Following a drawn-out legal dispute with the estate of Tennessee Williams over a roll of erotic wallpaper, a fatigued and embittered Professor Fabulous finds himself in need of literary diversion. What better way to drive off the spleen than to answer your queeries?
Richard in Tampa reminded me in a very nice letter that the holidays are upon us. He then asks about the “perfect bag” for a weekend getaway. Aside from involuntary hesitation (really Richard, Tampa?) he seems an absolute dear and I’m happy to assist in these travails. Buying a good weekender is really quite easy; it involves only a few key considerations. First, read a few pages of Wilde’s correspondence, purely for fortitude. Feel free to giggle that sweet Bosie became the Marquess of Queensbury later in life. Queensbury. He really did. Pair these literary musings with an affordable claret. Then breathe.
Oh, yes. Weekenders for Richard. The perfect weekender is about three things: size, materials, and hardware. This means you must see and handle the bag in person (or, if buying online, ensure a good return policy).
You’ll want nothing smaller than 45cm and nothing larger than 50cm. Go beneath that and you don a purse; go above it and it won’t fit into an overhead bin. Carry a 55cm behemoth to your private train car and the porters will scowl. I tend to like train porters, of course; I’m reminded of a long-ago Empire Day route to Belgravia. Liaisons dangereuses… but I digress!
For materials, a bit of soul-searching is required: leather, canvas, or nylon? Don’t immediately rush to leather as it’s quite heavy (especially if you throw in a pair of shoes and your collection of shantung sleeping kimono). If you do, be sure to feel the hide in your hands. Choose something durable and soft that won’t show marks. Box calf, which is that rather stiff leather you’ve seen a million times, will show everything. Lambskins or nappa can be too delicate. Avoid exotics; they cost a fortune and will take a beating, and stay away from pressed or embossed leathers. And don’t be too quick to disregard nylon, canvas, or toile. They can be every bit as durable and more lightweight than leather. Worry not about strength; if it’s strong enough to keep a parachute together at ten-thousand feet, it’ll hold your Margiela sweater and slim volume of Ovid just fine.
Many brands show off their outside material, but skimp everywhere else. That’s why you must also look at hardware: peer closely at the buckles, snaps, and any metal attachments where the straps meet the bag. Are they thick and solid? What about the zippers? While RIRI and LAMPO are the most famous, YKK also makes a line called “Excella” - the Lexus to their proverbial Corolla.
You must also consider your needs and activities; a bag put weekly in your gym locker isn’t a bag driven to the Hamptons in your auto trunk. Neither is a bag to be stuffed into an overhead bin. And none of these are bags you use for work or school or to make a statement. At the store, feel the materials in your hands, look at the hardware, and look inside. How does it smell? Good leather should be strong, dark, and swarthy, not unlike a weekend in the French Legion. If you empty it, how does it look? Will it hold its shape or lay flat? Finally, if a clerk won’t get the bag off a shelf for you to hold in your hands, hiss and leave the store.
Notoriously absent, you’ll find, are remarks about brand, retail price, and country of origin. These are unfortunately irrelevant points these days. I’ve seen bags that cost more than a house payment and smelled of cheap glue and plastic.
Of course, this could be purely academic; our dear Richard may be stuck all season in Tampa. I can imagine the scene, can’t you? All those white-haired relatives from the Great Plains infiltrate his planned community in rented Buicks, bearing a bottle or two of cheap scotch and a spicecake made when Ford was president. I actually once spent a weekend there, mirabile dictu. I recall a rented Towncar, a case of Chartreuse, and a narcoleptic diamond merchant from Saxony. By Monday morning, all I could do was mumble demotic Plattdeutsch and fold up my wounded pride in an ascot. Whether Richard will fare better in his own perusals, we shall see.