Imagine you have to go out of town on a two-day trip—either work-related or a getaway. What would you grab, as your travel luggage piece? If your answer is a “backpack” or a “suitcase”, read on. When it comes to men’s fashion, most experts tag both as passé (well, not that it matters if you are still attached to them) and suggest you choose a duffel bag, also known as a holdall, carry-on, weekender or barrel, instead to look chic. Though your choice will depend on where you will be going, with whom, the occasion, and what you prefer to carry, the roomy duffel bag should now be your travel companion, they suggest.
Bengaluru-based Andrew Piers, creative head of resort and leisure wear and accessories brand Pudu, which makes leather duffel bags, says a man’s travel bag has to look functional. “There is nothing sexier than a man carrying a beautiful, rugged duffel bag on his shoulder (instead of lugging a stroller),” he says.
The duffel bag, which has its roots in the Belgian town named Duffel and has been popular with sailors and military personnel for over a century, has a simple anatomy. It is a medium-sized, soft-cased bag made of leather, canvas or any other thick cloth, with strategically-placed internal and external pockets, short handles, sturdy closures like zippers, buttons and tabs. It may or may not have wheels.
Bengaluru-based Nidhi Raj, creative director, design and visual merchandising, of menswear brand Peter England, doesn’t favour duffel bags with wheels. “A duffel has to be small. If it is very big, it might need wheels, which doesn’t look very nice.” Raj says that for a duffel bag to look good, be suit-friendly, and versatile, it should have just enough space to accommodate your laptop, iPad, work papers, a change or two of clothes—gym or work wear with accessories—and some toiletries.
Some experts draw a blueprint of the duffel bag’s size and shape. Piers says, “A duffel should be soft-shelled, about 21-24 inches in length, 9-10 inches in width and 10-12 inches in height.” Riddhima Sayal, co-founder of New Delhi-based leather-bag brand Risa, which recently launched the men’s accessories line Meh (“men” in Serbian), says, “A perfect duffel size should not be more than 22-24 inches.” Sayal, with her sister Saloni, also customizes leather and canvas messenger bags, laptop bags and wallets in various sizes with initials, colours and compartments.
Peter England makes duffel bags in two sizes. “An average duffel bag is about 18-19 inches in length, 8-9 inches in height and should be able to carry 3-4kg of weight,” says Raj.
Piers does not like prim and proper or shiny holdalls, preferring rugged ones. “I travel a lot. So my bags keep getting thrown around in the boot of a car, on the floor, or at the airport, so I carry my own brand for sturdiness.” He usually packs a pair of jeans, two pairs of trousers, a pair of white linen pants, two pairs of shoes—trainers and loafers—navy blue and white linen shirts, leather or any other jacket depending on the weather, and his Nikon camera. “And yes, it obviously works as check-in luggage too,” he adds.
Dilip Kapur, founder of Puducherry-based leather accessories, separates and apparel brand Hidesign, says duffel bags are handy and the right one can look aristocratic. “Carrying one gives the impression of the man having just got off the royal and quaint Orient Express.” A duffel bag, he says, is ideal for a weekend trip.
New Delhi-based Nakul Bajaj, the founder and chief executive officer of Darveys, an online luxury marketplace, sells duffel bags sourced from high-end brands like Michael Kors, Prada, Hugo Boss or Coach through his portal. But, he says, “I don’t carry duffel bags much because it’s more of stuffing clothes than laying them out in such bags. And plus, I travel for long durations, so smaller bags do not work for me.
“But yes,” he adds, “duffels are very versatile. You can use one as an office bag, gym bag or a weekender.”
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