Last updated January 2020.
Since the early 1900s, messenger bags have been used by postmen, WWII dispatchers, Pony Express couriers, telegraph messengers and telephone linemen. Now, they’re the carry of choice for 21st-century professionals. But the line’s been blurred between briefcases, shoulder bags, satchels and duffel bags. How do you tell the difference?
A messenger bag needs to be carried with a shoulder strap that allows the bag to rest relaxedly at the hip or, when in a rush, flung over the shoulder. A relatively slim profile is also a must. Today, messenger bags come in tempered cottons, ballistic nylons, waxed canvases and full-grain leathers. There’s no shortage of design choices, either. When deciding which one to buy, here’s some advice: get the one that catches your eye, fits your lifestyle and won’t slow you down.
Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag
When you think of messenger bags, it’s hard not to picture Timbuk2’s line of courier-centric bags. This one is a tentpole for the brand and features durable nylon canvas with a flapover design.
Herschel Supply Co. Britannia Messenger Bag
Herschel Supply Co.’s Britannia Messenger Bag is made from a tough nylon fabric, featuring a waterproof zipper and internal mesh compartments. It’s big enough to fit a 13-inch laptop and can convert to a backpack when you feel more like a student and less like a messenger.
Barbour Wax Leather Tarras
When couriering requires traversing through the countryside, Barbour’s rugged entry will get the message across safely. It features the brand’s telltale waxed canvas and tartan lining, accompanied by leather finishing, two sneaky front pockets and a main compartment.
Brooks England Barbican Bag
Since the 1880s, Brooks has been supplying cyclists with the top-shelf bags. Its Barbican bag is a staple for the brand and for good reason. The water-resistant waxed canvas is resilient and will patina beautifully along with the vegetable-tanned leather straps.
Filson Original Briefcase
Made from a burly cotton twill in a variety of classic colorways, this bag from Filson is a staple that will only get better with time. It features convenient outer pockets, laptop sleeve, two-way zipper and bridle leather straps and handles.
Knomo London Brompton Bungo RFID Leather Messenger Bag
This option melds a rustic aesthetic with modern-day functionality by pairing a soft leather exterior with an expandable nylon gusset and RFID-blocking technology.
Bleu de Chauffe Folder Vegetable-Tanned Textured-Leather Messenger Bag
Using vegetable-tanned full-grain leather with a beautiful grain, this bag will last you through several career changes and age gracefully too. It’s crafted in Bleu de Chauffe’s French atelier and maintains a slim profile, despite its rugged construction.
Shinola Slim Messenger
From Detroit’s very own Shinola, the Slim Messenger is a no-frills understated piece made with top-notch grain leather. The flap’s magnetic closure makes it a breeze to access.
Porter Tanker 3way Nylon Briefcase
Porter’s Tanker series of bags are modeled after the classic MA-1 bomber jacket and are a mainstay for the brand. This 3way Nylone Briefcase is crafted from durable lightweight nylon, can be worn three ways (as a backpack, a tote, or a crossbody) and features a bright orange lining that not only recalls the MA-1 theme, but makes it easier to find your goods.
Gucci Black Signature Messenger Bag
The smallest bag of the set and yet, with the designer label, the most expensive. It’s an heirloom piece from Gucci that your offspring will cherish and features supple buffed leather debossed with Gucci’s signature ‘Double G’ logo and comes with an outer pocket and lush suede lining.
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