Dopp Kits: A Nice Accessory for the Traveling Man

Dopp kits are designed for men who need something to hold their toiletries while they travel. They were invented by Charles Doppelt, a German leather-goods maker, sometime in the early 20th century. Doppelt scored a contract with the US Army during WW2 and provided millions of American GIs with them while they fought abroad. When these soliders came home, they brought their dopp kits with them and thus began their civilian use. 

Now, unless you’re off fighting a war, nobody needs a dopp kit. You can get along fine by triple bagging your toiletries in plastic bags when you travel. Unless you’re hanging out with really lame people, nobody’s going to judge you for it, assuming they even notice. However, these pouches are still nice to have. There’s something about them that help you feel a little less like you’re living out of a box, and they inspire a better sense of organization. With plastic grocery bags, even if I bring my nicest ones, my toiletries randomly wind up on different tables in my hotel room. As well, dopp kits just feel a bit more “grown up,” and that’s what this site is all about, right?

So for readers who travel, I thought I’d run through some dopp kit options. I’ll separate this out into three price tiers.

Over $100: Mulholland Brothers sells some nice basic models in both waxed canvas and leather. Nothing fancy here, just your standard dopp kit in great materials. If you want something a bit more interesting, there’s this Kenton Sorenson, which will darken to a beautiful patina over time. Jack Spade also makes some. My personal dopp kit is by Jack Spade and I love it, but I’ll admit that I think their products are slightly overpriced for what they are. However, Jack Spade dopp kits go on sale every once in a while at Gilt and Nordstroms, so check there. Lastly, there is Col. Littleton, which looks amazing, but is pretty expensive. 

Between $50 and $100: As with a lot of things, Filson and Orvis always makes very nice mid-priced items. There’s also this leather piece by Buxton Accessories, which has one of the nicer organization systems I’ve seen. 

Under $50: If you’re on a tighter budget, there are many dopp kits priced under $50. The first is Lands End’s SeaGoing and Square Rigger models. The SeaGoing is designed for really wet environments (perhaps if you’re bringing your dopp on a boat) while the Square Rigger is a bit more traditional. There are also affordable waxed canvas options by Marc New York and J Crew, as well as a leather model by Dopp Delegate. Additionally, Potterybarn has one you can monogram. I’ve handled this one before and wasn’t very impressed with the leather but - well - it’s $39. Lastly, MUJI has a variety of affordable options - this one’s $17. Jesse uses a MUJI bag not unlike this one and recommends them, and I can see the hook coming in real handy for situations where you can’t take up a lot of counter space. There are more here.

As for what to pack in your dopp kit? For me, I work off of this list:

The Essentials: Travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner; toothbrush and toothpaste; floss; nail clippers; facial scrub; lotion; hair products; Q-tips; hand salve; a comb; deodorant; sunscreen; and a shaving kit. 

Optional: Lip balm; Band Aids; Tylenol; $20 bill; LintUps; breath mints; ear plugs; Emergen-C; condoms; and my own soap (since hotel soaps usually suck). 

Also, be sure to squeeze out the air from your travel sized bottles. This will help make sure they don’t explode during the flight. You can buy travel sized bottles at almost any Longs Drugs or Walmart, or online through Flight 001

Lastly, a word of caution when selecting your dopp kit. The goal here is not to get the biggest sized bag you can. It’s much wiser to know what you typically bring and buy an appropriate sized bag for your gear. If you get something too big, it will just take up unnecessary room in your luggage, so know thyself before buying. 

The Great Wallet Roundup

Lately the trickle of wallet inquiries we regularly receive has turned into a torrent. What precipitated this trend I cannot say, but there can be only one appropriate response: a Great Wallet Roundup.

First of all, let’s address what type of wallet you should carry.

I’m generally an advocate of the card case. Generally speaking, there’s no need to carry more than ID, a debit card and a credit card. Perhaps a health insurance card for emergencies. Anything more than this (say a store credit card or a club store card), you can grab them on your way out the door. The advantage of the card case is size. It can easily fit into a front pants pocket if you’re not wearing a coat, and will not create any visible bump if worn in a coat pocket. Cash can simply be carried in the front pocket, with or without a money clip, as you prefer.

Bi-fold wallets are a reasonable alternative for those who insist on carrying more cards with them at all times. These should nonetheless be modest in size. Jacket wallets, longer and thinner, roughly the size of a checkbook, are generally suitable only for those who always wear a jacket. Someone classier than me, in other words. Tri-fold wallets, as the Monty Pythons might say, are right out.

Wallets should be worn in the jacket pocket whenever possible. It’s better for your back, more difficult to steal, and given a reasonably-sized wallet, is the best choice aesthetically as well. In a pinch, a front pocket will do. I usually reserve the back pocket for blue jean days, and generally move my wallet to sit or (especially) drive.

As for the question of brown or black, it is a matter of personal preference. I generally wear brown shoes and so I generally wear brown wallets. On the rare occasion I wear evening clothes, I just pull out some cash and cards and use a money clip.

Wallets are available at a million price points, from Hermes to nylon-and-velcro. I’ve tried to put together a little range of possibilities, and hopefully you’ll find yourself something you like. Wallets often go on sale, and can easily be found in the vintage and second-hand market, but we’re focusing on new stuff at retail.

If I could have any wallet in the world, I’d likely have something made by April in Paris. This San Francisco-based company makes truly bespoke leathergoods. Beatrice, the owner, trained at Hermes, and welcomes you to visit your item as it is being made. Almost any design or skin is available. They’re also quite expensive. (Oh, and you could do a lot worse than the similarly expensive Hermes, who are one of the few big-name luxury companies who haven’t sacrificed quality in the pursuit of profit.)

On the inexpensive side of things, Saddleback Leather offers a bifold card case for only $15. The quality should be excellent, but if you’re looking for something with somewhat more refined aesthetics, Hartmann offers a handsome alternative for $35. I’m not nuts about ID windows, but what can you do?

Speaking of rough-hewn aesthetics, the recent Americana revival has hit the world of leather goods, as well. When I asked about wallets on Twitter, we had multiple recommendations for options from Tanner Goods (of Portland) and Billykirk. Tanner Goods’ choices tend towards “outdoorsy casual,” and Billykirk’s towards “axe-wielding.”

I’m a big fan of the leather-and-canvas choice from Duluth Pack of Minnesota, which offers a lifetime guarantee. They’ve also got a nice money clip bifold which is only $20, and a simple credit card wallet. In the past, I’ve recommended Filson wallets to those looking for something casual and durable, and, well, I still do.

If you’re looking for something “fun,” check out the selection at Jack Spade. They really get the silly trendy stuff right, with simple aesthetics and cool touches. They also come up regularly on sale and on Gilt Groupe for very reasonable prices.

My overall champion, though, is Swaine Adeney Brigg. The quality is exceptional - they are made in England and bear a royal warrant - and the prices, while high relative to the more mass-produced options, are not crazy high. Hermes may charge you $1500, but Swaine Adeney will likely be under $200. Indeed, the simple card case (the design of which is pretty much perfect) is available for $95. In fact, I’ve got myself so pumped up about it I may ask for one from my wife for my birthday.

Regardless of what brand you chose, my advice is simple: simplify. Your back will thank you, and so will the line of your clothes.

If you’re one of the people who’s always emailing me saying that you’re not ready or willing to carry a briefcase or other professional bag, but you’re too old for a college-y bag, just get something from this Jack Spade sale. These folks really get that simpler is better, and they understand how to make a masculine bag without resorting to adding a bunch of toggles. They do good work. If there isn’t something on there you like right now, just wait for the next time Spade comes up on Gilt, and I’m sure you’ll find something.

If you’re one of the people who’s always emailing me saying that you’re not ready or willing to carry a briefcase or other professional bag, but you’re too old for a college-y bag, just get something from this Jack Spade sale. These folks really get that simpler is better, and they understand how to make a masculine bag without resorting to adding a bunch of toggles. They do good work. If there isn’t something on there you like right now, just wait for the next time Spade comes up on Gilt, and I’m sure you’ll find something.

“It’s preppy, yes, but it’s definitely not Republican.” New York Magazine on the aesthetic of Andy Spade, founder of Kate Spade, Jack Spade and Spade & Partners in NYC

Giltstravaganza today…

Often Gilt Groupe’s flash sales don’t inspire us.  We’re not that into the designer-y stuff.  But man, today is a great day on Gilt.  Starting at 9AM pacific, noon eastern, you get Ralph Lauren Purple Label, the most beautiful, classy clothes Ralphie makes.  You get Tim Hamilton for some excellent contemporary casual stuff.  Some super, super handsome (and usually surprisingly cheap on Gilt) bags from Jack Spade.  You get Dunhill for crazy beautiful accessories for your millionaire lifestyle.  And, oddly, an American Apparel sale - and say what you will about their creepy CEO and creepy ads, they do good work in the basics department.  There’s usually about one sale a week on Gilt that we’re really into, and that’s like five in one day.

Anyway, sign up for a Gilt account with our invite (the site’s invite-only), and we get an account credit, so we’ll feel less bad about the money we’re about to spend come 9AM pacific.