Remember when travel was glamorous? Celebrities disembarking ocean liners were met by reporters, transcontinental fliers were called jet-setters, not road warriors. Part of the allure was style, and handsome leather luggage was its hallmark.
Alas, brutal baggage handling ushered in the age of plastic suitcases made to survive a gorilla's attack, and beautiful leather pieces were relegated to the attic. Happily, however, travel modes continue to evolve; an era of self-stowing in private jets and overhead bins may have saved our hides. So retrieve them from storage or consider these great grips.
The firm that's now called Alfred Dunhill was originally a London bridle maker, but has been in leather luggage since its namesake spotted the auto travel trend over a century ago. Today, the company's top range is called, unsurprisingly, Tradition. The bridle leather hard cases—with red leather linings—have been hand-stitched in London since the 1890s, and footmen have been stacking them in Rolls-Royces and Bentleys ever since. But Dunhill does design luggage for those who carry it themselves. The firm's newest line is the leather-trimmed, cotton-canvas Motorities collection. Informal and fun, the line has a garment carrier that sports a multitude of interior pockets and pouches, including a laundry bag. A bright orange storm cover is included for inclement weather. The granular leather collection in "bitter chocolate" called Sidecar includes a lightweight wheeled touring case and a barrel "hold all" with shoulder strap. (Visit www.dunhill.com.)
Despite its normally understated design, T. Anthony, the leather purveyor on New York's Park Avenue, once made red luggage at Marilyn Monroe's request. Still, subtlety is the byword, evidenced in the barely noticeable wheels and handles on the packing cases of its black Cashmere Leather collection. T. Anthony also offers hand-carried luxe in an alligator gladstone, available by special order. The form—sort of a large-scale doctor's bag—comes to us from the nineteenth century. Nickel hardware secures the bag. Prime belly skins make for large scales. (Visit www.tanthony.com.)
Martin Dingman transforms the classic duffel into an item of pure luxury with Side Stow in his One by One range. A "c"-shaped zipper on the bag's side allows interior access, obviating the need to rummage. Contents will not shift during a flight: buckles secure shirts and trousers on a cotton-covered interior board. Dingman manufactures Side Stows to order from saddle-tanned Italian calfskin. Hides are hand-selected to insure each bag is made from a single skin. If the client wishes, Side Stow can be sewn in ostrich or alligator. (Visit www.martindingman.com.)