Cruise Wardrobe Strategy and Shopping Suggestions for Teenage Boys

Are you bringing your teenage son on your next cruise and worried that he doesn’t have the appropriate clothes because all he ever wears is shorts, jeans, and t-shirts? Have no fear! I have a teen son who has cruised with me 4 times. In his “every day life” that is all he wears too. We live out in the country, where quite frankly, people just don’t dress up, not even at weddings and funerals. However, my son does actually enjoy the chance to dress a little nicer when he is on a cruise. We also tend to cruise on longer itineraries where there are fewer kids, so he likes to be dressed according to code and feel like one of the grown up passengers.

Decide How Dressed Up
For a typical 7 day cruise most cruise lines now have 5 casual evenings, and 2 formal evenings. First, before you panic, read your cruise line’s dress code. These are changing all the time, usually becoming a bit more relaxed in the last five years or so. We maintain a dress code page here at cruise talk that allows perspective cruises to make comparisons between the different lines. However, sometimes the cruise lines will slightly tweak the policy, and we may not catch it right away. For the most current information always refer to your cruise line’s web site. This should help you determine how dressed up you want or need to be to enjoy your cruise to the fullest.

Depending on the line you choose, the casual requirements on one line may be as dressy as the formal requirements on another. For example, on Carnival, while suits and tuxedos are an option, they only “require” dress slacks and a dress shirt with the addition of a tie and sports coat only suggested for their “elegant” nights. On Celebrity, for another example, the smart casual minimal requirement through out the ship on all nights only varies from that requirement in that they specify a collared shirt rather than a dress shirt. On Celebrity’s formal nights, the formal requirement of Suits or Tuxedos only applies to the main dining areas. If your teenager would not be dining in those areas on formal nights, then he could go with their smart casual and above requirements.

No matter what cruise line you choose, at a minimum you’ll probably want to pack at least one pair of dressier pants and two dress shirts. On cruise lines that don’t discourage jeans in the dining room the rest of the evenings can be filled in with nice jeans and collard shirts.

For dressier lines you’ll probably need to pack enough dress pants or kahkis to cover all the evenings. If you plan to repeat the same pants you could easily get by with two or three pairs of nice pants depending the lengths of your cruise. A tie and a sports coat may not be required, but are nice touches. If you teenage son wears them he’s sure to get lots of positive feed back from other passengers and crew members.

If your son wants to go all out and the rest of the family is going to dress up then, a dark suit or tuxedo is the way to go. A cruise is a great opportunity for a family photo with everyone looking sharp, so if you like dressing up, most likely you won’t be the only ones. The majority of the men on longer cruises on dressier lines will be wearing a dark suit or tuxedo.

Shopping Strategies
You don’t have to spend more on the wardrobe than the cruise if you are smart about where you shop. Teenage boys grow fast, sometimes more than an inch a month. I try to find moderate quality items that will look great until he out grows them, and stay away from brand new designer items. Here are a few suggestions.

Mass Market Retailers:
I find that mass market retailers have a fantastic selection of dress and khaki style pants. Walmart carries men’s Puritan brand khakis in a variety of colors for under $10, and their dress pants sell for about $14. Their men’s dress shirt and tie boxed sets are only $18. Some Walmart stores even carry their inexpensive George brand suit separates.

Thrift Stores:
Thrift stores like the Salvation Army and Good Will stores sell gently used clothing at great prices. Many of us remember shopping there as college students or when looking for Halloween costumes. Depending on the area and quality of donated goods, these stores can be great places to look for higher end pieces or name brand apparel. A name brand shirt like Arrow sells for about $37 retail, $25 from a discounter, but I found one that looked like it had never been worn at Good Will for $4. At that same store I also found a nearly new Van Huesen dress shirt for $5. Sometimes you can find these shirts at places like JC Penny for a little as $20, but they retail for around $40. I also picked up a navy blazer at Good Will for $9, and designer dress pants for $7 each. They sometimes have nearly new looking suits at thrift shops too.

On Line Retailers:
If you want to purchase a tuxedo or dress suit and not pay full retail, an online discounter can sometimes provide the solution. I bought a brand new Devin Michael Tuxedo last year for my son, at They have purchase packages that start at less than $100 for the tux, shirt, tie, cummerbund, and studs. features a variety of new and previously worn designer formal wear.

Rental Options specializes in renting formal wear to cruise passengers. At prices starting at $85 they will have your rental tuxedo delivered to your state room. This allows passengers to dress up with out the trouble of packing a tuxedo. If your teenage boy is rapidly growing, the rental option may be the best solution.

If you are driving to your departure city or flying on an airline with a generous baggage allowance, then you can check with your local tuxedo rental companies. They may have a special cruise package, and would be able to fit the tuxedo on your son in person rather than having to rely on just your own at home measurements.

Utilizing these strategies can insure that your son is fully able to enjoy his cruise in his proper attire, while at the same time not emptying Mom and Dad’s wallet before you even leave for the cruise.