Travel jacket for frequent fliers breaks crowd-funding records
A jacket designed especially for long-distance travelling has surprised even its creators by becoming the most funded clothing item in crowd-funding history. The BauBax jacket has a built-in inflatable neck pillow, gloves, eye mask, and utility pockets designed to carry anything from an iPad to an open drinks can. It is available in four styles, from casual sweatshirt to crease-less suit jacket, and has been described by its designers as the ‘Swiss army knife of travel jackets.’ The jacket raised over US$9 million from nearly 45,000 backers on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, making it the fourth-most funded Kickstarter project ever. The designers, husband and wife team Hiral Sanghavi and Yoganshi Shah, were inspired by their own experiences of frequent, long journeys. Indeed, the jacket is a brainchild of their own long-distance relationship; Sanghavi was living during the week in Chicago and flying weekly to spend weekends with his wife in San Francisco. He was frustrated with trying to cram all his gadgets into his jacket and, he says, constantly losing his travel pillow.
Sanghavi says they wanted ‘to appeal to everyone who travels’ and their crowd-funding success suggests they have tapped strong latent interest. Academics have coined the term ‘hypermobile’ to describe people who travel frequently over long distances often by air or high-speed rail. The jacket’s promise of comfort and convenience on long-journeys seems to have struck a chord with a growing number of ‘hypermobile’ people who travel frequently, often with plenty of digital gadgets to keep them busy and connected whilst on the move. Many ‘hypermobile’ people travel for business; others – like the inventors of this jacket – travel for what environmentalist George Monbiot calls ‘love miles’: to see loved ones far away. And for many it may be that long-distance, high-speed travel (flying in particular) simply becomes part of their lifestyle and, according to some researchers, can become an addictive habit.
Academics Scott Cohen and Stefan Gössling have argued that “movement is increasingly at the heart of our social identities”, with people’s social status and persona tied up in how far, often, where and how they have travelled. The research uncovers some of the ways in which mobility – at least for business and pleasure, if not for flight from poverty or persecution – is glamourised and encouraged directly through advertising and more subtly through social media and social networks. Perhaps in future wearing the BauBax Travel Jacket will acquire social cache, identifying the wearer as one who is highly mobile.
Cohen and Gössling also describe some of the possible ‘darker sides’ of hypermobillity, which they argue are often covered up or even glamourised. These might range from jet-lag, radiation and infectious disease exposure to negative impacts on home-based family and social life, stress and loneliness, perhaps resulting in increased likelihood of psychological disorders. Certainly one negative impact is on the environment. Transport as a whole makes up around 15% of global carbon emissions and whilst aviation and high-speed rail are only small parts of this (approximately 2% of global carbon emissions), they are growing fast: more people are travelling and, importantly, those who are already very mobile are becoming increasingly so. By some estimates nearly all of the world’s air journeys are made by just 3% of the global population, and even within the group of people who do fly, a small core group may be flying far more frequently than the majority. One study from France found that “half of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the mobility of French citizens are caused by just 5 per cent of the population.”
Global travel statistics – and the popularity of the BauBax Travel Jacket – indicate that our desire to travel is far from exhausted. As high-speed, long-distance travel capacity increases across the world and becomes increasingly affordable to larger numbers of people, understanding the reasons why some people may be drawn not just to travel but to ‘hypermobility’ is crucial if we are to be able to better provide for these needs in a more sustainable way. The ITC recognises the importance of uncovering what underlies people’s travel behaviour and has commissioned the Why Travel? research project with the aim of better understanding human travel motivations and of informing better decision-making for future travel. For more information on the project please visit www.whytravel.org where you can find out about our research so far, catch up on topical news stories and watch videos from experts with diverse opinions on why we travel and how we can make travel better.
To see the BauBax jacket in action, watch the video below: