Freeport, ME, July 2, 2021
The Waxed Canvas Duffle: An All-Weather Bag that Gets Better with Age
Like a well-oiled glove or a jacket that fits just right, some things only get better with wear. Such is the case of the L.L.Bean Waxed Canvas Duffle – a bag that was developed in the 1930s as a problem-solving carry-all. It’s a bag that handsomely brags about where it’s been – flung aboard airplanes and crunched under ski gear, toted through rain and snow, deflecting the harshest of elements. It’s a bag that has a story to tell.
First appearing in the 1934 company catalog as Bean’s Zipper Duffle Bag, it was one of the original pieces of luggage Leon Leonwood Bean offered his customers, with a humble price of $3.75. The bag was made from dark brown “duck” – a heavy, tightly-woven cotton fabric – and featured double leather handles and a full-length zipper for maximum access. L. L. called it “the handiest duffle bag that can be made.” It remained on catalog pages for 59 years, offered in various sizes, designs and colorways, until it was discontinued in 1993 and filed away in the L.L.Bean archives.
But in 1999, a new iteration of the duffle emerged, reprised in a more rugged material – waxed cotton – and under a new name: the Waxed Canvas Duffle.
“Don’t be bothered with a load of stuff. Put everything in a ‘Bean Bag.” – Correspondence from an unidentified fisherman pictured with one of the earliest L.L.Bean Zipper Duffle Bags.
The L.L.Bean Waxed Canvas Duffle in Feldspar (left) and Dark Khaki (right).
The updated duffle, which is a mainstay today, features a distinctive heritage design: a signature waxed canvas body, “cobra head” leather handles, sturdy metal zippers, inner lining, detachable shoulder strap, and three zippered pockets. It’s a nod to the original with new features that make it more durable and versatile.
“When we pulled this bag from the archives, it was because customers kept asking for it. The Waxed Canvas Duffle offers unmistakable nostalgia and practicality,” says Dave Beahm, Corporate Merchant for L.L.Bean Travel. “It’s remarkable how a weather-resistant duffle that was created in the early 1900s still has such a loyal fanbase – customers who love products made with heritage materials and tactile qualities. You can’t replace that level of craftsmanship.”
The Zipper Duffle Bag, first pictured in the 1934 L.L.Bean Catalog.
The core advantage of waxed canvas is its resistance to the elements, making it ideal for unpredictable travel weather. On top of that, waxed canvas is extremely durable and only gets better with age, Beahm notes.
“Waxed canvas goes through a weathering-in process that makes it softer and more supple. It’s like a worn-in pair of jeans that tell a story in every crease. That nostalgic quality gives this bag universal appeal – something any customer can appreciate.”
With an ideal size for weekend getaways, the Waxed Canvas Duffle continues to be one of L.L.Bean’s best-selling duffle bags and even spurred the development of several new options, including the Waxed Canvas Tote Bag and Waxed Canvas Cross Body Bag.
The L.L.Bean Waxed Canvas Duffle is available in Dark Khaki and Feldspar, with new colorways in the works for 2022.