TBT – Fogg Bags Part Deux

Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer

Happy New Year to all! I took the first week of Jan off to regroup and puppysit, and I’m just getting back up to speed, so apologies for my New Year’s Vintage Fogg Bag Extravaganza being delayed.  

You gotta have vintage stuff to write about vintage stuff, but we don’t see many vintage Fogg bags. They work so well, last so long and look so good that folks don’t tend to give them up. Camera systems come and go, Fogg bags abide. So I’ll showcase my own modest Fogg bag collection, hoping my wife never reads this. In increasing size, I’ve got a bee from 10/94, b major from 4/00, Bumble bee from ’95 and, my crowning achievement, a massive, massive Maestro 4×5 from 8/94. The Maestro is sized to fit a 4×5 field camera outfit, or a small infant, or large cat, and is destined to stay at home, stuffed full of gear. My lower back couldn’t take the strain of a fully-loaded Maestro. The other three go anywhere/everywhere, and will very likely outlast me. 

You might notice that a lot of bags are named for bee… 

If you look at the photos you’ll see my bags range from near-new to scruffy, but the scruffy ones are just as robust as the fresher ones. My bag color preference is black on black, which hides dirt and messy spills better, but since I snag these on the used market, I grab what I can without being overly fussy. The tan b major has had not one, but two spills of yummy Peking House dumpling sauce (for the locals) on its top flap, that I laboriously scrubbed out. If you thought I’d learn my lesson about bag placement from the first spill, you’d be dead wrong. The top flap is now ½ f-stop lighter than the rest of the bag, but that just adds to its character. 

‘94/’95 production means early French bags. I’ve never seen an earlier, or London-made Fogg. 

Which brings up my first nerdy question: why do my two ‘94 bags still have “FOGG London” tags? Leftover bits from London, waste not want not? New stamp not ready? Just in case the move to France turned out to be kinda sucky?   

Before getting stuck in a nerdy weed patch, I think I’ll compare old/new and look at some things that haven’t changed. Understand that I’m looking at only 4 specific handmade vintage bags, so there are some minor points that are hard to pin down from a small/scattered sample size. But the major stuff is there to see.  

The most important thing that hasn’t changed is the overall workmanship. That’s obvious just by looking at the stitching, which quietly oozes quality. The beautiful, even stitches, that seem impossibly tight and consistent regardless of how many layers of leather/cotton/linen they pierce, is a little mind-blowing. They’re not quite perfect, very rarely the stitches move a little closer to an edge, a reminder that some very talented humans are guiding the thread. It’s little less subtle when done in contrasting thread color, but still sublime. Kinda like the micro-contrast you get from Leica lenses—that maybe doesn‘t consciously register in your brain, but brings life to the image. 

The fit-up, the layout and assembly of the “indecent number of components”  – (Nigel) is likewise lovely and unchanged. I think that’s a large part of where the Fogg “rightness” comes from, the flow of leather to canvas to linen, where/how the tabs are anchored, where and how the corners are reinforced, the strap routing. It’s difficult to imagine changing any particular bag for the better. Each and every one just looks right.  

From somebody who’s not an expert in bag materials, the materials don’t seem to have changed much, either. That’s a testament to Nigel and bee’s original vision, way back when, and their sourcing skills; like bee said, they’re several generations deep with their suppliers. 

The articulated top flap goes back to the early days as well. It’s bigger than a small detail, but still easy to overlook. It’s a double layer of canvas with the top layer cut across the middle, the edges cut back a hair, to form a hinge.  This lets you access the front pockets or slots without lifting the entire lid and exposing your gear. It also keeps the flap out of the way when yanking out a camera or lens. It’s easier to understand in comparison, especially to the British “B’ham” bags, where getting something out of anywhere means having a long canvas flap reaching up towards your neck. And dedicating one hand to holding that flap against your chest, because it wants to drop back down as soon as you let go. 

My vintage bags just have a gully at that junction, the new bags have a sexy leather strip transversing the flap. That makes a nice extra horizontal line across the bag and lets bee/Nigel showcase their skills a little more. It’s kind of a show-off move that’s not very showy. 

My old bags have a soft/tough linen lining, that cushions your gear, makes it easier to slide it in/out, but doesn’t show any signs of abrading, even after 25yrs. The linen in our new bags is prettier, with a little more texture, so it’s more visually obvious you’re not just looking at the backside of the canvas. There’s also now some contrasting striped linen used, “for a little zing.” (bee).   

Only two more things, otherwise this goes on forever. My ‘94/’95 bags don’t have the full-length shoulder strap that cradles the bag’s bottom, while the ‘00 and all our new bags do. I wonder if that was a new thing back then, or a line-wide spec change, an upcharge extra that went mainstream? Either way, definitely a welcome and confidence-inspiring feature. 

Lastly, FINALLY you’re probably thinking, there’s this cool signature visual cue of a leather strip at the top of the right-hand pocket flap, viewed from the front, on bags big enough to have two outside pockets, natch. It it’s functional, I can’t think of what for, but it’s there on every Fogg I’ve seen.  

Lastly, part deux, (please help me I can’t stop myself) is how bee/Nigel seemingly sprinkled the bag/# label all over the place. They might have had a logical scheme of where to put these, but I certainly haven’t figured it out. Well, I think all the really big Fogg bags I’ve seen have had that info burned into leather on the bottom of the bag, but otherwise I’ve seen tags on the inside bottom, inside back, inside back of a front pocket, etc, etc, etc. They look to be a little more consistent on our newer bags, but on these oldies I never know where to look. Kind of a little whimsy amongst the orderliness.  

OK, I’m finally out of steam and electrons. Swing by some time to check out our new Fogg bags!

One thought on “TBT – Fogg Bags Part Deux

  • December 28, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Fogg bags, like any quality equipment, are timeless. As you say, they “abide”! I picked up a pair of Fogg bags from the estate of William Turnage, the business manager for Ansel Adams and a friend of b and Nigel’s. The custom Violin has his name seared in the natural hide tag on the inside of the flap. b and Nigel responded to my emails and were so kind; sharing their history with Bill and sending me a copy of the work order for the bags from 1997. The bags are absolutely stunning and it is a plus to have the story with the bags. A quality company run by fascinating people — a rarity!

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