Frank Clegg leather tote

  
I first got to know Frank Clegg five years ago, back when the company was still Lotuff & Clegg.

I bought a beautiful leather tote bag in 2011 – and have continued to recommend it ever since

Unfortunately Joe Lotuff, who I interviewed at the time, fell out with Frank and the two halves of the company went their separate ways.

Lotuff bags are now sold online and in a few shops, but I (and most people I know) have stuck with Frank Clegg – the manufacturer and the designer of most of the styles both companies sell. 

It’s been great to see how the company has gone from strength to strength ever since. Clegg bags are sold by most of the specialty shops we love: The Armoury, Leather Soul, Double Monk, Linnegatan and now – as of last weekend – the new Leatherfoot in Toronto.

They also just moved into a much bigger manufacturing facility in Massachusetts, increasing from 8,000 to 18,000 square foot. 
  

Frank Clegg leather backpack

Frank Clegg suede tote

  
In England there is a strong tradition of bag making, but all derived from the saddlery industry – and therefore focused around heavy, oily bridle leathers and chunky hardware. Italy and France, by contrast, usually produce bags in treated and printed leathers, with flimsy zamac. 

For me the sweet spot is half way in between: natural, veg-tanned leather with minimal brass hardware. Simple, functional designs, with all the focus on the beauty of the materials. Which is what Clegg makes. 

I often talk on Permanent Style about the finest examples of leather goods – often hand-sewn, with multiple rounded layers of inking down the seams. It’s what you’ll get from Hermes, or the top-end Dunhill line. 

This is the luxury side of the market, and continues to be what I recommend for those than can afford it. But it’s a very narrow and expensive area – for the majority of men out there, Frank Clegg is the perfect marriage of quality and value. 

(I would also put Filson into that bracket, as I’ve written previously. But you have to love the canvas more than leather, and that canvas makes the Filson bags less formal in general.)

 Frank Clegg commtuer briefcase2Frank Clegg commuter briefcaseFrank Clegg duffel bag2

  
Clegg’s
Zip-Top Briefcase or Commuter Briefcase (above, top) are in many ways the perfect modern work bags. Smart enough to go with a suit, yet casual enough for a creative in knitwear and jeans, their versatility comes from a simple design and subtle tumbled grain leather. 

I know how well that leather ages because I’ve seen it on my tote over the past five years (pictured below). It will scratch, but then rub into the texture of the bag.

If you were obsessive enough, you could track your time with the bag in these little nicks and scrapes, which gradually bed down into tiny tonal variations.

The duffel bag (above, bottom) is the same aesthetic again, with Frank’s signature angled ends to the straps. Personally, I like all these pieces unlined, so you can see the reverse of the hide as well. Just with the addition of leather inner pockets. 
  

Lotuff & Clegg  3

  
Back in January I had a long chat with Ian Clegg, Frank’s son, at Pitti Uomo. It was great to hear how positive he was, despite clearly some painful years in the past. 

“The move into new facilities will be great,” Ian said. “We have eight people working here at the moment but really need space for more.

“We also always look to take people on full time, and train them up to work with us long term. Unfortunately around Fall River a lot of the work is part-time, and it’s tough to get people to stay around on that basis.”

The area used to be a hub of manufacturing, but there are only a few factories left, mostly centred around clothing. “It’s hard trying to stay in the area when everything is leaving, but – fingers crossed – things are going in the right direction at the moment.” 
  

Clegg and Solito escorial jacket

  
The team are innovating, but slowly – expanding into backpacks, more totes and more women’s models as the market proves there is appetite for them.

But they’re not rushing or trying to grow too fast – as managers without a craft background tend to do. 

I look forward to using my tote for decades to come, and really want Frank Clegg Leatherworks to be around to help me look after it. 

You get a nice feel for Frank’s love of raw materials and leather in particular, in the Craft profile piece below:

 

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Dan

Very informative article! Unfortunately, I’m living in Southeast Asia, and carrying a full leather bag here can be cumbersome. Any chance of you having experience with Felisi bags? I’m looking for a smart, lightweight bag and most importantly it must be able to stand the wet weather.

Dave Carter

I used my Clegg bag in Thailand for several years in all weathers. A wonderful accessory.

Justin

Hi Simon, you have previously written about green as the third colour, what would you say about a Clegg travel duffle in green? Or would you rather advise chestnut/cognac for its versatility? Thanks!

Justin

Thank you for the advice, Simon! Makes sense! Just one follow-up question: Would you put Frank Clegg bags on the same level or above Bill Amberg in terms of quality? or are they just too different? Thanks!

Anonymous

Simon
1. Are tote bags acceptable for men or they a bit girly?
2. Would you go for dark brown or are tan and cognac doable too? Do they develop a better patina or do they get dirty more easily? Thanks

Michael K

Simon, This is fantastic, and when it’s time for a new briefcase, I’ll be choosing between Clegg and JPLC, whose stuff I also learned about from you. I wonder what your experience with JPLC bags aging has been? I’ve had my Aviator in brown leather for two years and it’s aged magnificently, absorbing nicks and scratches, and quite able to to the office and on long, technical hikes in foul weather. I’m torn between the JPLC Perfect Weekender and one of the Clegg duffles for overnight trips.

Anonymous

Great article as always – but I confess I started to focus on your jacket instead of the bags. Could you share what material that is? Looks fantastic.

Gordon

Hello there,

Great article as always.

I am looking to order a Frank Clegg Tall Tote Bag.

Will you recommend a unlined or lined version of it?
Also, for the colour, should I take Chesnut or Chocolate?

Thank you,
Gordon

Ted

Simon,

Interesting (and insightful) comparison between Frank Clegg and Hermes. Following your recent pieces on Chapal, I am wondering if there is a Frank Clegg in the leather apparel world, i.e. beautiful leather jackets constructed with quality veg-tanned leather and decent finishing, but without the unnecessary flourishes (like hand-stitched seams) that usually sink their customers neck-deep in diminishing-return?

I feel there’s currently a noticeable lack of ‘affordable’ leather jacket reviews on this site at the moment, in contrast with the other menswear staples; a gap to be filled, perhaps?

P.S. I don’t think the Followup subscription is working – I have yet a receive any notifications of your reply to any of my comments…

Ted

I’m afraid there was no notification for this one neither…

Kindly do us (or rather, me…) a little favour and reveal the names of the artisans/brands? Jacket season is coming, and now seems about the perfect time for a commission…

Ted

Thanks Simon, I’ll be waiting eagerly…

Mansy

Hi Simon

After seeing a number of articles on Frank Clegg bags and the excellent recent London photo series I’m going to take the plunge on a zip top briefcase in chestnut. Do you think pairing this with black/dark brown shoes is ok?

Thanks as always

PSNY

Hi Simon, how do you feel about the weight of the duffle bag? I have one just like it in chocolate bridal leather and find it to be a bit heavy. It also scratches easily, but as you said it sort of fades away and sort of becomes part of the bag.

Mike

Simon, which other brands (besides Hermès and Dunhill) are similar in quality, style and price?

Dan Gibbons

Hi Simon,

I’m currently looking to replace my old messenger bag which has lasted me a good ten years but is looking worse for wear. Based on what your articles a Frank Clegg bag seems like a wonderful investment. A question though, when you are picking a bag with the idea of it hopefully lasting 20+ years do you err on the side of it being slightly more formal or casual. I ask this because I bring my current bag everywhere and am stuck between choosing the English Briefcase or the Zip Top Briefcase. I currently work in a business casual environment but am only in my early thirties so formalities could rise if I move upward in my company. Would the English Briefcase be too formal on off days where I prefer to wear jeans and a button down shirt but still need to carry things around town?

calvin

Hello Simon. I am thinking about getting the Hampton zipper tote in black for office and for going out.
https://frankcleggleatherworks.com/hampton-zipper-tote.html

I have three questions for you.
1) Is the Hampton tote a classic style or a trend? I want something that will last years.

2) Would the Hampton tote be appropriate for both office and urban settings? I usually carry my headphones, Kindle and might use the tote as a weekend bag for clothes.

3) Would you recommend the zip top briefcase or the Hampton tote for my situation (e.g. to use in office and urban settings)? I am worried that the zip top briefcase might look a bit too formal with jeans and shirt.

Thank you so much.

calvin

Thank you Simon. Also what is your opinion of this backpack for office and urban settings. And what colour would work best? I am debating between chestnut, chocolate and black. Thanks again.

https://frankcleggleatherworks.com/classic-backpack.html

Jeffrey

Hi Simon,

Discovered your blog 3 months ago and have been reading historical posts since. I will be investing in some Frank Clegg pieces, first being the zip top briefcase. How important is it to match your leather carry to your shoes? I really like the Chestnut color for the briefcase but tend to wear dark brown oxfords most days (an even black more frequently than you).

Thanks!

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
How do you care for your leather bags? Do you polish them at all?

Anonymous

Would you waterproof them using something like sapphire invulner?

Anonymous

J panther ruc tote – Im eyeing this up based on your recommendation for them. In particular the black ventile version. How have you found yours? is it still in use?

Are there any alternatives? at 645$ with potentially import and long delivery time, Im looking for alternatives if you have any recommendation brands?

Thibault

Thanks for the great article. Just a remark: I tend to find the handles used on the Frank Clegg’s zip top briefcase kind of long. It reminds me more of the handles on a (hybrid) tote or duffle bag, than those on a briefcase. And it might make the overall look more feminine. Do you have any comment on, or experience with, those lenghty handles on briefcases?

John S

Hi Simon, just wondering if have you seen the English breifcase up close if so how does it compare with the zip top ? For my needs (inclement Auckland weather) it looks more practical albeit less minimalist in looks. Many thanks.

Stanley

Hi Simon

Do you think the bag is strong enough(especially the handle) to carrier a 15inch macbook pro?

Stanley

Hi Simon, im going to buy a ziptop at the Armoury. But again, the color question…

Im picking from Chestnut/Cognac, but what i consider is not the color that currently appear on the bag, but the color after few years usages, can you give me some advice

and yes, this is my first investment on a men’s bag

Stanley

Many thanks Simon, i totally agree the choose,

and i would like to pick round edge zip top rather than square edge, which the square edge give people a feeling of too aggressive (personal point of view)

Stanley

Actually i want the zip tote bag, i like tote bag with zip, but i think it is not enough space to store my 15 inch macbook pro , that why i switch to briefcase

Deepto

Simon

Another style based question. I am struggling to choose between the zip top (single) (the Obama bag) and the English briefcase (or the small lawyer case). I am a corporate lawyer who almost always wears suits to offices and meetings. I find the zip-top lovely and practical and sleek but the English briefcase is wonderfully traditional. Any suggestions? Also what do you think of the shrunken byson leather? It looks wonderful on the site and certainly seems to have more character than the tumbled or bridle leather.

Renee Bouvier

These bags have the quality leather and workmanship, but not the designs of the Spanish and Italian handbags like Loewe and Fontana Milano. There should be no problem for Mr. Clegg to design bags like the Italians and the Spaniards, and yet, they appear to be typical, dull, Puritan-type styles in lieu of the real Italian/French styles. When Americans do become adventurous, they go overboard. It appears to be one extreme to the next, although Coach managed for a while, but they sold out to corporate American and moved operations to China and quality down the toilet. Lotuff is closer to the European styles and the leather lining, but not quite there yet. Clegg is stuck in Coach Land, but without the Italian/Spanish/French styling. There, but there — or quite not yet there. Not every American wants to look like they walked out of Brooks Brothers. Many like the imported designer styles of Barney’s and Saks, but with the quality of American workmanship. Can’t the two marry — Massachusetts and Madison Avenue/Place de Concorde? The British bridle leather bags — some of getting it, but not all. Still no American or British version of Fontana Milano or Loewe. The Fontana Milano handbags are based on horseback riding equipment and saddle bags. They have created women’s handbags in various horseback riding motifs with gorgeous, sumptuous leathers and contrasts. By comparison, we Americans are not as creative. We like quality, but we also lack creativity, when it comes to designing a women’s handbag. A comparison: traditional English food like pot pies versus a fine Italian seafood cuisine. It’s like British versus Austrian pastries.

Bobby

Hi Simon, your tote bag featured here,
Is it the medium size or the larger working tote?
Also, what colour is it?

Thanks.

Bobby

Thanks Simon.

Sorry, is it the large working tote or signature working tote?

And unlined?

Thanks again.

Bobby

Ben

Hi SImon,

I’m stuck between which bag I want to get. Although I initially was enamored by the zip-top, and was considering getting it in black, I am hesitant in getting it solely based on the handle as I think it would appear very much like a purse. (if not now, at least in the future, and especially if I were to get it in black) As such, I have started looking at bags with more traditional briefcase handles, and am considering either the Lock Briefcase or the Birmingham briefcase in black. As I value your judgement on style, which do you prefer and/or which is more versatile? Thanks in advance.

Deepto

Hi – I actually bought the Zip Top (in camel). It’s a fantastic bag with super character. There’s nothing remotely purse- like about it.

Anonymous

I’m looking to upgrade my briefcase and I’m considering the Frank Clegg zip top briefcase. Aside from the quality of the make, the design is quite appealing – modern but not overly trendy or stylized.

Have you seen both the single and double gusset? (I’m ruling out the triple gusset because at that thickness, it would lose a lot in terms of elegance). The minimalist single gusset is probably the more formal and elegant option, but the double gusset might be slightly more practical. Do you think the double gusset is still an elegant bag? Which would you get? Thanks!

Aaron Daniels

Hi Simon,

Following up from my comments re briefcases the other day and reading through this article and many comments I’ve settled on the Frank Clegg commuter case in chocolate (I considered black but I only wear black shoes half the week and I’m a paralegal not a barrister). Do you know any UK retailers selling Frank Clegg besides Richard Gelding?

Aaron Daniels

I decided to contact Richard Gelding and ask if they had any plans to stock and they said they could order one for me, so that is an option for UK residents that wish to avoid duty fees.

Simon, what is your opinion on monograms on briefcases? I’m typically not a huge fan of visible ones but since it is embossed into the leather and it’s not something I wear per se I’m not sure if it’d come across as tacky or not.

Chris K

Hi Simon,

After looking at various offerings on the market, I’m convinced view that Frank Clegg offers the best value for me.

I already have a green Filson briefcase, which is great, intend to batter that around with little mercy over the next few decades, however, something a little more timeless and suit/jacket friendly has been on my radar for a while.

I think the commuter ticks all the boxes, the question on my mind is this however. Chestnut, or Chocolate (complimenting a cold colour wardrobe)? I know the difference isn’t exactly massive, especially considering this is veg tanned leather and it’s going to get much darker anyway, but I can’t help but feel the chestnut will end up as dark as the chocolate eventually anyway, but with more character/depth? If perhaps not as cold/bitter of a shade.

Curious to know, is your tote chestnut? It seems to have darkened already with all that depth, and I dare say give another 5 years and a bit of natural conditioner it’ll be darker still.

Chris K

Thanks Simon, that more or less settles it and you confirm my suspicions, that is, chocolate would ultimately be the most versatile, useful.

Ck