The cult of the hotel robe


The cult of the hotel robe

Reflecting on the enduring appeal of that holiday wardrobe staple

Emily Cronin

BY Emily Cronin14 April 2022

For some, it’s the first sip of tomato juice at 30,000 feet. For others, it’s unpacking every last item from their suitcase and stowing the offending object out of sight, lest a flash of Rimowa steel risk remind them of the inevitable journey home. For me, it’s simple: I don’t feel I’m truly on holiday until I’ve shucked off my plane clothes, showered and slipped into a hotel robe.

The hotel robe: can any other item come close to its power to signify arrival in the holiday zone? It’s as true whether you’re wearing one to take in a balcony view of South Beach or to belly flop across a bed in Paris, swiping through saved posts of boutiques and bakeries, plotting which to hit first.

I’d venture that donning a hotel robe marks the multisensory moment of arrival for most hotel lovers. Ask a well-travelled friend to tell you about his greatest robe memories, and he’ll lean back, smile and say, ‘Ah yes, there was this one in Nashville that I’ve always regretted leaving behind…’

The general allure of the hotel robe isn’t that it’s comfortable, though it is that. Nor is it that the robe is a garment, and I use the term loosely, for relaxation (though it is that, too). It’s more that the hotel robe represents a form of comfort and relaxation that’s elevated, out of the ordinary, by virtue of its very novelty. Watching TV in a bathrobe at home is slovenly; watching TV in a perfectly fluffy robe while sprawled across a king size bed in Rome is another thing altogether. It’s decadent. Luxurious. Indolent, to a delicious degree. Even celebratory. Especially when there’s a bottle of Champagne on the way up.

The hotel robe can also be iconic. Think of Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman in red-piped saffron robes embroidered with the name of the hotel (and film) in Hotel Chevalier: the ultimate robe moment for Wes Anderson fans. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, Marilyn Monroe in too many films to count – all wear hotel robes when they’re taking a break from the obligations of the outside world.

The best hotel robes seem brand new, even though you know they’re not. They’re pristine and anonymous (no tissues in the pocket or makeup marks on the collar here). Unlike home robes, they don’t have to be practical. You never need to wonder whether a swampingly thick, oversized robe will be too much for your tumble-dryer, or if you’ll be able to keep it shapely and white. It’s an object for a liminal space. And since they’re only temporarily ours to inhabit, taste in robes can be catholic – I remember a microfibre robe from the North Carolina mountains (like a hug from a teddy bear) as fondly as I do a waffled cotton one I nearly took home from a spa in Phuket.

If the thought of filching a robe ever crossed your mind, good news: now you can probably buy one. Those to covet (and definitely never steal) include the London robe, the oversized, double-belted terry jacquard version Craig Green designed exclusively for the Standard, London. The camel and ecru sand stripe robe from Palm Heights on Grand Cayman would look just as good as a beach cover-up as it would post-shower. Six Senses Ibiza’s floral-print robe – a collaboration with Milan-based fashion brand La DoubleJ – is the status souvenir du jour from the White Isle.

But beware: get any of the above home, and you might find it’s lost some of its magic. As if the special-somethingness of the robe disappeared in a ‘poof!’ when it left the hotel grounds. The only solution is simple: time to book your next trip…

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Photography by Skip Hopkins and Michaela Watkinson