First let me set your mind at rest, it's not a fetish for black garbage bags (go and google that one) nor is it a fetish for handbags. I confine my fetish to functional bags - a bag to carry my stuff to work or to carry around a camera or two. David Alan Harvey, of National Geographic fame, has a serious camera bag fetish. It puts my mild obsession to shame.
Years ago with me it used to be highly functional bags made of all sorts of high tech fibres, designed to stop a speeding bullet at ten paces and protect your camera from anything the world could throw at it. In the mid 1980s I remember buying a Tenba camera bag for, what was in those days, large sum. It was a great bag, not too deep, decent dividers, various pockets and padding. All in all a great bag, including its nondescript grey colour. The problem was it was made, I think, of an early version of Cordura and it wore its way through any fabric it rested against. Your clothes didn't stand a chance. A couple of years ago I dragged this same bag out of its resting place because I had a use for it. Unfortunately the waterproofing in the bag consisted of some sort of coating on the inside of the Cordura. This coating had parted company and disintegrated into a fine dust - the kind that is designed to penetrate - and stick to - every part of a camera or lens. That was sad because it was a good bag, nobody seems to make those shallow, minimalist sorts of bags any more.
More recently my fetish turned to Crumpler bags, first a Fux Deluxe messenger bag, then a variety of computer bags and most recently a computer knapsack. Whilst I really like the look and feel of an elderly, grubby, Crumpler messenger bag, they don't grab me like some other bags. Nor do they quite cut it in the "perfect work bag" stakes.
Now we come to my most recent fetish. Maybe it's something about the ageing process - mine not the bag's - but as I've got older I've come to value the qualities of "old fashioned" materials over the latest high tech carbon nano particle gadget bag. Enter bags by Billingham and others.
The thing about Billingham bags is that they're made of very old fashioned stuff - laminated canvas, cotton webbing and leather. They shouldn't really be effective camera bags...but they are.
Now the next problem with bag fetishes is size - I always seem to think I need a bigger bag than I do. My first Billingham bag was a 555, I can load more kit into that bag than I can lift! In fact I can't work out why I bought that bag. It's so big that nobody in their right mind would try to carry it. I use it as a container to lug stuff around in but I don't try to walk anywhere with it.
My next Billingham bag I decided was going to be a sensible size. I had to be able to carry it when it was full and it had to sit comfortably. "Buy a Hadley" they all said to me at the shop when I told them what I wanted. I tried the Hadley and decided it was too small. I tried the 225 - a great little bag - and decided it was too small. You can see where this is leading can't you?
I ended up with a 335, this is also a great bag, but you can never use the words "small" or "little" in the same sentence. You could take this bag away with you to Outer Mongolia for 6 months and carry enough gear for a professional assignment. A great bag...just not what I intended to buy.
Meanwhile my back's been getting creakier and my bags appear to be getting heavier. So off we go in the search for another bag. I've got to the stage that I don't tell my beloved that I'm bag shopping and I sneak the new purchases into the house hoping they won't be noticed. She's a very tolerant woman but my bag fetish is a bit much for her!
This time I went straight after the good advice bag - a Billingham Hadley Pro. It's a small looking bag but it takes a surprising amount of stuff. I can fit a Leica M, a couple of lenses, notebook, keys, passes, "first aid kit", pens, wallet, MacBook and various other cords, chargers, earphones and stuff. It doesn't weigh too much and it sits comfortably on my shoulder. When I went to buy it, they only had black. I didn't want a black bag, but I wanted a bag. So I bought the black one. It's actually turned out to be an inspired choice. It blends in and it doesn't look like I'm straight out of the British Raj. I just hope that it doesn't overheat in the summer.
Interestingly the bag tags didn't tell me what the material is, however on the Billingham site it says that black bags with nickel plated fittings are made of their new, synthetic, FibreNyte material. If it is, it's a great copy of canvas - it looks and feels just like their canvas.
Oops I realise in this exploration of my fetish I haven't told you about the important sub-branch - Pelican cases...never mind another day.
For those who are interested I'll work up some piccies of various bags to add later.