You need a leather bag! Face it. Those nylon backpacks that are complimentary with one’s laptop, or given out on company annual days with the name of said company emblazoned on every panel, are so yesterday. And briefcases? Day-before-yesterday. The real thing? A leather bag. It’s smooth. It’s sophisticated. It’s stylish. And it sends out pretty much the same message about the one carrying it. And all the while adding to your style quotient. But buying one isn’t as easy as one may think. It isn’t just a question of how much money one is willing to spend, or what brand it sports. Here are a few things you need to keep an eye on while choosing your next leather bag
1. How’s the leather?
Two words: Full-grain. Have you seen a leather jacket that has seen a couple of decades, yet looks better than it did new at the store? That’s because it was made from full-grain leather. If it’s full-grain, it’s leather. Full-grain leather is leather the way leather was meant to be. It is top quality, robust, and ages well, acquiring a patina that is totally unique. No chemicals, no plastics, but yes to that rich leather smell. So, the next time you see something you like and it says ‘Genuine Leather’, ask if it’s full-grain. You won’t be sorry. Or, explore and choose a brand that is committed to using only full-grain leather, like Lapis Bard.
2. Is this bag vegetarian?
No, really. You need to ask this question, and I promise you won’t be laughed at. Every piece of leather is tanned, and it can be tanned in two ways: with chromium and other such chemicals, or with vegetable dyes, which takes more time (weeks more, to be precise), but is way more eco-friendly. And even if you’re not in this to save the planet, remember that vegetable-tanned leather lasts longer, looks better, and - you guessed it - also smells better.
3.Where’s your passport?
If your bag’s leather doesn’t come from France, Italy, or England and the US, it’s probably not of great pedigree. There, I said it. Not to say that there aren’t good leathers from other countries, but these four, especially Italy, have a long legacy of making great leather. So good, in fact, that some unscrupulous manufacturers even tack on a ‘Made in XXXX’ tag when all that’s been done in that country is probably fixing the tags and the zippers. So, look out for the provenance of the leather.
4. Money to burn
Everything that’s of good quality is expensive. But remember that not everything that’s expensive is of good quality. A good thing to remember when you’re out shopping for your leather bag. If you think the price tag shocks you, the quality of the leather may actually shock you further in a couple of years. Most brands charge for their name on the bag, and the perceived country of provenance, and not the actual quality of the leather. So, be mindful of why a bag is charging what it does.
5. The other bits
There’s more to a bag than just the leather. There are all the buckles, which help with fastening and finishing, and the zippers, which keep things together. And the handle, which is that part of the bag that you will end up holding the most. And let’s not forget the shoulder strap, which is the most practical way to travel with the bag, as you go about the day’s work. Every little bit makes a good bag great. So be sure to cast a long look at these parts, too.
6. You can have any colour, as long as it’s brown
Henry Ford would have found kindred souls in most of today’s bag-makers. Brown seems to be de rigueur as far as men’s professional leather bags are concerned. Three different hues of brown leather are common; dark-brown, tan, and light-brown. Thumb rule: the more formal the occasion, the darker should be the colour of the bag (and the suit and shoes, for that matter). Black is a ubiquitous choice for bankers and lawyers, but brown ages better. Some of the more daring brands have some blues and dark greens too, so it really comes down to your preference. Just remember that dual colours, or different coloured stitching, are a strict no-no as they will look a little over-the-top, and not age as well. It’s easy to succumb to paralysis by analysis on your journey to the perfect leather bag. The points outlined above are just to help you along. You should check out William Penn’s collection of bags here