Swing into Spring with our pick of the most stylish luxury bags for men
The best luxury bags for men don’t shout slick style, they murmur best in class. It is too disheartening to see a man lugging a sagging nylon monstrocity on his shoulder, or even worse the legion of distinctly dodgy rucksacks that appear to inflict themselves on the less fortunate.
Cast off the shackles of mass produced shoulder sacks and make a resolution; to carry only the best. It will last longer, look better and serve its purpose with grown up style.
Nothing spoils the cut of a suit more effectively than sagging trousers caused by bulging pockets. While the briefcase is often considered too formal now, there are excellent alternatives for the man with kit, be it a copy of The Field or an iPad. Carefully sourced materials coupled with top-grade craftsmanship offer a portable piece of everyday luxury. From a messenger bag to a satchel or a soft briefcase, the best will be one you buy and hand on.
The Merchant Fox prides itself on selling only the best of British, inspired by traditional designs. “We believe there is good heritage and excellent traditional skills in Britain, which could be lost if not supported,” says Joanna Neades from the company.
This ethos extends to the sturdy, elegant, Dart oak-bark tanned leather bag (£980). An exquisite piece, the messenger-style bag holds a 15in laptop and is made entirely in Britain. Ideal for town or country, it flits seamlessly from board meeting to country market.
Each bag is made by hand in Devon and the leather is tanned at the last remaining oak-bark tannery in the country. The two-year process is an encouraging example of sustainable British luxury. The Merchant Fox‘s emphasis on British manufacturing is heartening, with everything from brass buckles to strap made here.
British craftsmanship has always been the hallmark of Swaine Adeney Brigg‘s covetable leather goods. In traditional London Tan bridle leather, its Lombard laptop case (£1,385) perfectly complements the well-dressed chap. Each bag is created by a single craftsman at the firm’s workshops in East Anglia.
The Lombard has a padded interior lined with sueded pigskin and can be embossed with up to four initials.
Croots England‘s Westminster range is also made from English bridle leather, vegetable tanned and finished with wax from one of the few remaining tanneries in Northamptonshire. The company provides the off-duty shooter with a brace of options.
The messenger bag (£535) echoes the brand’s country antecedents with solid brass swivel clips and webbing straps; a well-priced investment. The laptop bag (£535) is also pleasingly timeless in design. Both are produced at the Croots England factory in Malton, North Yorkshire.
“Our city range is less than a year old,” says director Allistair Croot, whose father-in-law started producing cartridge bags and luggage more than 35 years ago. “We wanted to design a range of classic products that the shooter who carries our cartridge bag wants to use during the week. The whole range is very classic in style and functional in use,” he explains.
Aspinal of London‘s version of the messenger bag, the Cavalry messenger bag (£495) is handmade in Europe in cognac leather lined with stone suede or black leather lined with cobalt-blue suede. The webbing strap boasts a regimental stripe and it closes magnetically, retaining an informal look without buckles or brass ware.
Millican, based in the Lake District, names its practical bags after its friends. Stewart the courier bag (£150) derives from the original messenger bag. Made from organic, weatherproof canvas and vegetable-tanned leather, Stewart is available in slate green and antique bronze. One can’t help but feel a little bit like Hemingway with one grasped in (tanned) hand. It is a combination of rugged traveller and classic British heritage.
Enough room for a 17in laptop, with roll-top entry and multiple pockets, its one of Millican‘s most popular shoulder bags. “It’s great as a work bag but also loved by photographers and for travel adventures, made using heavy-duty canvas and designed to last,” says co-founder Nicky Forbes.
Barbour‘s leather Tarras (£200) is a soft bag that also retains an informality, although its various finishes (waxed cotton £100 and wax and leather £120) make it suitable for everything, in and out of the City. The style is from Barbour’s archive.
Originally a gamebag, its waterproof lining has been replaced by Barbour tartan so laptop, tablet and mobile phone replace fur, feather and fin. It is a deft solution, and the full-grain texture of the leather will patinate and look even better after it’s had a bit of wear.
For a more business-like look, the Robertson Jessel black leather briefcase (£520) in tumbled leather is a good all-rounder. Available in black, brown and tan, the bags are made in Andalucía, Spain. “The region is extremely famous for producing the finest leather goods,” says director Sean Stokes.
The briefcase is handmade and, “like the best friendships, gets better with age”, he says. “Generally a customer will make such an investment once in their life and they expect it to last. We are proud to say that with a bit of TLC now and again our bags will.” A sophisticated companion, it is a reliable classic.
The leather satchel offers more casual luxury but still holds a great deal of charm for the man about town.
The best are hard-wearing, authentically made and practical. The Cherchbi Norwich (named for the wartime acronym) satchel L, Herdwyck (£345) is made in Britain and uses 100% Herdwyck wool tweed. A unique British style, this vintage-inspired satchel is one to covet.
Dunmore Scotland‘s founder Diane Ness is keen to promote all things Scottish. “The inspiration behind our bags is to produce vibrant, quality textiles that harness all that’s good about Scotland,” she says. “We make 90% of our products in Scotland and 10% south of the border.”
The Kelso (£259), part of the 10% made in England, is best for flying your country credentials in town. Made from canvas and tweed, it is available in green- or brown-check Harris tweed. The Brodie (£320) is a handmade classic satchel in chocolate-brown leather, produced by a small, family-owned business in Scotland and is “the understated connoisseur’s choice”, says Ness.
“My uncle started leather crafting in the Sixties, and we started specialising in satchels after being asked to make some for a private school,” says Keith Hanshaw of the Leather Satchel Co. All of the bags are made in Liverpool, in one of the few remaining workshops in the country. “Workshops that work with heavy leather are now few and far between.”
The company offers a tempting range of customisation. From its website you can commission a leather satchel in one of five sizes and 18 colours, or a variety of day-glo or patent leather. A racing-green satchel is hard to beat for cutting a dash, although patent oxblood or tan with blue customisation could both do the trick. Prices start at £80.
There was a time, of course, when carrying parcels in town was considered a faux pas. Today, with our indispensable battery of mini computers, we have no choice. But if we are going to be burdened, we might as well be burdened in style.
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