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,


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.