Friday, 3 October 2014

Bags! #fashion #belongings #possessions #humanity

When we look back at civilization the ability to carry items has always been synonymous with survival. Very early in the piece man found a way of collectively carrying his goods and chattels be it bound together on the end of a pole, in a pot, wrapped together in bark or hide or eventually in a bag. Granted they were very rudimentary, but they often meant the difference between life and death in facilitating the transport of food and goods which otherwise would have been impossible to carry.  Today the variety of bags is as diverse as the imagination will allow them to be. A bag is used for every application from packaging food to presenting gifts.  They can be tiny enough to carry gems or large enough to package a fridge or washing machine.  Life without bags is impossible to imagine.  How would we carry our shopping? What would we carry our clothes in when traveling? Imagine a school with no backpacks or bags full of books!

Even if we leave all the packaging bags to one side, look at the diversity in the bags that we choose to carry every day.  We have bags for our laptops. We have bags for our tablets. We have bags for our makeup and toiletries. We have nappy bags, hand bags, duffel bags, backpacks and the list goes on. The materials from which they are made is also endless. The textures, colours and durability all influence our decision when it comes to choosing a bag. Handbags vary in size from the miniscule to the obscenely large. Luggage comes in all shapes and sizes, with wheels and without, made from plastic, fabric, combinations of both and anything in between. Backpacks enable the backpackers to see the world with just one bag, just as they allow a toddler to carry his own lunch into daycare. The list is endless and their application is the same.
The bane of modern civilization is the plastic grocery bag and I do not know how many stores, governments etc have tried to get rid of them. When I was young groceries were packed into large brown paper bags. When you tried to carry multiples of these, you usually ended up with the bottom falling out of one of the bags as the condensation from the milk etc made the bag wet. Whilst not the most durable, these bags were great for the environment (if you don't count the trees they choppd down to make them) as they were 100% biodegradable. They did not end up in our oceans, river systems and land fill. However, along came the plastic grocery bag. They were cheap, strong, lightweight, easy to carry. The world must consume billions of them every week. Once we have them, we re-use them for every task known to man. They become rubbish bags, lunch bags, clothes bags, luggage bags. But unfortunately their durability is also a liability as they claim the life of sea creatures, clog waterways and remain in landfill for an eternity. Many of the substitute grocery bags are really no better for the environment than the plastic ones. They are made from byproducts of the petro-chemical industry. We would do well to use well constructed calico bags. They are easily washed for hygiene, they are durable, they are biodegradable, and  they are strong.

The versatility of bags is truly remarkable. We put our sandwich in one which we, in turn, carry in a cooler bag, that usually ends up inside a school bag, handbag, or briefcase! They are a bit like Russian dolls really!!!  We put our delicate items of laundry into wash bags! We have toiletry bags, dirty clothes bags, shoe bags, brown paper bags, organza bags, freezer bags, cliplock bags and the list goes on, and on, and on! In any one house, the number of bags would be endless, and to think they all have originated from the need to collect, keep and carry items necessary for survival.

Not much has changed really! At the moment we see the refugees pouring out of the Middle East carrying their few meagre belongings in those checked fibreglass bags. These bags are carrying humanity, they are carrying a lifetime. They are the symbol of despair and a symbol of hope. Without them, or some other bag, these poor unfortunate souls would have to flee with nothing. The displaced and the homeless carry their worldly possessions in bags. The term 'bag lady' symbolizes the homeless, just as these fibreglass bags are a symbol of those now fleeing war and annihilation. These humble, simple articles, that we call bags, are the fabric that allow these people to scrape together what is left of their lives and carry it to safety.

Just as birds collect and carry twigs to make their nest, and mice scurry backward and forwards shredding paper etc to build theirs, the origin of the humble bag began with the need for human beings to collect and carry. Today, they are part of everyone's lives from one end of the spectrum to the other. To some they are the symbol of survival. To others they are a status symbol with brand names displayed like the peacock's feathers. The bag has been with us since the beginning of time, and I believe like the proverbial cockroach, and will be here long after the end of mankind. The humble bag will give testimony to the ingenuity, the courage, the frivolity, the humanity, and the frailty of man.

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