The eternal search for the perfect bag
April 14, 2015 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Nd a new laptop/everything bag that I can feel better about than the one I'm currently carrying. Myriad specs inside!

I've been carrying a light brown version of this, which was recommended by Metafilter, for approximately three years, and while I still like it, and it's served me well, I'm kind of done and would like an upgrade.

- soft weathered leather. (At the same time, the highly floppy internal structure of this bag drives me a little nuts because I'll have my laptop on one side and a clutch, keys, whatever on the other, and they are separated by a thin cotton pocket that holds bandaids, aspirin, tampax and that thin pocket is too flimsy to divide the two--it's sort of like the space is divided by a sock I threw in there or something. )
--modularized space for cell, pens, security badge, keys--don't want to carry a soup of floating stuff; want to be able to reliably find my phone when it's ringing
--dark brown leather or black leather. I especially like oxblood. Dislike light brown leather.
--prefer leather but if something was another material would be open to it
--I only ask this question every three to five years so would like something extremely durable and well-made and am not looking for 'trendy' as I wouldn't recognize it if it were in front of me

Do not wants:
--things that are shiny - so chrome or shiny gold are out. Generally I like subdued metals
--advertising, so no prominent labels or anything
--back pack/sporty/messenger bag-type looking things

Needs to fit:
--Macbook Air
--roughly 4x8 clutch containing credit cards, lipstick, etc.
--wad of keys
--random personal bits

Lifestyle/demographic stuff if it matters:
--I'm in my forties so don't want to look like a college student
--I'm a professional, but a liberal internetty/media professional
--I don't want to look like I'm trying to hard
--I don't want to look like I'm not trying enough
--I'm a little sick of the 'mom-ness' of my current bag
--I am tough on things -- like if I own it, I will absolutely be flinging it into the back of my car. I don't mind a little maintenance, but I'm a wash and wear person
--Still again I'd like a little bit more style than this
--I think Saddleback leather is in the ball park but their leather looks quite stiff
--I'd like it to be able to pass as high end/formal or low end/casual. If I'm in a meeting with a bunch of senior executives who are all wearing cufflinks*, I don't want it to look like I don't belong there, but at the same I certainly don't want it to read 'out of place status symbol' in a normal human context. I actually kind of like things that make it difficult to nail me down in terms of 'type', which probably is what led me to the incredible generic-ness of the bag I'm currently carrying. I don't know whether that makes sense.

I'm not going to say money is no object but I don't think money is really the thing preventing me from finding my dream bag so I'll leave it open ended.

*the executives are--hold on to your hats--generally exclusively men.

TL/DR's in bold!
posted by A Terrible Llama to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If your macbook is 13" or the itty one, what about the Billykirk leather satchel? It's not cheap but you can sometimes score them on eBay. I have had experience with their canvas messenger bags via eBay and they're nice.

Or have you thought of trawling Etsy? There are usually a lot of US-made nice leather satchels on there.

If you're looking at eBay, vintage Coach briefcases are very nice - some of them aren't very deep, though, so read the measurements carefully.

I own an old version of the Duluth Lifetime Leather messenger bag (at least that's what I think it is; I got it used and it doesn't contain a label, but it looks virtually identical) and it gets a lot of compliments. The only drawback for me is that there is no external pocket.

This type of mailbag is also great, although I cannot vouch for this particular iteration. J Peterman has a new canvas and leather version; I've handled their light brown nubuck version and it is great but both light brown and very heavy. If you google around or search Etsy for "leather mailbag" you'll turn up a lot more versions. I have a lighter weight suede one from eBay and I really like the design - the interior is fantastically spacious.
posted by Frowner at 9:14 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not leather but MoopShop makes absolutely wonderful waxed canvas bags. I have one of the messengers and have been using it for years.

I'm really hoping they will branch out into leather eventually, but the waxed canvas definitely does a great job at walking the formal/casual line that you mentioned (I know exactly what you mean--I'm a young-ish professor so also want to be able to pass in both settings).

Anyway, I'm watching this thread carefully. good luck!
posted by ethorson at 9:20 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might like Rib & Hull's leather bags. They're pricey, but gorgeous.
posted by neushoorn at 9:28 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lotuff's zip-top tote isn't a refreshing or sleek style change from what you've been carrying. But the leather quality is in a different league, which makes it more at home in upscale settings while not screaming schischi at the playground. It's more of a 15-25 year bag than 3-5, though.
posted by wonton endangerment at 10:07 AM on April 14, 2015

I think Jack Spade's computer bags fit the bill exactly. As I plus, I have had bags of theirs for over ten years that still look nearly new after almost daily wear.
posted by jaksemas at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love my Liebeskind Freya. It's been put through a fair amount of wear and tear in the last couple years, although I don't happen to fling it in the backseat with my Macbook Air inside :)

It doesn't have a center divider, but otherwise seems to fit all your needs. The metallic insert isn't loud, and neither is the gold lettering. It does have the understated expensive feel, and stylish 'un-mom-ness' about it, definitely.
posted by Everydayville at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: I just got this bag from Duluth Trading Co. at Christmas and I love it. It might not be as modular as you want, but the built-in inner zip pocket is fairly large. I usually put my wallet, keys, ipod touch and lipstick in there. And I bought a cute pencil case that I use to keep my pens and pencils from littering the bottom of my bag. At any given time if I reach into it there's my laptop, a book and the pencil bag.

If you find a different bag you like that doesn't have all the pockets you want consider my bag in a bag strategy.
posted by MadMadam at 11:03 AM on April 14, 2015

You may want to check out other Liebeskind bags as well: this Frida bag may be more suited to your requirements - it has a pretty solid center divider.
posted by Everydayville at 11:22 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this timely blog post, although I think she might skew a little more fashiony than you're looking for. I would like to recommend the Longchamp Le Pliage, which I carry myself, except it fits very few of your criteria. (It is a big nylon tote, not leather, no organization) But it is perfect in the way that it is generically nice, neither fancy nor super-casual, and serves me well in important meetings and when on a picnic with a small child. And it's pretty durable.
posted by chocotaco at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: Have you seen the Frye bags? They hit a bunch of your targets. Here are a few:
Sylvia Tote
Campus Zip Tote
Michelle Work Tote

Will Leather had some really nice totes but it looks like they've gone down to this version right now. Their leather is an amazing combination of soft but structured. They have 'washed' leather bags too.

Daame Leather Laptop Bag - Brown - they're always waitlisted but supposed to be nice!
posted by barnone at 1:44 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Lo and Sons O.M.G Bag is the most lovely and elegant bag I have ever seen. Very spacious and functional. Holds a small laptop and all your junk easily.

-it is not leather

Still, you could compromise a little, yes?
posted by SLC Mom at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2015

For your consideration:

* Travelteq's Trash Cougar Female
* Knomo's Cavendish, Picton, Wigmore, or Beaumont

If you're willing to consider nylon, Lo & Sons' Brookline or TT are better suited to everyday life, but MZ Wallace bags can't be beat for organization and overall sturdiness.
posted by evoque at 4:02 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can't believe I didn't look at Frye earlier; I love their stuff.

Re Rib and Hull: It kills me that this one is out of stock. There's an earlier version on eBay but apparently they did a second version for a reason. I know I said 'modular' but as MadMadam points out, the bag in a bag strategy is a good one and makes life easier anyway. Plus look how gorgeous it is.

And that messenger bag from Duluth one ticks all the boxes and it's cheap.

Thanks everyone. Haven't made a decision but it's plenty to go on.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:45 AM on April 20, 2015

Response by poster: Also, I shouldn't say that Duluth bag is 'cheap'; I'm just bouncing off the Frye/Rib and Hull bags.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:48 AM on April 20, 2015

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