Ready To Wear: Luggage snobs

I come from a long line of luggage snobs. My mother, for example, would rather collapse beneath the weight of her cases than consider anything as aesthetically challenged as a suitcase on wheels. My father's not much more flexible, although he did once stoop to purchasing one such monstrosity - albeit black, understated, and with no more than a hint of branding - safe in the knowledge that he is obliged to do most of the carrying. Suffice to say that when the baggage reached home turf, it was heartily rejected. Practical it might have been, but, for that reason, it was perhaps best passed on to me. Yes, it was that bad.

A good friend and colleague says that you can tell a person's nationality by looking at their luggage. She says English people have the worst stuff - tacky even when new, and then used and abused until bursting at zip and seam - and that Italians favour branded baggage: Louis Vuitton, basically. The Dutch, on the other hand, tend to carry very brightly coloured, moulded plastic cases - which, as anyone who's ever travelled to a far-flung location with the help of a Lonely Planet guide will know, is merely one of that publisher's time-honoured tips: Buy bright luggage and you'll be able to identify it immediately when it comes off the plane, train or coach. Masterful!

Not being a Lonely Planet traveller myself, the reason I know this is because my husband, a man who has spent his entire life dressed in black, once visited Vietnam and, LP guide in tow, dutifully went off and bought a purple-and-orange bag. He bought a suitcase that looked like a toucan. Oh, how the luggage snobs on my side of the family laughed.

Some years later and, as a wedding present/ preventive measure, my parents went to Harrods, where they bought us a full set of polished black leather luggage, with no logo, wheels, or even a frame. Only the quality of the skin gives the cases any kudos - and, indeed, their shape. It is, quite simply, the most beautiful set of luggage in the world, although carrying it without the help of a porter can prove something of a bind.

And this, of course, is precisely the point. In an age where fashion has been democratised to the point where it is difficult to spot the difference between a copy and the original, and where Victoria Beckham has more Hermès Birkin bags than most of us have had hot dinners, the plain leather suitcase without wheels or any trace of branding is a status symbol par excellence. Only luggage snobs, however, need apply.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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