It's embarrassing walking into a hip hotel with a suitcase plastered in Hello Kitty stickers, looking like I've inadvertently grabbed some poor kid's bag instead of my own. But I have a really valid reason, not just a passion for cartoon felines.
The idea comes courtesy of some dimly remembered, long-ago magazine interview I read, featuring Shakira Caine, wife of actor Michael Caine and all-around glamorous traveller who spends her life going from her husband's movie sets to red carpets to holidays in Capri.
Caine suggested covering your suitcase with kiddie stickers to prevent it being stolen. The theory is that any self-respecting thief will assume a child's case doesn't contain anything of value, just a lot of faded and stretched out Dora the Explorer t-shirts.
So as much as I yearn for a battered Louis Vuitton Keepall, its originally pale leather trim aged to a warm, caramel patina, carrying one just says to the criminal population, "Hi there. This bag is full of Céline and Prada. Please, take it all." (Note: any suitcase of mine just contains a lot of Joe Fresh, with the odd pair of nice shoes thrown in for contrast. But still.)
Regardless, I would live in constant fear of such a lovely duffle being pinched. Plus I'm too wimpy to actually carry my bag any further than the car, so I need a boring-but-functional rollie to wheel through airports.
Ultimately, suitcase subterfuge is just about making your gear look uninteresting to anyone on the make. Years ago at a film festival, I met a photographer who kept her expensive camera gear, not in the brushed aluminum hard cases that are de rigueur for any globe-trotting photog, but in custom-fitted burgundy floral suitcases, the sort that could belong to someone's grandmother. A thief would take a look at those tapestry cabbage roses and assume the case was full of appliqué kitten sweaters and sensible shoes, not a canny girl's Nikon bodies and Leica lenses. And unlike her colleagues with their cool, white metal cases, this photographer had never had a bag stolen.
But I don't think I'm nervy enough for full-on needlepoint. In fact, I need to butch up my suitcase. Maybe I'll add some Montréal Canadiens hockey stickers to the mix. Or a sprinkling of Spiderman.
What's on your travel bags?
You don't have to sport a celebrity-worthy bag to pack a carry-on like one. And if you're on a long flight, maybe you could show your skin some TLC. We just hope you never, ever wind up sitting beside someone who does this awful thing for five hours, or who has questionable pre-travel grooming habits.