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SUNDAY BRUNCH | The Stuff

A New Spin on Record Bags

March 22, 1998|D. JAMES ROMERO

Some hold that art descends from on high, trickling to the streets to create a river of popular culture. But many artifacts of high fashion have flowed upstream from the streets to the elevated runways: backpacks and baseball caps, to name a few.

We nominate the deejay record bag and record box for designer status. (Louis Vuitton already produced a custom record box for a 1996 ad featuring hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash. But the box, we presume, was one of a kind.) For now the record bag and box remain the domain of record labels and deejay-inspired street wear companies that are eyeing a growing crossover market.

In the U.K., record bags are already commonly used as unisex book bags and purses. The crossover is starting to happen on this side of the Atlantic. Street-wear makers such as Toronto's Snug are producing for women undersized, boxy bags that couldn't possibly carry a piece of 12-inch vinyl. Caffeine and Nervous, record-labels-cum-street-wear-labels based in the New York City area, and Extra Strength DJ Co. of Santa Cruz, are keeping it real, however, with heavy-duty nylon bags that can hold 45 to 50 pieces of 12-inch vinyl and have spare pockets for headphones. Retail prices for bags range from about $40 to $70 and up to $200 for boxes. "I'm not a deejay," says Caffeine salesman Matt Germaine. "My record bag is my briefcase when I come to work."

Record bags evolved out of the '80s with the emergence of the superstar deejay, a world traveler in need of carry-on luggage to protect precious vinyl acquisitions. Record boxes have perhaps deeper roots as offshoots of turntable "coffins"--age-old rugged, rectangular boxes designed to allow sound systems to travel without damaging the goods.

Hard-core deejays can still claim underground credentials by simply giving up their shiny boxes and returning to the tried-and-true milk crate (available at any Target). The granddaddy of street-cred record boxes, however, is the white plastic U.S. mail crate, emblazoned with the warning, "Property of U.S. Postal Service." But you didn't hear that here.

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