It’s peak travel season, so we’ve dug through the Smythson archives to pay homage to the Panama Luggage Tag – a deerskin leather tag with adjustable buckle fastenings and a discreet pocket for your personal details – a foolproof way to avoid baggage reclaim anxiety.

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“Everyone in the fashion industry has the same Rimowa hard suitcase so a leather luggage label is essential to identify yours. Mine is a black Smythson one, but I guess I should really branch out into colour for expediency’s sake.”Penny Martin, Editor in Chief, The Gentlewoman

While it might be a necessity for the jet-set today, in the early 1900s travel was a much more laid-back affair. The steamliner was experiencing its golden years, and luxuriously-built ships catered to wealthy cruisers who wanted to tour Europe or cross the expanse of the continent in style. Back then, luggage was identified using a luggage label provided by each shipping line. Each vessel designed their own labels; these identifiers functioned as much a walking advertisement for the line as a way of travellers to identify their luggage, though many were so intricately designed and often left no room for personal details. For enthusiastic cosmopolitans, each luggage sticker collected was viewed as a badge of honour and urbane status – the early form of a sun-soaked Instagram shot.

Smythson, understanding the popular Edwardian desire to appear worldly and cosmopolitan, were quick to add personalised luggage tags to their travel offering, creating bespoke luggage identifiers for their most esteemed clients. One such client, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, who was an early adopter of air-travel, commissioned Smythson to create a selection of Art Deco tags for his luggage—each one branded with his Royal seal and destination of choice.

Today, the luggage tag is perhaps a more practical appendage, but that doesn’t mean it should be devoid of style. Our selection can be personalised, meaning your distinctly average suitcase will no longer be confused with anyone else’s—a beacon on even the most jam-packed of conveyor belts.

Photography: Joss McKinley


About This Series

Icons: Exploring our long-standing heritage through the people who love us and the products that define us. 

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