leather messenger bags in brown, black, and tan

Leather messenger bags already played an important role during the Revolutionary War when fledglings younger than 16 supported the army carrying things from one location to another. These bags have stood the test of time for good reason. Not only do they look gritty, but they're also rugged, designed to endure even maltreatment.

That said, the quality and appearance of messenger bags can vary considerably. Prefer brown bags to black ones? Would you rather walk around with a shiny messenger bag or a matte one? You're spoiled for choice.

Whatever suits your fancy, our bag favorites and tips will help you recognize good quality at a mere glance.

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How to Choose Your Messenger Bag

As with anything, it pays to familiarize yourself with leather messenger bags before shelling out hard-earned money. No matter whether you're shopping online or in a store, here's what to look out for.

Leather Type - Invest in Quality

Leather comes in various grades. Picking a messenger bag made of this material, you should be aware of the differences. These are the key terms you'll stumble across:

  • Full-Grain – Full-grain, cowhide leather is for you if you need a leather that looks good even if you treat it roughly. It's the thickest type, and it doesn't just last till the cows come home, but its appearance also improves over time. It also smells great.

  • Top-Grain– This leather type isn't too bad either. While not as tough as full-grain leather, it'll also last a long time and keep looking great.

  • Genuine Leather – Simply ignore bags with the ever-present "genuine leather" label. Sure, they're made of leather, but essentially, they're nothing but junk leather stuck together. There are beautiful genuine leather accessories galore, but if you're looking for a truly robust leather messenger bag, genuine leather isn't for you.

  • Suede and Nubuck – Nubuck and suede are two other types of cowhide to consider. Bags made of these leather types are lovely, but they'll literally be under the weather and won't last long if you use them regularly. You're better off buying nubuck and suede couches or blue sneakers. Make sense? You'll love blue suede shoes!

Aside from cowhide, there are several other types of leather to consider: 

  • Lambskin – Lambskin is attractive and silky, but not as hard-wearing as cowhide. This is the one for pretty wallets or gloves, however. 

  • Exotic Hides – You'd be a little loopy to play with crocodile, ostrich, or snakeskin hides. Your grit is admirable, but we're not discussing exotic hide bags in this piece.

  • Faux Leather – If having an animal on your shoulder doesn't appeal to you, choose faux leather, which you can find aplenty. Some are pretty tough, while other types are not. 

Which type of leather is best?

Full grain leather is by far the best type for your messenger bag, so we recommend you only ever choose a bag made from it.

Bag Hardware

Zippers, buckles, and clasps – it's make or break. Check out the bag's features. The last thing you want is to carry around a damn uncomfortable leather bag.

Do numerous buckles, snaps, and closable zippers bother you?

You should also see how the manufacturing guys sewed the hardware into the leather. If the work appears to be of poor quality, you may want to look elsewhere. Besides, metal is always your best bet because plastic zippers and the like aren't very durable.

Shoulder Strap & Handles

A messenger bag is always designed with a crossbody shoulder strap.

If possible, try on your bag before buying to ensure you can easily adjust the leather straps. What about your height and posture; is the bag a good match?

It's also worth checking how they're attached to the bag. Many people go for metal rivets only, and hand-stitched straps just don't cut it when there's too much weight.

Got a lot of heavy items to carry around or need to walk or stand on your way home? Padded straps or a strong handle can do wonders, especially if airport terminals are your second home.

Well done if you've got yourself a bag with top handles and a detachable shoulder strap. Carrying a briefcase by its top handles looks super highbrow and can be a smart choice for official events, such as job interviews, top-secret espionage meet-ups, and the like.

A high quality adjustable shoulder strap means you’ll be able to adjust the bag depending on your personal style and how heavy your bag is. This also makes it a great carry-on when you’re traveling.

Extra Features

Got the hang of the exterior features? Then it's time to master the inside parts, too. Since this is where things start to get personal, you'll want to make sure your messenger bag has these features:

  • Laptop Enclosure – A padded laptop sleeve inside is a must-have. Don't plan to lug your laptop? Well, you probably have a tablet or some other electronic device to keep safe, don't you? 

  • Lining – If you want your bag to live for a long time, you'll need a strong, protective layer. Canvas appears to best withstand spills and other catastrophes inside your messenger bag. Since it's also rather robust, it's unlikely to tear. Some bags even come with RFID-protective lining to prevent dog-eared passports and broken credit cards. If you frequently use public transportation or work where everyone else is, this might come in particularly handy.

  • Special Pockets For Your Things – Opening a new bag is electrifying in itself, but to find that business card slots, pens, wallets, and cell phone compartments are exactly what you need is even better!

  • Customization - did you know some brands offer a personalized bag? This means you can have your initials or a message engraved on your bag, which is also great if you're buying it as a gift.

Experiment with all your bag's gadgets. We're totally into them if they help you stay organized and make your life easier!

Style

When looking for the best leather messenger bag, you'll find that the styles vary a lot. These are the most common types:

  • Minimalist: Has a present-day and straightforward design. It's pretty adaptable, whether you use it for a formal meeting or casual occasion. The minimalist version often comes with a lovely, silky leather grade.

  • Classic: Boasts an original, western-looking style. It's outdoor-focused, functional, and appropriate for casual situations.

  • Modern: More often than not, this type features many outside pockets, padded inserts, and other stuff. This design is great if you commute daily.

Size and Colours

You should also consider the size of the bag, as this will impact the style. A thinner bag can be sleeker, but a larger bag may be more practical.

Colors are also important. A brown or tan color messenger bag is more modern, and matches most business suits and professional attire colors well. However a black bag will stand out more, and may be more formal for certain professions.

Buckles and Closures

Decide what buckle type is the best fit for you. After all, you'll open and close your bag a gazillion times.

  • Single Clasp: A clasp secures your belongings, and simply pressing a button will open it. Also, if you need one hand for something else (e.g., to text someone), you can effortlessly open it with the other.

  • Buckle: Traditional buckle closures are safe, but they're also quite user-unfriendly and may become a hassle after a while. But if you carry valuables or important documents with you, sticky fingers in subways will face tough times.

  • Magnetic Snap: You can release a magnetic button on the messenger bag by simply pulling the outside flap. Magnetic snap fasteners are ideal for those who prefer a low-key look. But keep in mind that this type isn't as secure as a buckle or clasp.

  • Flap: Put simply, the top flap's weight rests on the main compartment, which makes it easy to transport.

Country of Origin

We strongly encourage you to choose a US-made leather bag, or one from the UK, France, Italy, or some Central and South American countries as they're usually of excellent quality. You'll be amazed at the craftsmanship!

Which is best? Our favorite is Italian leather.


Best Leather Messenger Bags by Type

Here is our selection of the best leather messenger bags for men in 2022, all made from premium full grain leather:

Best Laptop Messenger Bag 2022

Winner: CITY Leather Laptop Messenger Bag

Pros:

  • Full grain leather
  • Detachable shoulder strap
  • Fits up to a 15.6 inch laptop (also a 17 inch version here)
  • Handmade in Italy
  • Dedicated laptop compartment
  • Additional zipper pockets

Click here to check the price

Best Messenger Bag for School/College 2022

essential modern briefcase laptop bag brown

Winner: Essential Modern Briefcase

Pros:

  • Full grain leather
  • Detachable shoulder strap
  • 15.6 inch laptop zipper pocket
  • Handmade in Italy
  • Can be personalized

Click here to check the price

Best Messenger Backpack 2022

Winner: 10X Leather Laptop Backpack

Pros:

  • Full grain leather
  • Can convert from backpack to messenger bag
  • Fits up to 15.6 inch laptop or tablet.
  • Handmade in Italy
  • Can be personalized

Click here to check the price

Best Satchel Messenger Bag 2022

no3 satchel style leather briefcase in black

Winner: No3 Leather Messenger Bag

Pros:

  • Full grain leather.
  • Handmade in Florence, Italy.
  • Soft cotton lining.
  • Durable YKK brass zippers.
  • Locking function.
  • 13 inch laptop compartment.
  • Detacheable shoulders strap.
  • Can be personalized.

Available in black, brown, or tan leather.

    Click here to check the price

    Best Small Messenger Bag 2022

    elegant slim leather briefcase in brown

    Winner: Elegant Slim Briefcase

    Pros:

    • Full grain leather.
    • Handmade in Florence, Italy.
    • Soft cotton lining.
    • Durable YKK brass zippers.
    • Minimalist design and profile.
    • 14 inch laptop compartment.
    • Top handles & detachable shoulder strap.
    • Can be personalized.

    It's available in black, brown, tan, and red leather.

    Click here to check the price

    Best Large Duffle Messenger Bag 2022

    leather laptop duffel bag weekender brown

    Winner: Laptop Duffel Weekender Bag

    Pros:

    • Full grain leather
    • Compartment for 16 inch laptop bag
    • Top handles and a detachable shoulder strap
    • Spacious for travel or gym
    • Durable cotton lining
    • Handmade in Italy

    Click here to check the price

    Conditioning Oil for Your Bag

    We recommend a leather conditioner for these bags to keep them moist and prevent cracking. Some people advocate canola or other culinary oil, but too much of it will destroy your bag and give it a rotten smell. We don't want you to pay dearly, so invest in quality oil to protect your bag adequately.

    Like a new baseball mitt, you need to wear leather messenger bags. To ensure that your bag lasts as long as possible, take meticulous care. The best approach is to use a leather conditioning oil, so your bag lasts endlessly.

    leather conditioner

    Some folks even recommend massaging your leather messenger bag. This might help soften up real grain leather, which will come cold and stiff. More common, and we prefer that, is to simply let it happen gradually through normal wear and tear.

    You can find a good leather conditioner here.

    Alternatives to a Messenger Bag

    We adore messenger bags, but we're also into certain briefcases and laptop bags, and any dudes attempting to pull off the classic businessman appearance. Be sure to check out our other page for more info on the best leather briefcases for guys.

    The duffle tote is another popular leather bag for guys. We've run an informative post on the best leather duffle bag for men that includes our top picks in that category.

    Final Word

    Whether you go shopping online or offline – you have a great many leather messenger bags for men to choose from. We've whittled the list down to help you decide. You can't go wrong with any bag mentioned above. It all boils down to style and available space.

    Space is critical: can your messenger bag accommodate anything you need? Accessories, a laptop? If so, it comes down to appearance, by and large. Either way, make sure your bag is a winner in all respects.

    We have a further guide about messenger bags here.

    Author: Albert Varkki
    Albert Varkki is the co-founder of Von Baer. He understands leather products as a consumer, supplier, and a manufacturer, helping you with the inside knowledge you need, to choose the perfect leather product for you. Connect on Linkedin

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