A professional tweed messenger bag?
April 16, 2013 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find a professional tweed messenger bag?

My wife is a non-traditional student, having gone back to finish her Bachelor's degree after I finished my doctorate. She's awesome, she's graduating this May, and she's planning to go to graduate school. She loves all thing academic and professorial. I was planning to get her a leather messenger bag* (something like this but more Indiana Jones) as a graduation gift, something relatively large for books and papers and a small laptop. Then I realized that my $200-$250 budget could maybe go farther if I considered bags not made out of cows, and I remembered how much she also loves tweed.

Has anyone seen a tweed/wool messenger style bag that's well-constructed, can hold a good amount, and looks professional in my budget? She's not into the bike bag look, (I love my Chrome bag but she doesn't). Google has shown me something called "Head Porter" bags that she might dig, though I can't find them for sale anywhere, and has also convinced me to buy a new pair of tweed Vans for myself.

I'm still willing to consider leather bags if anyone has any great ideas. Bonus if I can see the bag in person in Southern Maine, (I live in Portland, just down the road from LL Bean, which is why I was considering the bag I linked to). Also, nothing too conventially feminine, please. I'm not looking for a purse.

*Yes, I know bike messengers don't use these, but it's about the basic style, innit.
posted by monkeymadness to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think this Filson one is pretty neat.
posted by box at 5:52 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

etsy was made for questions like this!
posted by deanc at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2013

I have and really like this bag in herringbone wool. The same company makes a messenger bag in the same material.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:57 PM on April 16, 2013

Harris Tweed Messenger Bag - $69

Gray Herringbone Tweed Bag - $209

Fossil Brand Tweed and Leather - Ebay Auction

Google Shopping tab got me those results.

However I would also suggest you search for a Canvas messenger bag. For me, personally I would like the ability to clean it easily if it was something I dragged around every day. Canvas is much easier to clean than wool or tweed, and can have a similar look.

(Also you said more "Indiana Jones" which canvas definitely is)

LL Bean Sun washed Canvas Bag - $75

Olive LL Bean Messenger Bag - $139

Also if you like the leather, more often they have canvas mixed with leather. Try Etsy, Amazon, Ebay, and Google Shopping tab.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came in here to suggest Filson too. The Rugged Twill Messenger Bag and Medium Field Bag (also in Wool) are both nice, but I'd suggest going with the Original Briefcase or Briefcase Computer Bag (same but 2" thicker, for a great carrying capacity). More professional looking, and since they'll last easily a decade, will last through grad school and well into her professional career. Any of them are highly water resistant and have essentially a lifetime warranty.* And, most of their things, including bags, are made in Seattle. I have the Briefcase Computer Bag as my daily carrier and it's wonderful—I don't think I could be happier with a bag.

$225-$275 isn't cheap, but I paid $120 for a twill J.Crew bag that died in a year. Twice that for a Filson that will last for 10 or 20 (seriously—go search on Styleforum and elsewhere for "I've had my Filson for 15 years" stories) is a far better bargain any way you slice it. Don't mess with that Jack Threads or Etsy stuff; go for something that would essentially work for timber cruisers in 1900.

And it looks like there's one dealer in MaineKittery Trading Post.

*The Filson warranty is "We guarantee every item purchased from us. No more, no less. Your satisfaction is the sole purpose of our transaction." They've had the same since 1897.
posted by The Michael The at 6:09 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rickshaw Bagworks in SF make beautiful bags and they have some lovely herringbone tweeds to pick from. They don't sell them in stores afaik, but their stuff is great. I own a convertible backpack from them and the craftsmanship is superb; all those details that I never would have thought of (light colored interior, key fob, velcro-backed magnet strips to put over the velcro for when you want a quiet release, water resistant, removable laptop sleeve!)

Nthing etsy, particularly this bag. I don't own one, but man, when i get a job, I sure as heck will! Or, maybe one of these from Stash?
posted by absquatulate at 6:15 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Nau heavy canvas messenger bag in medium gray that looks a lot like tweed. Looks like the one on their site right now for sale is "earth" and it looks more brown in color.
posted by mathowie at 6:21 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The Filsons look great, thanks. Crystalinne, I did spend quite a bit of time on Google shopping and found a lot of great bags, but unfortunately most are deep enough for a laptop and little else. Otherwise that Fossil would be perfect. Also, my wife is not a fan of canvas bags. I am, though, and those are nice.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:50 PM on April 16, 2013

Maybe you can expand search terms to "Cross Body Bags" or "Cross Body Purses." Some ladies purses are much wider and deeper than messenger bags.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:39 PM on April 16, 2013

Also, consider that if she really needs room for books, paper, laptop and misc stuff this bag is going to get very heavy, put a lot of strain on her back and that being full with heavy things all the time will reduce the life of even a quality bag. I love the idea but make sure she really does need that extra space going forward, especially if you're looking for an investment piece.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:06 AM on April 17, 2013

No idea what counts as professional looking - but for a messenger bag in true Harris tweed you want Trakke.
posted by Hobo at 1:14 AM on April 17, 2013

Brady, a UK company, made the bag the Ben Affleck character uses in Argo. They makes bags in canvas as well as tweed. They are very well made and will last. I use mine (canvas) for work and play and have used it to take a laptop + other essentials as my airline hand luggage before.

I have also previously recommended Millican, another UK company. Not tweed, but canvas. More modern, and also lovely.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:31 AM on April 17, 2013

I like this Obey bag and this one from Fossil.
posted by MsMolly at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: Head Porter bags are truly lovely, but definitely not in your price range.

Seconding koahiatamadl; tweed isn't a material that lends itself well for an everyday bag. I think a laptop/document sleeve would be a more practical and useful gift. Rickshaw and Filson have excellent options available.
posted by evoque at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2013

I've always lusted after Jack Spade men's messengers (even though I am a woman). The quality is amazing, and they definitely have that vibe you are describing. Here are some choices that I think are right up your alley: one, two, three, four.
posted by rada at 10:15 AM on April 17, 2013

Leather bags are so heavy, even small ones! I used a leather messenger bag for a while and it was so heavy I ended up having to replace it with a big backpack (and I don't like backpacks either, or Chrome bags for that matter). My husband carried it around for me with no problems, or at least no complaints, and he's a small guy. If I got my bag as a gift I'd still be lugging it around. Bags are so personal. It's like trying to buy someone a pair of shoes. Can you go shopping with her? She's the only one who's going to be able to tell you if the shoes pinch.

That said, my backpack is tweed/herringbone. It's not what I'd choose to carry if all bags were equally comfortable (I like messenger bags), but I can't even describe to you what a relief it's been to use a lighter bag with two straps. I feel free. This is it.

Not really my thing at all, and probably not your wife's thing either, but it's the bag I reach for when I need to carry dozens of books around (i.e. during finals). Although I'm considering replacing it with more understated backpack in black with no logos, just because my herringbone bag matches/clashes with my tweed/herringbone coat. You don't mention what sort of coat your wife has. That's something else to consider.

This is a long comment and not really an answer to your question but in my experience heavy bags don't get used and even small guys underestimate bag weight. Unless you're planning to include bag lugging services as part of the gift, you might want to give her the gift of including her in the process. Although if she's like me she'll choose the nicer looking bag and then never use it. Don't spend too much until she knows what she needs!

I guess if you guys have a car, or if she's unusually big or strong or something, then none of this is an issue.
posted by 4bulafia at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for the help. There is loads more out there than I knew about. I would jump on that Filson bag if it was less expensive. I'm also marking evoque's comment because now I want a Rickshaw for myself, although it's not my wife's style. I haven't decided on anything yet, but this has all been really helpful.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:24 AM on April 18, 2013

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