There’s no getting away from it, this is a dinky man-bag. It’s made from stiffened vegetable-tanned leather, and so has a rigid and natural appearance, but it is still a small bag for me to put things in.

Technically, it is called a pochette. Some of the luxury houses, including Zegna and Zilli, still sell them; but generally they have gone out of style. I can understand why. When the average man is afraid of carrying any bag that is remotely elegant, a small box that nestles into the wrist is going to be a hard sell. (It even has a loop of leather to slip your wrist through, though I don’t use it and it slides discreetly away.)

When I first bought the box, five years ago, I was rather uncertain about it. I never thought I would use it. I was wrong. It was a slow burner and had to wait for the rest of my sense of style to catch up, but now I use it almost every day. The size is perfect for wallet, phone, keys, notebook, pen and perhaps gloves. Most of which I would otherwise carry in my jacket, though I know I shouldn’t.

Essentially, it performs the role of a hand bag. And aren’t they useful?

This post, however, is meant to be more about how beautifully the box has aged. It is part of the Alfred Dunhill collection, which is all made in the Walthamstow factory in North London (see factory report here). That means the leather is hand-cut and bench-stitched. The hardware is all brass.

This mid-tan shade of leather is wonderful for developing patina. I am guilty of buying too many pairs of shoes in this colour (which don’t go with my mostly dark suits) because I know how well they will age. The Edward Green Oundles (see post here) are a good example.

 


You can see where the sweat of my hands has stained the leather along the bottom, even leaving a tab-shaped patch of unblemished leather behind the fastening. It can be off-putting, this staining, as it’s not instinctively how you feel leather should wear. But having chatted to a couple of leather-makers about the effect, I was reassured that it is all part of the beauty of age – a briefcase’s leather handle will always become darker over time in a similar way. And while you can reduce the effect by cleaning the leather, you can’t remove it completely.

The Alfred Dunhill collection usually comes with a tub of very waxy polish, which should be applied every few months to keep the leather from drying out. It is similar to treatments recommended for all leather luggage and is so waxy because it needs to moisturise such thick, hard skin.

As an aside, if you ever have a pair of new shoes that need softening up, I recommend applying a little of this luggage polish to the problem area. I used it on the vamp of a pair of Edward Green Asquiths that were cutting into my toes and it worked very well. Don’t overuse it though, or it will make the leather too soft and wrinkly – add a little bit at a time and reapply if necessary.

I hope the posts in this series demonstrate how luxury items can reward an initial investment many times over. That is the reward of classic, handmade items that are well chosen and well maintained.

I wasn’t sure this box would become one of those, but I am extremely glad it did and I look forward to another five years of visual, tactile and functional pleasure.

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Anonymous

What a wonderful post, Mr. Crompton. Well-made handcrafted items truly are a joy to own and use. However, many of us inadvertently revert to short-term thinking when making purchases; worrying more about the amount of money we have to spend now rather than how much more pleasure such items can give us, and for a much longer period of time.

Greg

Simon, as always, great content and like you, I’m quite enjoying how the leather is aging!

That said, could you snap another photo showing the scale of this bag/pochette? Cheers.

Anonymous

Christ! Mrs Worthington. What a shocker.

Michael

Simon

I’ve carried one for around ten years now and wouldn’t be without one – I find suit jackets look much better without the pockets stuffed with wallet, phone, etc.

I currently have an Aquascutum one, though it’s nowhere near as good as it’s Bally predecessor, which was much like you Dunhill example; a good choice.

Nick

Simon,

If not the mid-tan shade, what shade of leather would you have gone for? I’ve never seen a pochette in any shade of brown before, only black, and would love to know where to purchase one in a darker brown.
12 months ago I bought black Montblanc pochette, and it’s been sitting unused since I brought it home; your post here might be the inspiration to finally start using it (until I can find a brown one of course!)

Nick.

Roger

A lovely bag. But only another five years of use, what’s all that about? Surely you don’t see a thick leather bag like that coming to pieces in the next five years?

waxeater

I just came back from Japan and “dinky man-bags” are nowhere near out of style there. I’m dying to have one.

Anonymous

Dear Simon

I have been searching in vain for that lovely little bag you mentioned on your blog site some time ago – the Dunhill Box (as you called it) which does not appear on the Dunhill website or anywhere. I think, either you also called it, or it is known by its other name the pochette?

My reason for contacting you is that i fell in love with it on your website – that lovely shade of brown and marking on it from it being carried – just perfect.

Please could you let me know where you purchased it (i assume it was Dunhill), the colour, the size and of course the price if it is not too much trouble.

Thank you so much and keep up the lovely website – it has become my daily ritual reading it.

Best wishes

Bradley Viljoen

Joel

Hi Simon,

thank you for featuring a blog on pochettes. they are a classic fashion piece but very functional. i have a similar bag but yours is well taken care of. the patina it has acquired is very distinct and unique and reflects your style. it is surely classic and will last a lifetime. could you let me know what leather cream or tallow you use to care for it. thanks in advance and all the best!

kind regards,
jp

Derek

Hi Simon, I know it’s been a long while since you’ve written about this beautiful box. Are you still using it regularly? It’d be nice to see a picture of how it’s aged even further and to see a shot of it in use outside if possible.