You can wear Chanel or Armani but if your attache looks like a beat-up throwback to the Pony Express or, worse, a boring bag or tired tote, you're sending the wrong message.
In 2007, the mantra in business or relationships is quiet confidence. Unless you're scaling Kilimanjaro on a film shoot or navigating your way through Nepal, braving torturous elements, you should be carrying leather, like the pebbled duffel in dark chocolate by Giorgio Armani. You just have to think of the jolting $2,595 price tag as an investment you can amortize over your life - and the life of the bag. For that kind of money, it will be noticed without being ostentatious ( www.emporioarmani.com).
Carl Bally started plying his trade as a shoemaker in Switzerland in 1847 and his personal goal was to make fine footwear that didn't overstep the boundaries of tasteful design. The craftsmen and designers of Bally Shoe Factories Ltd. who now carry his legacy have created a leather bag that's free of logos, yet looks smart. It has considerable storage space, two side pockets and traditional straps and brass buckles.
At $1,195, the hope is that it says something about you when it hits a boardroom table. It also fits comfortably in an overhead compartment ( www.bally.com).
Raffaella Camera - that's her real name - didn't start as early as Carl Bally but the former advertising executive's Web site ( www.kolobags.com) is like a Fifth Avenue cyber specialty shop of exclusive (and some more reasonably priced) computer and travel bags for women. Too numerous to describe in detail here, she's amassed a collection of brands like Adrienne Vittaddini Tiger Wheeled Travel Carry, Lodis Travel Brief, Bagallini Computer Bag, Casaruri Portfolio Bag in Stripe and, my favorite, the Melissa Beth What-a-Croc Tote.
Is your I-Pod naked? Camera carries the Lodis Disco Diva shuffle case that that will dress it up.
GO SOLO FOR A LOT LESS
Venerable bag maker U.S. Luggage of Hauppage, N.Y., has jettisoned its name on its luggage lines and cooked up new brands. Solo is the new handle for its hand-held and rolling laptop cases in ballistic and leather, and the prices are not astronomical.
A black leather attache, like the kind top execs would tote in all those Jack Lemmon, Fred McMurray movies from the '50s and '60s, is expandable, has two brass combination locks and brass hardware, suede lined interiors, organizers and a five-year warranty for $129.
Too sedate? Solo makes an aluminum laptop attach in one color, titanium, that can handle notebook computers with up to 17-inch screens. Weighing in at 7.1 pounds empty, (style AC-102) it sells for an amazingly reasonable $70. An expandable (by one-inch) leather attache, essentially a laptop case, with fan file folders, can accommodate a 15-inch screen computer, and retails for $65. The Web site www.solocases.com showcases an array of bags and styles in ballistic nylon and leather. I'd also check www.e-bags.com and www.luggagpoint.com for discounted pricing, although the manufacturer's prices seem like a real steal. The famed Zero Halliburton metal suitcase preferred by hard-core global road soldiers costs $625 and more.
Brookstone, known for its clever gadgets sold through airport and mall stores, makes a slick-looking battery-operated Quick Charge that recharges cell phones with 30 additional minutes of talk time and you don't need an AC plug. Perfect for business travelers, it costs $20. Problem, though, is it's not universal. It fits some models but you don't know which until you open the packaging. I called Brookstone customer service line five times for help and couldn't get through. I left a message for Chief Financial Officer Philip Roisen who did, in fact, call back. He said you need to buy a product called iGo Tips for another $10 at Brookstone's 50-odd airport stores (or www.brookstone.com) to connect the Quick Charge and power up your phone. Better yet, Brookstone should list all the brands and models Quick Charge can charge on the back of the packaging; there's plenty of room. It wouldn't hurt to add customer service lines and people, either.
ALIVE AND WELL
Meantime, Energizer of tireless bunny fame makes an Energi to Go portable charger for $20 and includes two Energizer lithium AA batteries. They claim it can recharge a dead cell phone in 30 minutes. But Energizer gets it right. The power tips are exposed in the "try me" packaging so you can be confident the charger will charge your cell phone - before you spend the money ( www.energitogo.com).
Wrinkled clothing, the archenemy of the business traveler, can be chased on the road and in your room with the Travel Smart Micro Pro Garment Steamer for $25 ( www.franzus.com). Also be sure to pack Madame Paulette Professional Stain Remover Kit that claims to make coffee, lipstick, even red wine stains vanish from a white shirt. It sells for just $10 ( www.madamepaulette.com).
Not A Dry Eye in the house is an old saw among theatergoers but on long flights, re-circulated cabin air can easily dry and irritate your eyes. Severe cases are called lagophthalmos and can affect your sleep. However, a company called Eye Eco makes a medical-grade, flexible rubber product called Tranquileyes that restores moisture to your eyes by increasing humidity around the eyes. A hydrating therapy kit, ranging from $25 to $55, includes an ocular mask that fit over the eyes. It looks like a cross between goggles and a sleep mask. It shuts out the light and prevents evaporation of your tears and comes in a stainless steel carrying case. For details, go to www.dryeyedoctor.com.
NEW GEAR TO GO
Staples, the office products retailer, makes a luggage lock called WordLock that's Transportation Safety Administration-compliant and well worth its $5 price tag. It has four letter tumblers and lets you choose 10,000 letter combinations, including more than 700 words. Never worry about losing a luggage key again, but just don't lose your memory ( www.staples.com).
Check www.smartbargains.com for markdown prices on brand-name luggage. Sample prices: recently a Samsonite wheeled ski bag that normally retails for $120 was sliced in price down to $50, a 58 percent savings.
Concerned about your seatmate sneezing, wheezing and coughing? You should be. But a Wein Mini-Mate Millenium Air Supply is a powerful personal, reusable air purifier that's featherweight, lithium-battery powered, quiet and shouldn't disturb anyone for $99. Go to www.safehomeproducts.com for information.
Chris Barnett writes on business travel strategies that save time, money and hassles.
© Copley News Service