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The Evolution of Luggage and Travel Bags

3 min read
The Evolution of Luggage and Travel Bags

Since man’s natural behaviour has always been nomadic, and as a species we have always used tools and worn some kind of clothing, travelling has always meant the need to bring a variety if things with us. In the times of Roman Empire there were vast movements of people around the ‘civilized’ world. Movement was not just for necessity, but out of choice and formed the beginnings of ‘tourism’ as we know it. As such, more specialised bags and trunks were developed. In later times there are even reports of a 17th century Hungarian prince fitting wheels to trunks to make them easier to transport.

Early examples of luggage evolved from the pre-historic wooden framed, leather bag back pack, through to wooden framed, oil treated hide trunks of the 19th century, and onto trunks, cases and bags made from a variety of materials, all designed to be with relatively compatible with the various means of transport, and to withstand the rigours of the journey. World War 2 necessitated the large scale movement of large groups of people, often at short notice, and so the individual suitcase began to come into its own. Before and after the war however, international tourism had already become possible and popular among people with the means to do so, and their cases often advertised this lifestyle as the trend was to cover suitcases with stickers from their various destinations.

Rolling Luggage and Wheeled Upright Luggage

So popular legend has it, in 1987 a Northwest Airlines pilot named Bob Plath spent time in his garage building a vertical bag with wheels and an extendible handle which would be much more compatible with the requirements of his professional life. This early rolling luggage bag / case name the Rollaboard® proved so popular and sought after firstly among fellow pilots and flight attendants and then among the travelling public, that in 1989 he began production of the bags on a large scale and created the TravelPro company.

Enduring Trends

For the earliest travellers, although leather was probably the only really practical, durable, strong and yet flexible material available to them, it also proved to be the ideal material for the job. All through the evolution of what we know as ‘luggage’ or ‘baggage’ over thousands of years, leather has proved to be an enduring choice, quite simply due to its fantastic fitness for purpose. The invention of plastics and synthetic materials, and their widespread use in the production of bags and cases during the last part of the 20th and into this century may have made many luggage items widely available and very affordable, but often at the cost of real strength and durability, attention to detail, and arguably style. Leather travel bags, leather suitcases, and leather holdalls for example may not be as expensive as many people imagine, but their practicality, durability, and style are hard to deny. Far from being something from the past, leather travel bags of today incorporate many modern features including padded laptop compartments, wheels and telescopic handles, specialised pockets and compartments, and the dimensions to flexibly and comfortably to fit the modern cabin luggage restrictions introduced by many airlines. Their strong, well stitched handles and zips make leather travel bags of all kinds less likely to break thus helping to provide maximum value over time.

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