Bags Of Character

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Bags Of Character

Words by Mr Tom M Ford | Photography by Mr Cameron McNee | Styling by Mr Scott Stephenson

26 November 2015

From a rucksack to a messenger – here are six examples of craftsmanship that will stand the test of time.

When we enjoy something in our wardrobe, it can be tempting to wear it every day. If you’re a denim obsessive, for example, (we know that raw selvedge takes time to wear in) you can easily find yourself throwing on the same pair of jeans each morning. Or perhaps you own a pair of brogues that are so versatile they are seemingly glued to your feet. But eventually, if you overdo it, all good things come to an end.

Bags, however, are a little bit different. Whether it’s a trusty briefcase or a love-worn backpack, it feels appropriate to stick with one favourite by our side, or on our back, every day. And travel? It’s a similar story. Most men have one for long vacations, and perhaps another for quick trips.

Given how repeatedly we use them, we need our bags to be especially well made. We want them to last. We look to the quality of leather, the stitching or brands we can trust. And since we get to know them so well, we want them to age beautifully, and gain character – a pleasing patina on an attaché case, for example, or a map of scuffs and scars on a trusty Globe-Trotter.

Here, we’ve selected six bags that put craftsmanship and character first. Whether intended for work or leisure, invest in one of these, and it’s likely to be around for as long as you are.

When it was establishing its credentials in the early 20th century, Globe-Trotter got an elephant to step on one of its cases to test its strength. But what shows the brand’s real strength is its roll-call of customers. Sir Winston Churchill, for example, owned a dispatch case, similar to the one above, while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924. And Sir Edmund Hillary used a Globe-Trotter case for his first Everest expedition in 1953 (though we assume he left it at base camp. Those wheels are certainly not made for extreme outdoor elements). At 16" (41cm) wide, this Globe-Trotter briefcase is definitely more suited to the office. But, with the vulcanised fibreboard and brown leather construction – made on Victorian machinery in Globe-Trotter’s Hertfordshire factory – we’d wager it would still take the weight of a weight-conscious elephant.

Inspired by the Old American West, Mr Ralph Lauren’s RRL line – founded in 1993 – has brought us a wonderfully weathered, casual canvas backpack this season. The label inside reads: “Indigo fabric, for railmen, dockmen & engineers.” So, if you are in the market for a rucksack that’s a little more rugged, and has a little more character than most – look no further. The buckle fastenings and worn leather straps will lend your morning commute, or weekends away, an intrepid feel. And, since it’s named after Fargo in North Dakota, you might be inspired to venture further off the beaten track. Especially if you’ve seen the 1996 film of the same name. Just remember to pack your down jacket and sheepskin hat. And stay away from any wood chippers.

Founded near Venice in 1966, Bottega Veneta’s express aim was to produce high-quality, artisanal leather goods. To do so, it pioneered a leather-weaving process known as “intrecciato”, which ensured strength and quality in its products. It has become a signature of the brand and a real signifier of money well spent. Made out of black calf leather, this messenger bag is a perfect example of such excellent craftsmanship. It’s a bag that blurs the line between formal and casual. Its versatility ensures you get your money’s worth. And as it’s worn, the leather will mould, weather and soften.

This Porter-Yoshida & Co bag may look fairly innocuous, but unpack its vital statistics, and you begin to understand its appeal. Firstly, consider the brand. A cult Japanese accessories label, it originated in 1935 when an artisan named Mr Kichizo Yoshida set up a workshop in Tokyo. The name “Porter” was chosen because he wanted his products to embody the style and skill of traditional hotel porters (it’s obviously a name we similarly approve of). Mr Yoshida’s aim? Quite simply, to make the best bags possible. It’s an ethos that remains today, achieved via 50 specialist workshops that execute the brand’s meticulous attention to detail. Jet black and made from woven nylon and leather, this would make the perfect work or gym bag for the strict utilitarian. Or someone who just appreciates great design.

When you think of Saint Laurent, the brand that pioneered the Beatnik look in the 1960s, you think of dark, slim silhouettes and even slimmer jeans. You think of smoking rock stars draped in smoking-hot women. The brand’s infamous attitude is infused into each of Saint Laurent’s products. Even a humble tote. Yet, given this is made with cross-grain leather (which is subtly textured) and coated canvas, it is not the type of tote you would take to the grocery store. It’s a little bit more rock ’n’ roll than that. Mr Keith Richards, famously a huge fan of the brand, would no doubt approve. And, much like him, no matter what you get up to, it will last a lot longer than you’d expect.

Like an antique oak dresser or the mahogany wood panelling in a beloved classic car there is something sentimental and timeless about the colour and feel of Berluti’s portfolio. The chocolate calf leather has a depth and richness that suggests high quality and expert craftsmanship (something the revered French brand prides itself on). It feels warm and familiar – like something that might have been passed on from an older generation. Indeed, this is the reason we consider it a worthy investment (not to mention the document sleeves, zipped pockets and pen holder within). Care for it, and it will last a lifetime, only getting better with age. Think of it as a modern-day heirloom – just don’t keep it under lock and key.