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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Vintage Luggage?

By C. Mitchell
Updated: May 23, 2024

Vintage luggage is often highly unique and easy to spot in a crowd, but it can also be easily damaged, and must be more regularly maintained than more modern luggage. Advantages of vintage luggage are its style and, often, its value. Vintage pieces are usually rare and carry with them a certain unusual charm. Carrying vintage pieces for prolonged travel may lead to damage, however, as older fabrics and materials may not always hold up as well. It is also important to regularly care for and repair vintage luggage to keep it in working order, which can become costly over time.

Much of the appeal of vintage luggage is its looks. An old-fashioned suitcase or duffel bag is often seen as something of a style statement, particularly if it comes from a coveted designer. Individuals interested in fashion may choose a vintage piece of luggage as a reflection of their own uniqueness, or as a way to stand out. Vintage luggage is sometimes inherited, as well. Carrying grandma’s valise or an Army duffel bag from the Second World War can make the past seem less distant.

The uniqueness of vintage luggage makes it easy to spot, and easy to keep track of in heavily congested travel situations. There is little risk that someone will mistake a vintage bag for his or her own at the luggage claim carousel, for instance. Vintage bags can also be an instant conversation starter, as they often look so much different from other types of luggage.

There are downsides of vintage luggage too, however. One of the biggest drawbacks is how fragile old luggage often is. While a more modern-built suitcase may have no problem surviving the rough-and-tumble world of checked baggage, a vintage piece may not fare as well. Using vintage luggage usually requires a bit of care and protection from rough treatment. It is often unwise to check vintage bags with airlines or train operators unless the bag’s care can be vouched for.

Vintage pieces usually need more general upkeep. Older fabric may need restoration work to keep it from wearing thin, for instance. Zipper pulls and clasps may need to be replaced or repaired in order to remain durable. Caring for vintage luggage is often costly.

Some luggage retailers sell vintage-look luggage, which has the style and uniqueness of true vintage pieces, but is made with modern durability. Bags of this sort have a lot of the advantages of real retro luggage, but not nearly as many of the drawbacks. Pieces of this sort can also frequently be purchased as a luggage set. It is generally hard to find true vintage luggage in a set, as most of the time pieces were created as individuals. Sets that did exist were often were separated, lost, or damaged over time.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Jan 11, 2015

I have a few vintage luggage pieces. Yes, they require more care, and they are not made as strong as some of the newer bags. However, this is not a problem for me because I never check them. I mostly use them when I am traveling by car, and I carry-on the smaller bags when I travel by plane.

They are not as well designed as more modern luggage, but I think they are fun. They are different, and sometimes different is good.

By Feryll — On Jan 11, 2015

@Animandel - I agree with you about how convenient it would be to not have to try to figure out which one of the many bags on the baggage claim carousel belongs to me. However, I think the durability or lack of durability of the vintage bags make them less than ideal. I need something that is going to hold up with little to no maintenance.

Have you ever seen the luggage handlers working with the bags when they are loading and unloading the planes? The bags get a really good workout as they are tossed and slid all over the place. It is a wonder that the new sturdy bags last as long as they do considering the way they are abused. I can't imagine a vintage bag standing up to this kind of treatment for very long.

By Animandel — On Jan 10, 2015

I can relate to the section of this article where it talks about the luggage coming down the belt at the baggage claim carousel. Sometimes when I am trying to spot my bag after a flight, all of the bags coming down the belt look exactly like mine. And I always feel a bit anxious. I simply want to grab my bag and get out of the way because everyone is crowded around the carousel waiting, and edging for a space on the front row.

A nice vintage piece of luggage that is readily recognized would be appreciated at these times.

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