, will ban you from flying due to inappropriate or offensive clothing). Stories of flyers prohibited from planes due to poor wardrobe choices abound, and, for most of them, the trouble occurred after they made it through the screening process. Still, agents may pull you aside for additional screening if they perceive a threatening or questionable message on your slogan T-shirt. Bottom line: If you woudn’t wear it to a family-friendly restaurant or even to church, don’t wear it for air travel.
Loose clothes aren’t prohibited. But travelers sporting baggy apparel, such as droopy pants, flowy skirts, bulky sweatshirts, or even loose garments worn for religious purposes, may be subject to extra screening. According to the TSA, you might be selected for a pat-down inspection if your clothes are “large enough to hide prohibited items.”
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Airport Apps You’ll Actually Use
- 11 RFID-Blocking Travel Items That Won’t Make You Look Like a Tourist
- Pickpocket-Proof Clothing: 10 Garments to Protect Your Stuff
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.