Supportive shoes, warm layers, reusable coffee mugs and backpacks: Long Island Rail Road commuters have a style of their own.
Take Pedro Peguero, Jr., 24, who slips into a polo or tee and sneakers and catches the 7:19 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma Monday through Friday like clockwork, with his noise-canceling headphones in tow. “There was a time when I used to wear a more business-y look,” says the graphic designer who’s commuted for three years. “But sitting on the train all dressed up was for me, personally, uncomfortable.” And he’s not alone.
Between standing on the station platform, snatching a seat on a crowded train and the walk to the office, wearing dress shoes, suits and other business attire isn’t always an ideal option. Put simply by Phil Schwaeber, 60, from Plainview who’s been riding for the past 40 years: “Comfort is the key on the LIRR.”
Even the newest of Long Island Rail Road commuters consider adjusting their wardrobes for comfort. In Professor Rona Casciola’s Fashion Design Business Practices class at Nassau Community College, students are already discussing clothing fit for commuting to upcoming internships in Manhattan. “When you’re about to catch a train, you have to start sprinting. I’ve seen people in Penn Station literally bust out in a sprint,” says D’vonne Gallant, 26, of Baldwin. “Instead of wearing heels, I’d wear sneakers and change.”
To piece together an ideal commuting look, we’ve turned to those who’ve mastered their own ride to hear their functional fashion tips. They don’t always add up to the most stylish of outfits, but as someone who commutes, you quickly learn it’s not always about how you look but about how comfy you are getting there.
LIRR style starter pack
Relaxation is a crucial way to start your day. Meditation, morning naps and binge sessions are made easier on your ride with wireless (or noise-canceling) headphones.
If you haven’t yet gone mobile with your monthly pass, you keep it around your neck, snug in a clear-pouch lanyard for easy access when an LIRR employee makes the rounds.
Cell and backup charger
Should an unplanned service disruption double your hourlong commute, you’ve come prepared with a smartphone full of downloaded music and movies. Oh, and a wireless backup charger.
You dress not only for the weather, but for the changing temperatures from windy platform to crowded train.
You know your morning just might start out with a jog to the platform, or include an impromptu transfer at Jamaica. You wear your commuter sneakers or flats and bring backup dress shoes for the office.
Packing for your commute is almost like packing for a trip: make sure you bring the essentials, and leave room for your a spare umbrella, your laptop, dress shoes and backup office outfit.
Pack a backup
Peguero, Jr. says his graphic design career allows him to loosen up his attire, but that’s not an option for all. For those who are required to don a more formal look, consider bringing a change of clothes and making good use of the hanger racks near select seats. “I’ll sometimes get the most empty row I can find and hang my work shirt up next to me,” he says. “If it gets a little wrinkled, it’s not the end of the world.” Dawn Marie Bond, who commutes from Ronkonkoma, can often be spotted bundled up in her Uggs and a puffer coat. But “at work, I have hair spray, a blow drier, makeup; I have a change of pants and I have an extra shirt.”
Find flat ground
Wearing dress shoes or heels can only cause unnecessary discomfort on your way to the office — especially if it includes a subway trip or long walk after pulling into Penn Station. Coram resident Yvonne Santiago, 55, who works in human resources, pairs her dress pants with supportive sneakers and slips into heels once she arrives at the office.
Casciola’s student Kejah James, 22, who’s starting an internship in Manhattan with a design warehouse, predicts she’ll pair her work outfit with Doc Martens to stay on-trend. Her classmate Promise Garvin, 19, who commutes to class on the LIRR from Wheatley Heights, agrees. “These heels, they’re not that bad,” she says pointing to her low black bootie. “If it’s bigger heels, I wouldn’t wear that commuting. Usually I wear sneakers, but stylish sneakers, like Jordans.”
Lea Keating, 43, doesn’t take the train without her “commuter Rothy’s.” The flat retails at $125. “They’re super comfortable, fashion-forward, but most importantly, machine washable,” Keating, of Port Jefferson, says. “I don’t freak out anymore when there are sticky floors.” And should the dreaded train delay snarl your commute, you’ll be thankful for flexible footwear.
“You have to dress comfortably; you never know when you’re going to have to stand for two hours like a sardine,” says Schwaeber, 60. To come prepared for any variable, he recommends layering, no matter the season. “Cars can be freezing cold to unbearably hot,” so Schwaeber has six commuter jackets ranging from windbreakers to heavy coats like a Canada Goose parka. Casciola, who lives in Plainview and visits her students at their internships in the city says, “You always have to dress for the weather, yet remain fashionable.”
Invest in functional fashion
Schwaeber says the “real downside” of wearing a jacket on the LIRR is not overheating during the ride — especially if you’re squished in the middle of a three-seater. A solution? Invest in a collapsible jacket that can be folded up and packed into its own “pocket.” L.L. Bean’s “packaway” rain, wind and winter jackets can be easily rolled into their own bags (about 11 inches by 6 inches) and stored in a backpack. Jackets retail for between $99 and $249.
Bring on the bags
Store that “packaway” jacket in a backpack or tote with enough compartments to fit your must-haves (those backup shoes, clothes, etc.) and other necessities such as portable iPhone chargers, a reusable coffee mug and a collapsible umbrella. Should your work require you to travel with your laptop, you’ll want to find an option with enough support, like the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Backpack ($159). Gallant, an NCC student, recommends Dagne Dover totes, which can be worn over the shoulder or as a crossbody.
Cut the cords
A crucial part the trip: the headphones. For both fashion and functionality, many riders have turned to high-tech headphone options for binge-watching, meditation and music that’ll soothe their morning naps. John Escobar, 25, an NYPD criminalist who lives in Calverton, won’t be found on the LIRR without his Apple AirPods. “I’ll put headphones in, set my alarm on my phone and take a nap,” says Escobar.
Peguero, Jr., who uses his commute to catch up on morning headlines and take a nap, recommends using Sony’s wireless noise-canceling headphones, which typically cost between $199 and $349. “It cancels everything out. I don’t hear a thing.”
Master the makeup
On the train, “it gets really hot, and you want to look cute,” says Kenia Quispe, 26, one of Casciola’s students, who commuted from Bay Shore to Manhattan for a summer fashion job. “You want to stay low with your makeup. You don’t want it dripping. Bring extra hair clips, so you can pin your hair back.”
Her classmate Isabella Cerqueira, 20, who lives in Queens and commutes via subway, says she’ll often do her makeup on the train. “Beauty Blender is the key. And with mascara, you have to do it when the train stops. I have to look presentable!”