Icons of style: The Globe-Trotter suitcase

Unlike Lytton Strachey, I’m a fully paid-up member of the Victorian fan club. It must have been a remarkable time in which to live, when to have been born an Englishman was to have won first prize in the lottery of life. It was the age of Empire, and, of course, empires require travel and travel requires luggage-thus it was, in 1897, that David Nelken created Globe-Trotter, a brand that has become woven into the narrative tapestry of our island story.

Crafted from a superbly Vic-torian invention called vulcanised fibreboard-which is, so the makers claim, as strong as leather and as light as aluminum the cases are stitched, glued, nailed and riveted together, by hand, on a beechwood frame, much as they were when district officers were dispatched to the ends of the Empire to keep the Pax Britannica.

A Globe-Trotter case is a thing of utilitarian beauty. Rather than looking like a body bag or dustbin liner on wheels, its appearance is that of… well, a suit-case: a proper leather handle, metal locks, straight sides and reinforced corners. Like good tweed or a pair of Levis, it gets better as it gets battered.

I don’t know how long I’ve had my Globe-Trotter-in fact, I can’t really remember my adult life without it. It’s always been there, a comforting presence and a little bit of home that I’ve taken three-quarters of the way around the world. It has bumped along luggage carousels everywhere from Havana to Hong Kong and, consequently, has the odd bulge and declivity, more than the occasional scuff, and although its locks are still in good working order, these days, I lash it together with an elderly leather belt. It’s the perfect expression of what it is to be British and abroad.

Of course, the Globe-Trotter has been associated with glorious successes, such as the conquest of Everest in the year of our Queen’s Coronation, and no less glorious failures, such as Capt Scott’s doomed Antarctic venture. Talking of Her Majesty, it is entirely appropriate that, when she went on her honeymoon, she took a Globe-Trotter. Appar-ently, she travels with the firm’s luggage to this day, and it would be nice to think that she still uses the exact same suitcases.

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