February 20, 2011

When luggage evokes a time and a place

Before my wild adventure in zombie-themed thesis writing, there was my wild adventure in luggage-themed research paper writing.

Specifically, after a failed attempt in working as a team player in Filipino class in high school. As a result I wound up doing a (mildly half-assed) school survey on what kind of bag everybody used. Which means that, yes, once upon a time I was knee-deep in my Overthinking Backpacks Phase. (Not quite as consuming as my Professional Wrestling Phase or my Rock Journalism Phase, but there you go.)

From time to time you can still catch me with a more-eloquent-than-healthy learned opinion on what makes The Perfect Bag. Whether it be the perfect backpack, the perfect messenger bag, the perfect satchel... (What the heck is the difference between a messenger bag and a satchel anywa-- Never mind.)

Today I want to explore the... luxurious side of this mundane dilemma.

Etienne Aigner advertisement, May 1992, Mabuhay magazine

This was a page I saved from an old magazine many years ago, an Etienne Aigner print ad for their oh-so-fancy Travel Handbag! Call this perhaps the foreshadowing to a future career in Advertising I never followed up on except in some alternate universe timeline, but somehow something about the absurd specialty of this product appealed to my stupid eleven-year-old bourgeois mind then.

But in this case the Etienne Aigner monstrosity shall stand in as a shorthand for the aesthetic this specific breed of Luxury Bag harkens to. Think Louis Vuitton meets Indiana Jones. Think African safaris and long voyages at sea care of our favorite dinosaurs of Western literature like Rudyard Kipling or Joseph Conrad. Think those giant nigh-on indestructible trunks that I have only ever seen in Harry Potter movies.

On the one hand, bags like these aspire to a sort of rugged romanticism you don't seem to see in this day and age anymore, except maybe in stories like Into The Wild and 127 Hours barring the fact that neither of those stories ended particularly well.

Into The Wild, movie poster
Dying cold, hungry and alone in the wilderness! Adventure!
On the other hand, the catch to actually finding an authentic one-in-a-million experience bag like this is that it's either over forty years old or over 300 dollars.

Case in point.

Counterfeit Mailbag by J. Peterman

Much touted about in castles of snark like Seinfeld and Jezebel, J. Peterman has to take the cake in quasi-rugged romanticism that revels in no irony whatsoever and costs more than any actual self-respecting adventurer would spend on. (Though I probably wouldn't know, my idea of adventure is LARPing cosplaying and toy conventions.) J. Peterman is one of those real catalogs that sells an attitude just as much as it does $700 flapper dresses.

Oh, but to prove they're not irrational brand-obsessed behemoths of style, the house of good Mr. Peterman does pose other options!

Heirloom Gladstone by J. Peterman

You see? You can just raid some old farmhouse in the country (praying you don't become the punchline of a Harper Lee novel) and find your own antique leather suitcase that's survived three wars and been trod on by seven generations of livestock!

Or you can just check your grandparents' baul.


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