What’s Old is New…
Fashion has always moved in circles, with each ‘new’ generation digging through a basket of past trends and adding their own spin on style and aesthetics from a previous generation. Most of these psychedelic-80′s-disco-nuevo-niche-post-modern trends last a season or two, and are then replaced by another equally quant reinvention of a past trend.
The heritage trend that has completely saturated carry (and footwear, and apparel, and most other categories) is holding in there for longer than most. It’s notable, in that it seems to really connect with a longing for simpler times. Not only have new brands like Herschel started with heritage as their core thing, but even the carry mainstays have either dug into the vault, or invented a vault, to share in the spirit.
All of these brands are touting heritage as a fresh look at old wares. So where does this all get controversial? Well, let’s start with the Pig Snout, those lash tabs that have come to represent heritage carry more than any other element. When we start to see most of these either sown through, or constructed from faux leather PVC that tears with a single Newton of force, we see the problem.
It’s heritage as style, rather than substance. It’s styling tricks that take from the past without understanding even the very basics of function. It’s taking from past designs, without adding a single relevant or interesting improvement. Actually, it’s taking from the past and making it worse.
Instead, we should be trying to build tomorrow’s heritage. Tomorrow’s heritage is all about using quality materials, features and constructions to design a product that will last and be relevant for a lifetime. This is the issue I have with the current state of design. Too often I think we’re settling for the past instead of trying to build a future.
All of this begs the question, in twenty years what will be the styles that companies are considering “heritage” and looking to build from? What will the next iconic style(s) be? My fear is simple: there won’t really be anything to show off.
So how do we take awesomeness back? How do we make heritage a word that means something more than poorly understood styling tricks? Well, we have to start pushing things ahead again. We have to understand the warm glow that heritage can foster, but give it a backbone of functional insights that solve problems. We have to understand our craft, and then start adding to it.
I don’t want to be naive about this. There’s a reason everyone is buying into this trend de jour, and it’s that it sells products and connects with the bigger trends across the entire menswear market. Translation: it is what’s hot at the moment. But just like camo or the latest buzz word, it won’t last forever. And then what? That’s why we need to look 10 steps ahead and not simply sell a product to sell a product. That’s why I’ve always had a soft spot for the likes of Mission Workshop, Rickshaw Bags and Mystery Ranch. They all strive in their own unique ways to blaze their own paths forward.
Perhaps I have it all wrong and heritage is here to stay. Heck, even the aforementioned Mystery Ranch is releasing a heritage Kletterwerks line. If this is the case, it will stop being called heritage and move to something like Artisanal or Craft based, rather than relying on nostalgia. That’s the reason why it’s so popular – who needs functionality when this pack can harken back to the days when things were easier and more analog.
We live in such a hyper-connected world where going analog and discovering the artisanal approach adds definition and clarity. I’m as guilty of this as the next one, with Cabin Porn and Van Life being two of my favorite sites online. This sentiment was perfectly encapsulated by Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Every generation naturally wants to look back and is blind to the great and amazing things that are in front of them.
My prediction if I were to look into my crystal ball, is that heritage will pass in a few years leaving a small but dedicated group keeping the craft, skill and style alive. The aesthetic will move more towards functionality and modularity with overbuilt becoming the next big thing. It’s just like everything else, it’s all ebbs and flows.
That’s my 2c, what’s your thoughts on the whole Heritage trend and where do you see it going and how will it impact the Carry world?
Mike Weiss has always believed that a bag serves a purpose and used this excuse to make sure he had a specific bag dedicated for specific use cases. When not obsessing over the latest and greatest, he can typically be found either running, biking or looking for that perfect shot. He currently does marketing for Triple Aught Design.