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The Well-Groomed Carry-On Man

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Henry Davis is an investor at Index Ventures, a firm that invests in startup technology and online businesses, including beauty and fashion-focused ventures. He travels all. the. time. This is his story:

Due to my work, I spend a lot of time on planes. As we all know well, nowadays the luster of Pan Am and the Golden Age feels significantly further than 50 years behind us. Perhaps it is due to my Britishness but, when I travel, I like to give off some semblance of being (at least outwardly) well-turned-out. This means I want to have my products with me. And herein lies a dilemma...

Should you check your bag if this means that, a certain percentage of the time, your stuff will arrive in Minneapolis when you’re destined for New York? Or should you just carry on, which leads to the Sisyphean struggle of fitting all your cosmetics into that one small plastic bag? After many trials, I now always choose the latter option. Meaning I am left perpetually playing the game of shampoo-bottle Tetris.

Given that the bags are clear for all to see into anyway, I thought I might as well share just what I cram into my Ziploc.

First, Marvis toothpaste. Until recently, I was brand agnostic. Aquafresh? Crest? Colgate? Whatever. It is hard to be passionate about toothpaste. Until, that is, I discovered Marvis, which comes in a retro tube that is so chic, it makes me feel like a regular James Bond when I carry it. It is thus a must, even if you have to suffer some very suspect flavors (Cinnamon & Amarelli Licorice, anyone?).

Second essential: facial moisturizer. Mine's Embryolisse. Hitherto unknown to me, it is a fantastic product and is resplendent in a long, sleek tube. Previously I used Elizabeth Arden, and it was utterly fantastic. Fantastic, that is, if you don't mind telling the world (at least those who glimpse it in your clear baggie) that you are really a middle-aged woman. So, I had to change.

Next, deodorant: Old Spice Original. I was actually introduced to it by an American ex-girlfriend who used it herself. I found myself stealing it from her quite regularly, partly because, as a solid stick, it does not technically need to go in the TSA-approved baggie, but also mostly because I wanted her to stop smelling like an Alpine park ranger.

Shave cream: Barbasol. I tried those smart little bottles of shave oil a few times, but I never thoroughly coated my face and, post-shave, I was left looking like a poorly sighted 14 year old. I also love the old-school Barbasol can.

Shower gel: Molton Brown. I could, I suppose, take a bar of soap, but then I just find myself getting agitated as I contemplate why bars of soap are still being produced. Oh, how beautiful they are when they are new! But after a single use, all of that changes. They become cracked, sludgey, and often replete with black hairs (anxiety-making for all, me especially, given I am blond).

For everything else, I simply rely on the kindness of strangers (or hoteliers). This has some downside though, and I now accept the fact that, one time in ten, I will liberally moisturize my body with hair conditioner as I fail to understand the French writing and pick the wrong white bottle.

Isn't all of this just exhausting? What with the existential crises, product faux pas, not to mention the inevitable sticky product explosions… (Sort of.) Honestly, sometimes I am tempted to give it all up and surrender. Why not just take a handful of those little 100ml Dr Bronner bottles? Certainly it would look cool, and that stuff is shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, shaving cream, lighter fluid, and a cure for every ailment, all in one. However, the whole point is about traveling through airport security with your products and carrying that much hempseed oil around just seems like a bad idea.

So, for now I suppose I am destined to continue dusting off my dormant Game Boy skills and applying them to my travel wash bag. To see a world in a grain of sand, and to fit the makings of a man… in a quart-sized Ziploc bag. It is almost enough to make you want to check luggage.

—Henry Davis

All photos courtesy of the author.