Stuff in Stuff

A good friend of mine has an amazing leather bag.  It's quite long, easily larger than a laptop and has a strap with length to match.  It is looking beautifully beaten and aged, a result of hard work and use.

Inside he carries a camera in a very similar, albeit, newer leather case.  The camera's eyepiece has its own case too, as does an extra lens.  He also has a slightly ragged wallet made for him on a recent trip to New York.  It is held together by rivets, nary a stitch in sight.

The fact is that my friend likes to carry his things not just loose in his bag, but in other bags within the bag has been coined 'stuff in stuff'.

I think it's safe to say he's not alone. Many of us like carrying stuff in stuff. We love to have a home for everything. There's something very deliberate about it. A neat reassurance that despite whatever mess is going on around us at least some things are in their right place.

Some cases don't need to serve a purpose other than the one for which they were designed - a wallet for example. But not everything has to be as practical.

My friend could have easily chosen a Velcro-strapped, neoprene, padded camera bag. His gadgets would have been protected and ready at a moment's notice, but there would be no story about how an obsessive craftsman in Japan makes each leather case for his customers by hand, or how a wallet was cut, folded, punched and riveted before my friend's very eyes in New York.

These things don't make you a deeper, better person, but they add facets to your personality. They add extra flavour to your story and they buck convention.

On the other hand, a camera or laptop case should provide both protection and ease of use without aesthetics getting in the way.

I once borrowed my brother's extremely expensive camera and lens and instead of the larger and practical padded neoprene bag I went with the flimsy canvas fisherman's bag.  It was just easier to carry – and, I admit, more stylish.

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Eating lunch later that day, the bag tipped, the weak hold the flap opened with the weight of the camera and it went tumbling onto the ground.  It makes me sick to think about it: my brother's meal ticket falling away too fast for me to stop it.

Stupid old world charm, what was I thinking?  Sometimes style alone doesn't cut it and you understand the value of well-designed and well-crafted items that offer both style and practicality. They usually come with a hefty price tag, though. As does the replacement of expensive goods not properly protected.

So has a romantic charm or a thirst for style ever won over your pragmatism?  Or does the need for practicality sway your decisions more often?

As for my friend, I believe he has achieved a good balance. But he still has room for one more case in his case: his laptop looks a bit naked.

This article Stuff in Stuff was originally published in The Age.
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