The cartridge bag: A small eccentricity

Friday, March 31st 2023
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Over the past few months, I’ve been enjoying wearing this vintage cartridge bag as an occasional day bag - for when I don’t need to carry a computer or other bulky things. 

It started when a reader asked about a crossbody bag he could carry to work. My initial reaction was to suggest that he shouldn’t - that it wouldn’t look that smart (he was dressing smartly) and would damage whatever clothes sat underneath the strap, being rubbed at constantly. 

I stand by that advice - I think men tend to revert to a backpack or similar out of functionality and even laziness, and once they have the freedom of both hands, find it hard to go back. 

We should guard against prioritising functionality too highly. It can be a slippery slope that leads to the abandonment of much that is pleasurable in clothing, certainly elegant clothing. We end up with a short, lifeless, plastic coat rather than a long, stylish woollen one. 

However, this doesn’t mean that a bag worn on the shoulder can’t be good or look good. It’s just a lot better if it’s lightweight - so not shortening the life of the coat underneath - and fits with the required formality. 

I wear this old cartridge bag mostly with my raglan coats. Worn with the grey-herringbone donegal above, it seems to have a similar level of casualness, and be sympathetic in terms of craft and texture. 

In the bag I carry an assortment of small items: phone, wallet, keys, headphones, hat, notebook, pen. Perhaps a little snack. Most could go in the pockets of a coat, but it would struggle to contain them all, and it’s nice not to have all those pockets all filled. 

The only thing that occasionally makes it back into the coat is my phone, just because these days it is out so frequently: to pay for the train, to buy a coffee, to check the train times, to send a message, to check the calendar etc. 

The cartridge bag can actually swing round very easily, and be accessed on the chest. The flap is designed for that - when used for shooting, it would sit open under the arm to give ready access to the cartridges. 

But the frequency with which I need my phone makes even this a little too fussy. And I’m not about to adopt the street-style look of wearing a bum bag (for the American audience, fanny pack) across my chest the whole time. 

I have worn the bag with a tailored coat, like my Ciardi ulster below. That works OK, though only with the collar up and I wouldn’t do so with a smarter coat, like a navy or charcoal. 

With more rural outerwear like the Wax Walker, the bag is almost too on the nose, and it doesn’t work with something more rugged like a horsehide jacket

So it’s not proving that versatile; not something for that reader that wanted an everyday workhorse. But as an accessory, an interesting alternative in an age when casualisation has robbed us of so many accessories, I think it’s nice, and certainly practical. 

There’s no shortage of old and new cartridge bags out there. Most hunting-related companies make one, and they differ in terms of materials rather than design. 

Vintage ones can be picked up on eBay for £40 or £50, though the cheap ones are often in split, coated leathers that look very plasticky. Watch for one that has attractive signs of age, without actually falling apart. Linings are often the first things to go. 

Being the leather nerd that I am, I wanted one in traditional pigskin and solid brass, at the perfect point of having a beautiful patina but still all its stitching. I also wasn’t prepared to wait months for the right one to come up on eBay.

For all these things I know I have to pay, and Bentley’s had the perfect one. It cost me over £400, but I knew I’d value everything I was paying for, and I could find a good home for it if the style didn’t work out. 

This model was not just beautiful in its patina, with subtle variety of texture and colour on every side, but it also had an unusually wide strap - which to my eye looks more masculine. The strap does have an oil stain, but I’ve since spoken makers that could remake it at some point if I wished. 

On the subject of masculinity, I find it interesting how much more rugged this bag feels than the handbags offered by many women’s brands, despite them being a similar shape. It can only be a matter of the materials and their evident use - tough things used in a rough manner - yet it feels so different.

The other association is of course shooting, which I have no interest in and don’t especially like. But a casual survey so far has found that people only have that association if they are familiar with country pursuits, and others just assume it is related to some kind of outdoors activity, as likely fishing as hunting. 

It may well be that in years to come, I look back at this little experiment and shake my head indulgently. 

I’ve been doing this long enough now to know such things can be exciting in the moment - because they’re new, because they’re different - but for those very same reasons don't last. I’d put things like my Baudin glasses, my Corthay Wilfrids and an Hermes Twilly into that category. 

But so far so good. The bag is beautiful (try taking something like this into a leather atelier and see how they pore over it). It doesn’t have the weight of responsibility of being a daily item, more an occasional one. And it’s not big or bright or showy, unlike those Wilfrids. Just a little eccentric.  

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Nice bag. Now I wear glasses my pockets are overflowing – especially if I want to take some sunglasses out with me. Whereabouts did you pick it up?


Gosh – yes, sorry. More caffeine required..!!

Peter Hall

Looks great. Another alternative is an old style school satchel. I have my bumf in it.


Beautiful bag.

I might be concerned about a skilful thief flipping it when worn behind though, after all designed for easy access on a wet and windy moor!


Firstly your quote ….
“We should guard against prioritising functionality too highly. It can be a slippery slope that leads to the abandonment of much that is pleasurable in clothing, certainly elegant clothing.”
This is sheer stoic thinking and beautifully written.

I think women have it right . They’ve taken an item of functionality , the handbag, and turned it into an item of style .
I’ve been thinking for a while of getting a bag that would allow me to store my wallet , keys , laptop etc.
It needs to be able to be worn in a multitude of ways (across the shoulder , around the back , held in the hand ) to allow for getting on and off public transport but look smart when walking into meetings .
Not too bulky and large enough to fit an 16inch Apple Mac and it’s charger .
But there’s nothing out there.

Carl Friedrik does some amazing stuff but it’s all handheld and like most men I’m afraid anything handheld will be put down and forgotten when leaving a train , cafe shop etc .

There’s a real gap in the market and it would be great to hear if readers know if anything out there.


Not a luxury heritage brand, but it does the job.


Perhaps something like this briefcase from Frank Clegg?


Try Bleu de Chauffe, they offer a nice range of colours and sizes. My husband has two of the Louis satchels (in black and a now discontinued coffee coloured wax leather) and uses them during the weekend for keys, phone, sunnies and the like. Good quality as well for the price, on par with my older style Mulberry bags.


Try Mutsaers:
I‘ve been using the classic laptop bag daily for a year and the quality is excellent. There’s no international delivery on the website but I got in touch via insta and they arranged it.
Bennett Winch is also worth a look.


Have you considered Tusting’s clipper? – It should meet your stated requirements perfectly.


Try Bennett Winch. They have leather and canvas styles that can be used over the shoulder or held in the hand. Quality is excellent, had mine for years.


Nice! I still have an almost identical one from my Grandfather, but it has a net to carry the game you hunt. The net is tied with 2 small buckles so you can take it off. I used to carry it when I used to go hunting with my grandfather, maybe I’ll wear it again.


This strucks a cord with me. I always carry a small messenger bag, wearing the strap only on one shoulder and not over my head. Similar

My reason for this is simple: While I would rather not have the bag, I need it to hold everything in (wallet, phone, second business-phone, keys, concert-tickets, etc). I especially don’t like putting things like that in my pants or jacket pockets – which are always empty – because it bulges and then I also forget and lose things. So for me such a bag is a necessary evil.


Croots England’s Malton cartridge bag (now £365) has a very similar design in bridle leather – If someone here wants a bargain, William Evans in St James’s is selling it for only £219 – Croots offers a repair service so, with proper care, it should last lifetime.


I’ve realised that the Williams Evans bag has the cheaper “Bylands” leather but it’s still good VFM.

My cartridge bag (like all my holdalls and sporting bags) is from John Chapman in Carlisle - It’s made from Italian full grain leather and has a suede lining.


Hi Simon – lovely bag. But what’s the pen that also features in the photos? (I know from previous articles that you’re a man who likes a nice pen).


Beautiful bag. I think I would find this incredibly useful when a bigger bag would be too much, particularly as I hate carrying keys in pockets.


Hi Simon,
Once again you really nail a look. Great idea, but for me the bag is a little small and tends towards a handbag (nothing wrong with that BTW) possibly because it reminds me a little of a Mulberry bag in the pictures. You do however make it look masculine as a potentially effective if less secure alternative to bulking out your pockets.
Fully agree on backpacks which ruin clothes and look out of place with all but the most technical sportswear. . Also quite often carelessly antisocial on public transport.
Have a good weekend

Jack Williams


A nice bag indeed. I have three “shell” bags that I use in different situations. A Duluth Pack in tan canvas and leather for dresser outfits, a leather one for birding, it just fits my bird book and binoculars, and my favorite, a Duluth Pack, all canvas, that I carry constantly with my sketch book and pencils. It is 50 years old, beautifully stained with ink spots. I had it repaired recently by Duluth. They said repairs would cost more than a new one, but that of course I wanted the memories and history that went with the bag, Photographs of soldiers in the American Civil War show all of them carrying such a bag – they were called “haversacks” as in half a pack. I recommend your younger readers get a new leather one and create their own patina and memories through a life lived and burdens carried.

Jack Williams


Sounds very nice. I think the word haversack comes from the Dutch haverzak which means oats bag, a back filled with oats and strapped around a horse’s head so it can help itself

Graham Morgan

I do find this to be quite an unusual look and in an urban setting, don’t see how you escape looking like a guy with a handbag. I certainly wouldn’t have the confidence to pull that off!


I’m not sure by normal standards it is particularly rugged other than for the width of the strap and then there becomes a proportionality of it -v- your own breadth. My TikTok feed of late has been full of Coach ads with people, of a wide spectrum of potential genders, declaring on what they keep in their daily bag.

I’m not concerned about carrying it for fear of it being seen as a handbag, have no issue with that, but I dont carry enough things with me daily to warrant a bag unless I am also carrying my laptop.

A little surprised you accepted the oil stain given your comment about paying a premium for it. Any strap can be replaced but feels to go well beyond the normal “patina”

Adam S

I often carry a tote (Frank Clegg) in lieu of a backpack. It’s very practical unless you require both hands to do something.

Rod the mod

Interestingly I’m not a fan. Why not? Feels to me that the shape and style make it look like a ladies bag. And the size makes it seem a bit fussy (nothing wrong with wearing ladies accessories btw but it’s not my thing). Interesting that it’s a cartridge bag which, I would guess to those who know their bags, makes it on the opposite end of the spectrum to handbag. I can see it’s highly functional but, as you say, “we should guard against prioritising functionality too highly”.


It was my first thought also. . Seinfeld episode with “It’s not a purse, it’s European” immediately came to mind. However, after I scrolled to the photo showing wide strap, I realized it’s actually very manly. And it looks great, and happens to be practical.

Peter K

“It’s not a purse, it’s a European carry all.”

Jack Williams


I find the cultural associations of your readers interesting. A well known photograph of civil war soldiers, backs to the photographer, lined along a fence, shows them all with cartridge bags. Some with two. Nothing could be more masculine. (Of course, they are all Union soldiers.) The use of these bags by women as hand bags is certainly of a much more recent time, and carries a bit of contemporary gender fluidity. There are other similar bags, messenger bags, map cases, etc. that have perhaps more universal associations. Regardless, I say go for it with confidence and without any fear. It looks good, is practical and shows you a man who can exist without a computer or notebook!

Jack WIlliams


Civil war soldiers using them to carry ammunition and supplies or carrying sunglasses and a snack?

Peter Hall

Military folk have carried the ubiquitous bread bag for centuries . A modern equivalent would be a gamekeepers bag. In waxed cotton it would be a nice addition -if you don’t mind the rural associations .

Bradley Tompkins

Looks great….I think the rugged leather and the width of the strap is the key….I carry a Filson tote bag that is sometimes too big for the cause, this is a great alternative.



A vintage leather cartridge bag made me immediately imagine a WWII military soldier’s equipment. However I didn’t read any connection to military or Army or WWII, etc. Is the cartridge aspect referring to a hunter?



Hi – I’ve had a Barbour version of a cartridge bag for years- perfect in wet weather too. As I now always carry a 500ml water bottle, if I’m not using a shopping bag, (I’m female), I’ve moved to something bigger. Their large “fishing” bag, like a satchel is good –


Some of these suggestions above are great; if you want to spend thousands of dollars/pounds/etc. How about something functional and a lot less expensive. From ‘House of Bauer Scotland’.


We should guard against prioritising functionality too highly.”
For any blog that doles out fashion advice, there’s a tendency to dictate the reader’s values. It always comes off distastefully to me. Even if I agree, I’m not reading to be told what I should prioritize. Do the hard work of laying out the tradeoffs in a detailed analysis and respect the reader enough to let him make his own choices. Or at least keep the normative statements to the first person.


I don’t read PS for what it recommends. If that’s all that it were it’d be no different from a GQ article or a Ralph Lauren catalogue. PS’ value to me is in the information it provides regarding, in particular, what attributes an item has, why it has those attributes, and who produces items with these attributes. Whether or not a particular attribute matters to me specifically I can decide for myself. I don’t need to be indoctrinated into the cult of menswear.


Hi Simon,

I feel you should carry on just as you are in terms of infusing your writing with these sorts of personal opinions. They are an important element of what prevents your (enjoyable) highly detailed, informative “technical” writing from lacking “warmth”.

Not sure if other readers would agree but for me as a long term reader it is surely your personal “soul” that raises the temperature of the whole thing from “incredibly interesting” to “yes but what does Simon think”. It is quite possibly one reason readers keep coming back to the blog and that same personal mark is suffused throughout your products too, making me a regular PS Shopper also.

And of course, as with the rest of your blog any reader is free to pick and choose which elements they want to agree with – or not.

Just my tuppence worth.



I think the debate here is half the fun.


I agree with JJ here. Ultimately, I look for clothes that suit my lifestyle rather than the opposite. Also, note that a satchel can cause issues on your back if you carry too much (for example a laptop).


Not a fan of the shape of this bag. Looks like a woman’s purse. The leather has a good patina though.

Michael Powell

I’ve been carrying a casual bag (cross body) for about three years; olive waxed-canvas and dark brown leather. My EDC is everything you take, plus a travel toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s smaller size works much better for me than the briefcases, computer bags or camera bags I carried for decades. It’s from a company called NutSac.


hi simon:
great look as usual. wondering about the size of this item, either inches/cm, or capacity?
Many thanks.



I would like to see a(n updated?) post on purchases that haven’t survived in the long run and why. As you mention in this post.



Well you can’t get one at Equus Leather. They appear to have closed their doors.


Beautiful bag simon, im struggling finding a casual daily bag that doesnt look like a bankers briefcase. Do you have any brand recommendations? Something that can be carried with the handles and with a strap and can carry a laptop




I think this veers into pretension and sadly smells very highly of inauthenticity.


What about this is pretentious or inauthentic? It’s basically a small satchel, Simon’s not pretending to be a hunter or shooter?


I think this makes quite a bit of sense and is very practical; but as a devoted shooter and hunter, I would feel rather odd carrying my belongings around town in a cartridge bag. But I love seeing them and I hope it gets traction.

Peter K

I like it. I imagine the wide strap helps with minimizing any damage to clothing underneath.

Tom Wambsgans

All I can really say in favour of the cartridge bag is that it manages not to be ludicrously capacious.


Ever since Uni, I’ve been rather partial to a canvas tote bag for my everyday accoutrements. I’ll admit, it was quite trendy a couple of years ago, and that’s what got me into it. But even now as a recent graduate, I find it fits my needs. I feel like it can tell a little bit about one’s personality as well (whether it’s one from Daunt Books, Shakespeare Company, or even Unicef like mine), which I find rather charming. Sure, it’s not terribly elegant (and it’s extremely common now too), but I like to think there is a dash of elegance in its nonchalance, especially when done with intention.

Curious to know what you think! Cheers Simon

Joe P

The bag, but the top pic especially, reminds me of this great shot of Samuel Beckett at the NPG: Have always loved the rumpled literary elegance of it.


Robert Spangle makes a great bag for this sort of purpose:


Fair enough! It does lean more “military” inspired.

Roger Dunham

This bag is designed for photography and is highly function for those that practice “street shooting ” with Leica M cameras . No longer would I carry the tan version due to the attention it would draw but the black bag looks promising . This is a very specific application and I can see the great functional details .
The key dimension for my applications is the width . If you spend a lot of time on the streets (as I used to do ) …you don t want a bag that is 3 inches but rather something between 1 1/2 and 2 .
For EDC the cartridge bags look great and I will try my VINTAGE version once it arrives .


Literally seconds after posting my “thumbs down” post to the Squarzi Capsule along comes a gem of an article. I think this bag looks great and, like you say, it’s quite surprising that it looks nothing like a women’s bag even though perhaps technically it should.
(not so sure about the wide strap, but certainly not a show stopper)

Thumbs up!


Hi Simon, will you use it in spring/summer? I thought this type of bag look better with heavy weight outerwear.

Hammarström Peter

I have my cartridges in it.

Erik Karlsson

Interesting bag.
But I would not share a photo of a key, someone could use it to make a copy.


This could have been ‘tailor-made’ for me: PMM!

Ferdinand Otto Von Galen

Hi Simon,
I love the idea! I have a few of them inherited from my father. I saw you have a Moleskine style notebook in the bag with a leather cover. What kind is it and where can I find one?
Thank you.

Ferdinand Otto Von Galen

Thank you, Simon. I will see if I can find a vintage one somewhere.


Hey! Lovely article but I couldn’t scoot past on of your points. What are you gripes with your Corthay Wilfreds? I read your linked article and found the shoes to be ravishing.

William O'Dowd

I read your article and liked the look and the utility of the bag. I purchased an E Jeffries leather shot gun bag from Countryantiquesfinds in Scotland and await the items arrival in the next week or so.

Roger Dunham

After reading this I went on a mission to find a bag like this . Searching ebay I finally found a pigskin version of the original . It should be here soon . Two questions :

  1. Do you have any recommendations for cleaning or moisturizing pigskin ??
  2. Have you found any replacements for your damaged strap ? I have been considering buying a 2nd bag with a better strap and swapping my strap out .

Maybe it’s a generational thing, or I’m just the minority, but I very rarely use jacket/coat pockets for my phone, and never my bag. It goes into my left trouser pocket 99% of the time.


Simon – just revisiting this from a few weeks ago. I love the patina on the old pigskin but I have a couple of questions if I may.

How do you find the opening of the cartridge bag? ie, the rounded opening at the top that is typical of this type of bag but which doesn’t extend across the entire width. Is it less practical than an outdoorsy bag (say a Filson) with a more normal opening?

I would also be very interested to see you revisit this after a few more months and give your impressions. I can imagine either that you’ve found it incredibly practical and something you can’t do without, or you decide that it was a bit of a fad (too much like a handbag or whatever).


Thanks for the response. As for the question about your thoughts once you’ve used it for a while, I wonder the same about your small Dunhill clutch-type bag that you wrote about in the earlier days of this website. Again, a really beautiful bag, and in some ways highly practical for carrying small items (pen, glasses, keys, phone), but perhaps a bit limited stylistically.