TOURIST TRUNK: A Journey into the Art of Travel across Time

Why do we travel to far-off places? Is it driven by a desire to escape from or to look for something? As the traveler immerses oneself in a foreign cultural setting and context, is traveling an essential need to satisfy an urge for the purpose of self-discovery? Taking on a philosophical look at this ubiquitous human activity, Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel dives deep into the questions beyond choosing our destination. It explores and exploits the more significant reasons behind “why we should go?” and “how could we be more fulfilled in doing so?”.  More daringly, de Botton raises this central issue as he asks “what the point of travel might be”. 

For whatever set of reasons and motivations we might have, taking on a journey is supposed to be fun, exciting, and most importantly, pleasurable. We go through a process of preparation and as we embark, we perform the role of being a Tourist–a term coined in the 18th century to refer to “one who makes a journey, stopping here and there”. Interestingly enough, we carefully plan based on a bucket list answering these basic questions: 

  • WHAT activities do we want to do? 
  • WHERE and WHEN do we want to go?
  • WHOM do we like to travel with?
  • WHY do we want to take on this journey?

We seem to be forgetting however, that the more exciting aspect is the question of HOW we may want to experience this uniquely personal activity. Split in two, travelers look forward to episodes: the actual journey as they go to and their activity patterns upon reaching their destination.

Revolutionized by technological advancements in transportation, the individual experiences of any traveler (or by the tourist for that matter) is greatly influenced by how one wants to move about. So too is it heavily shaped by the anticipated events planned out in the travel itinerary.  Stimulated by an intrinsic desire for self-expression, the manner of dressing may also be influenced by the need for protection, comfort, or even to a certain extent, safety.  Stereotypically, tourists are portrayed as sloppy, carefree dressers whose main priority is to don unstylish comfortable travel clothing. Julissa Trevino’s article published by Racked curiously talked about why No One Wants to Dress Like a Tourist and describes the question of what to wear while traveling as a fraught.

Looking back at the past century would reveal to us that indeed, travelers have taken their journeys quite seriously–and with style.  The European initiative Europeana XX: A Century of Change researched and published Travel Gear for Globetrotters throughout the 20th Century in their quest for rediscovering their European identity. This tells the story of how the emergence of the travel industry has tremendously influenced and inspired design trends in fashion and accessories over the past century. Whether by rail, steamboat, or stage coaches, the journey has become an integral component of the whole travel experience and the Europeans took to heart the value of traveling in style.

The need for travel clothing and outfits has given rise to new industries as it opened up opportunities to existing ones. With a rich collection of fashion history data within reach, we could draw upon knowledge shared by Journeys by Bluffworks through their feature entitled The Evolution of Travel Clothes–which traced travel clothing history from the painful early times, through the techwear revolution of the 20th century, up to the promise of today. Travel+Leisure, an established source of key industry ideas, chronicled the Travel Style From the Decade You Were Born–describing in precise detail the primary factors which formed the cuts in fashion from the 1910s to the 2000s.  This included backstories on the history of each type of garment, dominant accessories, material fabric, silhouettes, imagery, coloration, multi-functionality, and innovations.

Along with digging deep into the rich histories of travel clothing and footwear which may be regarded as the primary pieces of travel fashion, each accessory brought and worn as part of the whole travel experience adds to the nostalgic quality of any journey. Though it may have been more popular in the past, looking at A Brief History of Hats would echo the prominent role it played as it has led to yet another important accessory as we may also trace The History of Hat Boxes–a necessary piece of protective casing which kept hats in its best form throughout and beyond the rough ride. In time, the luggage industry emerged and has led to the leading brands of today as we trace their humble beginnings in Louis Vuitton: A Legendary History and Charting the Evolution of Gucci–both classic examples of the valuable combination of heritage fashion and tourism.

After this quick look into what is inside the ‘tourist trunk’, the question to ask now is: What is your travel fashion style and what will you wear on your next journey?

Cover Photo by Ali Karimi from Pexels

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