Dear Simon,

I have been wearing a messenger bag for some time for commuting as it’s a very handy way of containing all the bulk and occasional papers that I have to cart around with me.

However, I have worried for some time about the potential impact on the shoulders of my suits, and have also noticed that the pressure and rubbing of the strap is starting to create a shiny patch on the lapel area. Help!

Obviously I’m keen not to ruin my suits, but regrettably having some sort of bag is a necessity if I am to avoid shunting my possessions around in various pockets and carrier bags – not a good look.

Do you have any thoughts on practical alternatives to bags with shoulder straps that aren’t too “up tight” looking? And, on a remedial note, if you have any advice on tackling early stage shine, short of replacing an entire suit, I would be very grateful.

Kind regards,

Michael


Hi Michael,

Definitely not a good idea to wear a bag across the shoulder of a suit. Not only will you damage the material, but the suit will be pulled out of shape and you might damage the shoulder pad too.

There are loads of bags out there to consider. Men’s bags are extremely popular at the moment, which means there is a lot of choice.

The basic work bag is a softer, more functional update of the briefcase: it zips up, has plenty of compartments and usually comes with both handles and a shoulder strap (for when you’re not wearing a suit). My favourite is the Courier Ruc Case from J Panther, but everyone has their own version – from Dunhill to Hermes.

That kind of bag will be suitable for any office, particularly in black, but can also be quite casual, if it’s in tan or another paler colour and has some texture to the leather.

The obvious alternative is a tote, which is much more casual. These range from the large, bucket-shaped style (try Lotuff) to more practical, compact and compartmentalised designs (try going to Trunk for a variety of Japanese versions). Other good places to browse are Opumo, which stocks J Panther and Sandqvist – a decent option for a much-cheaper bag – and the bridle leather bags at The Merchant Fox.

Going for canvas is a really good way to save money. But leather will age so much better, and remember that this is pretty much the best case you will ever have for spending a lot of money: it is the only thing you will use every single day.

Check out my article in How to Spend It for more details about quality.

And on your suits with the shine, I’m afraid there’s not much you can do. A little steam and brushing might bring the nap up a little, but otherwise it’s irreversible.

Simon
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Anonymous

Simon…the Courier Ruc is $990 and VBC1663 is over $2000 according to your FT article

1. Is the leather really that expensive, or are these guys charging 5-8x their manufacturing cost and we consumers are being ripped off because these are luxury brands?

2. Is Italian leather meant to be the best or can one not generalise? Which place does the best quality leather usually come from

3. How can you tell hand stitch on some of these high end bags…because the stitches look so neat like they are done by machine!

Many thanks

PS fan

Baron Verdigris

A few years ago, I used a Mandarina Duck bag of some sort – I can’t remember the name and I think it’s discontinued. A lot of their bags are essentially made of plastic (but with some details in leather/suede and some with a full leather exterior), and I’m sure made somewhere out in the Far East. But despite all of this I find that their bags/”briefcases” strike a great balance between being soft/casual and formal/smart enough for the office. I also discovered Piquadro recently – an Italian company who use leather (soley and/or with other materials) to make some rather nice look bags. But made here in Britain, the Cherchbi bags are pretty elegant.

Anonymous

Simon, thank´s for the good advice. As always.

I´m only exceptionally required to follow a strict dress code at work, but want to dress smarter, partly inspired by your blog. Moving away from jeans and shirt plus some sort of sports outerwear to shirt, jacket and occasionally suits, I correctly suspected that hanging my leather messenger bag across the chest ruins jackets/blazers, in addition to regional wear of the pants.

I´m therefore searching for some contemporary briefcase, preferably in tan, cognac or some other rather pale leather. The J Panther Courier Ruc Case is interesting since it could also be carried as a ruck sack, which would be practical when bike commuting, or when the hands needs to be free for some other reason. I understood that you also use it when biking, is this something which is acceptable while wearing some sort of jacket/suit or would it ruin the jacket? On a side note, doesn´t biking on its own ruin the pants of the suit such that it should be avoided, if possible, when wearing suits? Would you wear some “sacrificial” cheap pants when biking and then change at work?

If biking and/or ruck sack carrying with jackets and suits should be avoided in any case, I might be better off with something along the lines of Dunhills Bladon or Bourdon, which seem slightly less bulky and a tad smarter, the 50 cm wide Courier Ruck Case seems unnecessarily large for my needs, but would fit the bill if I could wear it with suit while biking to work.

I´d be grateful for any input regarding biking, rucksacks and wear.

Best regards,
A

Michael

Hi Simon,
Thanks again for looking into this (I asked the original question).
I’ve followed up on your advice and visited the Dunhill store in Jermyn Street to start looking at the options.
One thing that struck me, and which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere yet, is that the Bourdon finish is apparently applied over suede leather and that after a while it tends to show through on wear points.
While it’s very smart, I thought I would mention this as I think it makes it an unlikely contender for your occasional “how great things age” pieces. I certainly can’t see it looking like your Dunhill pochette in a few years.
Just wanted to throw this out there to share with others, particularly in case I am misunderstanding the facts.
So far, I think that the Bladon you link to is my favourite option. The J Panther option is ingenious, but just sounds a bit too large to my mind. Sadly I can’t seem to find any London stockists where I can check this out…
Michael
PS – great piece on man bags in the FT this weekend. Seems I’m not the only one thinking about this…

Anonymous

Simon,

What are your thoughts on padding inside a bag? I found a small maker of bridle leather briefcases, all brass fittings, vegetable tanned english bridle leather with pig skin lining. That being said, the model I like comes with a small bit of padding in the bottom covered in fabric, to protect a laptop, etc. The maker says he is happy to leave this out. What do you think? Besides the fact that I don’t think I would ever carry a laptop, I see that as piece that could wear out, where this wouldn’t be an issue if it was an exposed pig skin leather interior.

Christopher

Dear Simon,

recently I stayed in Florence for holiday. During my stay I visited the “scualo de cuoio”, a school for leather craftsmanship. Here you can see how different leather items are produced by traditional hand work. There is also the opportunity to buy bags, etc. and get it personalized with initial furnishing.
There is also information about the work of Stefano Bemer. As I am a follower of your blog, I know that you are once or twice a year in Florence during Pitti Uomo, so it could be worth to visit the school during your next stay.

Sincerely,
Christopher

Ahmad

Hello Simon,

I am considering buying a briefcase and a particular bag has caught my eye from smythson. Are you familiar with the brand? If you are do you get value for money? Thank you

Ronnie

Hi Simon,

Currently looking for a back pack myself. I feel it is not the most stylish item, but I think it is highly functional and I prefer it over something like a tote bag when having to either travel a bit longer or pack more stuff.

I usually go out the door in ‘smart casual’ wear, meaning a (striped) shirt, sometimes a blazer but most of the time a thin jacket like a bomber, some chino’s, a pair of loafers or white sneaks.

Do you know a few brands and if possible specific back pack models that go nice with this and are functional?

Kind regards,

Ronnie

Jeane

Hi Simon,
Do you have any experience with the leather bags from Ruitertassen? I particularly like their writer’s bag https://shop.ruitertassen.com/product/sac-a-dos-cuir-avec-bandouliere-epaule/
Many thanks!